Writer(s): Garth Ennis
Penciller(s): Amanda Conner
Inker(s): Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorist(s): Paul Mounts
US Publisher: Image Comics
A prostitute is given superpowers by an extraterrestrial entity and winds up joining a league of superheroes to fend off evil doers.
Make way for a team of creative superstars giving body to one of the most underrated books in comic book history (one of them; I started reviewing others such as Marshal Law already to see if they eventually get some much deserved exposure)
This is superhero genre parody at it’s finest. Some may complain that it focuses too much on the DC universe to which I say “Hey, if the shoe fits…”. I happen to agree that although Marvel brought the superhero genre up to snuff with modern times, DC wrote the book on rigid, cardboard-dry, stuffy, goody-two-shoes heroes, on perfect archetypes.
Garth Ennis brought to the states its irreverence and critical eye for finding flaws on the mythos that the American comic book industry had built its reputation in. He also was fortunate to find an eager audience composed of more mature readers who had outgrown the themes perpetuated by the industry.
Another of those factors that prove the existence of serendipity when it comes to creating comics, an amazing team was put together of “relative” unknowns at the time. Garth was a household name in comics thanks to the amazing and ground-breaking series Preacher, but even some comic book fans contended that he may have been a one-shot wonder, and nothing but more Preacher-like comics could be expected of him; Amanda Conner was well known in certain artist circles but she had yet to achieve the iconic status t that the series Power Girl would later give her. The same with colorist Paul Mounts (one of the best and most underrated colorist in the businesses today)
The audiences who get through reading The Pro get constantly divided in two camps: In one hand you find the ones who merely find it OK, but complain about too much profanity, over-the-top explicit themes, and overindulgence on the vulgarities of life. On the other hand you get the readers who just loved it, and wish they could get more.
There is some room for the audiences who plainly dislike it and find it horrid, but those are not that many or at least that vocal. I actually believe they are objecting based on moral grounds, not on the artistic merits of the work itself.
I will not use this review to make a summary of the novel, or go over point by point condensing the plot twists in order to analyze how many times parody is elevated to its highest degree of morbidity.
The characters parodied need no introduction or explanation for the readers that are familiar with the DC or Marvel superhero universe. The familiar stereotypes are brought to original and hilarious new heights: The millionare avenger is actually a Knight… the companion sidekick is a clingy “Squire”, and dwells on all the questionable topics that such a relationship always arose (see my review on The Bratpack, for more comments on Hero-on-sidekick action); the warrior princess takes all her psychology off the playbook that George Perez wrote; and you can go down the line, touching base on racial stereotypes as needed. I have the original version, the first edition of this TPB, and back then they did not include the short 8 page story that got included in later editions with “ The Pro vs. The Ho”
Pertaining the art, I have nothing to say but to compliment Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts on the quality of their work here. Amanda contributed an art style that was a perfect fit for this story, straddling the difficult balance between realism and comedic parody. She makes all her characters pour their soul out in their expressions and their body language, and when the script calls for it, she regale us with caricaturesque portrays of the action and the stances that is pure comedic gold. And that’s what this book is all about. Comedic timing.
I often hear fans say that “it was the first time they saw this or that done in comics” and although a good comic book archivist may know of more obscure instances where such an action was portrayed before in comics, never before so much outrageous vignettes were put together, with such perfect comedic timing, and such good balance in the art department, managing the right styles at the right page.
Of course if you are the type of reader who think that the only good comics are the ones produced by Disney in the 60’s and profanity not just a display of poor grammatical skills, but a gateway to eternal damnation, and sex outside of the wedded bedroom is anathema, you may have a lot to dislike about this book.