Review: The Guardian Line

Joe and Max #1
By Jason Medley, Claude St. Aubin & Chris Chuckery

Genesis 5 #1
By Lovern Kindzierski, Claude St. Aubin & Chris Chuckery

Code #1
By Mike Baron, Lovern Kindzierski, Howard Simpson, Dave Ross & Chris Chuckery
(All published by The Guardian line, December 2006)

Any sincere attempt by a comics publisher to reach new audiences (particularly from an all-ages perspective) is deserving of high praise, and Urban Ministries is doing exactly that with The Guardian Line, targeting the Christian demographic for whom the adventures of the superheroes they grew up with are neither representative of their beliefs nor appropriate for their children.

Of course, while good intentions are important, the final judgement should be based on the most basic of criteria: are they any good? The answer to that question is…they could be.

Joe & Max is the Terminator-style story of Joseph Julian Davis (the titular Joe), a young boy who is destined to defeat Steven Dark, a billionaire who appears to be an avatar or right-hand man of Satan himself. Dark has seen the future, knows that Joe will defeat him but not how, and offers him a Faustian bargain in exchange for his life. Max is an angel, chosen by God to watch over and protect Joe, to ensure he lives to fulfill his destiny. Despite the overt religious themes, Jason Medley delivers a satisfying read that won’t alienate a secular audience, using a light touch and injecting humor throughout the story. Having Max speak only in biblical verse, quoting appropriate scripture, could have been a deal-breaker, but it actually works, partly because Joe himself admits, “This is going to get really annoying.” Medley’s entertaining, well-paced script is nicely complemented by Claude St. Aubin’s excellent artwork and Chris Chuckery’s eye-catching color palette. There’s a Saturday morning cartoon appeal to the visuals and St. Aubin is a solid storyteller with a great eye for character design.

Genesis 5 and Code both feature similarly appealing artwork but, unfortunately, suffer from choppy pacing and considerably less secular appeal thanks to their respective religous themes being handled with noticeably heavier hands. Both are awkwardly paced setups that include appearances by Steven Dark, but unlike Joe and Max, their tone is a lot, um, darker, particularly Code, whose titular hero resembles Laurence Fishburne in full Morpheus mode, fighting demons.

Of these three launch titles, Joe and Max has the most crossover potential for non-Christians and I look forward to that story developing further. Code has potential, and I’ll likely give it another issue or two for Mike Baron and Lovern Kindzierski to work out its kinks. Genesis 5, though, was the weakest of the bunch, and if not for its explicit connection to the other two titles, I’d probably skip it entirely next time around. That also represents the biggest challenge for Guardian, though, ensuring these titles can be read and enjoyed on their own merits, while still giving the sense that they are a part of something larger.

A couple of side notes: Michael Davis, the “Creator of The Guardian Line“, has a letter to readers at the back of each issue that begins, “I love comics!” Of course, it’s no surprise that the co-founder of Milestone Media loves comics, but his explanation of what they mean to him sets the right tone for the fledgling publisher and gives me hope that The Guardian Line can find its niche and succeed in offering “heroes who try to do the right thing.”

I was also pleased to see that the advertising in all three books reflected the audience they’re targeting — HarperCollins imprint, Amistad Press, promoting Justine Simmons’ children’s book, God, Can You Hear Me?; Rock the Vote; Wheaton College’s Entrenuity program; Comics Buyer’s Guide.

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5 thoughts on “Review: The Guardian Line

  1. I bought these three titles as well and have been meaning to find time to talk about them on my blog. I think that they have potential. The quality, in terms of art, is there. Given that the only ones released are the first issue, it’s hard to say about the writing since they’re trying to set up the characters. I felt a little confused at times as to who certain people were or what they were talking about.

    Reading Michael Davis’ “I love comics” is the thing that will probably bring me back to buy the next issues because I felt it was very sincere in wanting to create comics that were about right and wrong…and not in a divisive, social conservative kind of way. As a gay man, I have to admit that I can’t help but look for any little thing that might potentially be homophobic, but I’m trying to keep that bias in check and see how these stories play out. I do like the fact that Davis recognizes that there is a place for all kind of comics and reaching out to the Christian community is where he’s at. I respect that.

  2. I don’t agree with all of Guy LeCharles Gonzalez review-but I like the fact that he clearly has a point of view. Unlike some reviewers who don’t. I admit that Code is darker than Joe & Max but he’s coming from a darker place. In coming months you will see the light that comes from that dark. Lastly, I respect Loren’s comments and will say this-we are not reaching out to just the Christian community we are reaching out to everyone that enjoys a good adventure. It just so happens that our characters operate within clear bounds and have a clear faith, as do most of us.-Michael Davis

  3. Thanks for the comment, Michael. I should probably clarify that my mentioning the “darker” tone of Code, and to a lesser degree, Genesis 5, wasn’t a criticism, just a notable difference from the “lighter” tone of Joe & Max.

    Given your track record, and your stated intentions with The Guardian Line, I am looking forward to seeing how things play out over the next few issues with high hopes and best wishes.

  4. I agree with Loren,the letter from Michael Davis at the end of each story is a great touch to the books overall quality. I have all three titles and love the underlying theme of basic Good vs. Evil fight; because of this I can see the stories being accepted by both the Christian and secular community equally.

    I’m looking forward to The Seekers release!


  5. Thanks for the kind words Guy! Truth be told I am not 100% happy with some of the books. I’m at 95% happy. I think there is still a little work to be done to get them to where I (and more importantly, the readers) can be 100% happy!

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