Author Rich Rainey contributed to Mack's universe, penning three Super Bolans and nine 'The Executioner' titles through the 90s and 00s. Before those, he created a six-book series entitled 'The Protector'. It was released between 1982-1985 through the action oriented Pinnacle line. The idea was rather clever. Alex Dartanian, The Protector, is an ex-CIA agent that creates a “clearing house” called DSS (Dartanian Security Services). This agency allows over one-hundred government operatives to conduct private excursions and affairs outside of their normal government roles. He gives them an operation front and they provide him much-needed intel on his own missions, which are all conducted under a team called ICE (Inner Court Executions). All of this is conveniently outlined on the first book's second page, and kudos to Rainey for quickly explaining the idea behind the series. The plausibility of all this is just bonkers, but it allows our paperback hero the ability to hunt criminals and save humanity. That's the goods.
The series debut, “Venus Underground”, has a four-man team of sex-slavers kidnapping a young girl named Cindy Brooks. Led by the completely competent main man Jerry, the foursome make the cabbage by peddling wholesale butt to wealthy sickos who either utilize the girls for their own entertainment or re-sell them for profit. Cindy is snatched, but later they realize that the girl was using Brooks as her last name to disguise the fact she is a senator's daughter – Cindy Barrington. The four sell her to a vile creep named Storm in the Catskill Mountains. Soon, a ransom call is made to Senator Barrington who then contacts our guy Alex “The Protector” Dartanian. Ready. Set. Go!
I like the way Rainey writes. He's the meat and potatoes writer that I typically rave about (Dan Schmidt, Ralph Hayes) and his pacing is Formula-1. By page 30 we have the complete plot (rescue the girl!), who The Protector is and what his ICE team actually does. Further more, we get two characters that Alex chooses for the mission (it reminds me of that 80s cartoon M.A.S.K where they pick the characters best suited for the mission). Alex chooses the strongman of the team, Mick Porter, and a Japanese martial artist named Sin Simara. Make no bones about it, this trio of bad-asses rivals even Mark Stone and his MIA Hunters. Whether this is always the same trio remains to be seen, but the book introduces about a half-dozen members of ICE in an all-guns-blazing assault on a Montreal stronghold.
“Venus Underground” is an invigorating genre entry that is fast-paced, gritty and provides just enough curiosity to warrant an additional look at the series. The final pages suggest that this series will remain firmly in the “stop sex-slavers” theme and the second book is entitled “The Porn Tapes”. Whether the team remains its own independent agency will be a question as readers journey further into the series. I'm theorizing that this Senator Barrington may commission the team to pursue the sex ring based on his personal vendetta. Regardless of direction, “Venus Underground” is a rock-solid debut for what looks to be a promising short-lived series. Cheers to artist George Wilson's cover art. He's best known for his "jungle art" with titles like 'Turok: Dinosaur Hunter' and 'Tarzan'.