[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Eddy Barrows & Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Deron Bennett
It’s November 22, 1963 on Earth-X and the Freedom Fighters are on their last legs having already lost a few members over the years in their fight against the Nazis. The team, comprised of Black Condor, Human Bomb and Doll man, along with underground leader, Jesse Owens (yes, that Jesse Owens) are captured by the Nazis and apparently the hope for freedom is snuffed out with their assassinations. Somewhere, Uncle Sam feels the death of hope and thus his power fading, as he too fades away as the Nazi Plastic Men have found him and attempt to subdue him.
The story flashes forward 55 years to the modern day and there’s a Nazi officer remembers his role in the assassination of the Freedom Fighters as he visits a museum that commemorates the event, he reverie is disturbed by an explosion. The people on the street are shocked not only at the explosion, but the appearance of three familiar figures, Human Bomb, Black Condor, Phantom Lady and Doll Girl? And somewhere Uncle Sam stirs!
Lots of positives in this issue! This reintroduction of the Freedom Fighters concept places the team on Earth-X, an alternate Earth on which Nazi Germany won World War II and conquered the globe. This is how they originally appeared in the Justice League/ Justice Society crossover from Justice League of America #107-108 (1973). Their origins go back farther than 1973, the Freedom Fighters are comprised of characters originally published by Quality Comics in the Golden Age. (DC later acquired the characters in the ’50’s after Quality closed up shop.) Keeping this aspect of the original concept is the aspect that sets the team apart from any other group. DC doesn’t tend to use alternate Earths often enough or as effectively as they could. Plus, while not a member of the team, Plastic Man, Quality’s most famous character’s presence is felt in the appearance of the Plastic Men.
While it’s been argued elsewhere that Nazis are uninteresting villains, it does allow for American patriotism to come through in the comic that has a bit of a healing quality considering the polarizing nature of politics in our current society. The recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a moving moment. While, I don’t expect it to be overly burdensome, it appears that the series will be a subtle rallying point for our politically divided America. Venditti places Jesse Owens, legendary Olympic American athlete from the 1936 Berlin games as the leader of the underground resistance. Owens plays a similar role as a point of American pride from a racially segregated America who handed Nazi Germany a moral defeat a few years before the start of World War II.
Venditti cleverly sets the first issue on a significant date in American history, November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a tragic day for the country and in many ways was a symbolic end of the post-War euphoria that had existed in the country which Kennedy’s New Frontier platform had carried forth. No President Kennedy also leaves a vacant room in the book depository for Owens and the Freedom Fighters in which to meet.
While it’s hard to mention every positive, the art team of Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Adriano Lucas has to be recognized for some truly wonderful emotional images including Jesse Owens as he proclaims “Give me liberty or give me death,” and Uncle Sam’s despondence as he watches the Freedom Fighters assassination on television.
Hard to come up with a negative, though there were a few startling images which push this closer to Vertigo title, most notably the Human Bomb giving the middle finger to some Nazis as well as the graphic death of Doll Man in the assassination. Not truly negatives though.
This is a wonderful start to the newest incarnation of the Freedom Fighters. It maintains the original elements of the concept and appears to be a true celebration of not only the original Quality Comics characters, but also the spirit of America and the principles on which it was founded. Humans not being perfect, the United States may not always appear to embody those principles, but the principles provide hope, which are enhanced with the allusion to John F. Kennedy. Not only does Freedom Fighters provide an exciting and interesting reintroduction to these characters, but it also seems to address something deeper in the American consciousness.