Or – “Crisis On Earth-Whichever-One-Is-Left-Now!”

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As a fan of old-school superheroics, it’s always interesting to me which characters get chosen for revamps and which do not. The return of the Freedom Fighters in 1973 probably didn’t make a lot of sense to the readers of the time, as their original incarnations from Quality Comics hadn’t been seen in 25 years. When their own series tanked, they were pretty much used only as background characters, until the newest incarnation of the team was brutally killed in Infinite Crisis. I chalked up their appearance there as doing two things: killing off a name team, (however small that name may be), and reminding those old enough to remember about the multiverse. I was surprised to find out that the team would be getting their own book, but is the surprise a pleasant one?

usff1.jpgIn recent years, I’ve found a trend with miniseries. I find myself excited about the first issue or two, then less and less enamored as it continues, and unless the book ends with a herculean effort and amazing ending, I never really think of it again. Recall the Vigilante series of a couple years ago, the strange and wonderful Question mini by Rick Veitch, even OMAC, another DC series launching out of Infinite Crisis, is an example of this, with each issue leaving me with a louder “WTF?” than the last. Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters has done the exact opposite.

The first issue, launching out of the relatively lackluster “Battle for Bludhaven” limited series, didn’t do much for me. I found the characters to be shallow, unpleasant, and downright unheroic. The fact that they actually had the chutzpah to name a supposed superhero “Bigfoot” was astonishing to me. But each successive issue has hooked me a little more, and now, as we ring in the third act, I’m officially on my feet cheering, in a metaphorical sense, anyway. Last issue, Father Time (who bears a resemblance in motif and powers to Uncle Sam himself) brought in his hole card, a new Miss America, who managed to somehow psyche out the entire Freedom Fighters team, muting their powers and rendering them useless. There’s only one thing he DIDN’T know, that thankfully Sam did…

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The REAL Miss America is still alive and kicking. Does anybody else have the Styx song stuck in their head right now? Initially appearing as her eighty-something secret identity, Miss A transforms in the panel above, and engages her doppelganger in battle. And she’s not the only secret weapon Sam has in his arsenal, with a new Red Bee entering the fray, and the new Invisible Hood sneaking into Father Time’s brig to bust out ol’ U.S. himself. Sam then breaks out the rest of the team, while Miss America takes the measure of her pseudo-self and finds her wanting…

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The Freedom Fighters: Blowin’ Robotses Up Real Good Since 1941. Or transmuting them into roses, whatever works better. Reunited, the team then has to face the one-man-army called Silent Majority, while Father Time and Uncle Sam trade punches. The Red Bee and Invisible Hood meet the other members (to which the new Ray responds, “You definitely need a better code name… Invisible Hood sounds like an ultra-thin condom.” The new Ray is a jackass, by the way…), and Father Time finds himself on the wrong end of the ideological debate with Sam, as well as receiving a couple of Grade-A-Government-inspected fists to the face.

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Oh, my. That’s the four-armed “Bride of Frankenstein” from Grant Morrison’s criminally underrated “Seven Soldiers” epic, and she’s got a teleporter. Does this mean Frankenstein himself could be lurking in the wings? Father Time gets his evac, and sets in to heal, apparently by shedding his skin (making me wonder if we don’t know him in another guise) while his pawn/boss Gonzo The Mechanic Bastard (best name EVER) makes an enigmatic reference to alien armor and “something big enough to wear it” and says it’s time to “activate the traitor.” Back at The Heartland, Sam’s hidden sanctuary, the Freedom Fighters regroup to assess their situation, treat their wounds, and finally get the story behind their mysterious new members.

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On first reading, I took Invisible Hood’s demeanor here as an indication that something was up, and thought he was the traitor. And isn’t The Red Bee’s design just awesome? The art throughout this series has been nothing short of beautiful, nearly painted art with subtlety of expression and texture, as well as giving us scorchingly beautiful women. Speaking of which, The Phantom Lady is having trouble dealing with her loss of confidence, and the murder of her father, when Black Condor tries a little tough love. “Is this how you honor his memory? By feeling sorry for yourself?” The conversation shakes her up a bit, and is only interrupted when the “friend” Uncle Sam sent them to find arrives.

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If that glow means it’s who I think it is, they’ve just made up for the less than stellar showing of issues 1 & 2. Meanwhile, the skies over Heartland turn red and stormy, and Uncle Sam realizes that something is trying to punch through the temporal barrier that protects it from the outside world. At that very second, The Traitor reveals himself…. or should I say “The TRAYtor.” The Ray slices Invisible Hood in half with a light blast and proves that my opinion of him was entirely justified.

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I’ve never liked this “new” Ray, and it’s not just because he’s arrogant, or because he’s been portrayed as a shallow sex-crazed jerk with a Narcissist complex big enough to park a truck on. Most of the reason that I hate him is that, unlike the rest of the Freedom Fighters, his predecessor ISN’T DEAD. Ray Terrill survived both the Freedom Fighters massacre and the battle in Infinite Crisis #7 (having been attached to Alex Luthor’s world-machine, as a direct blood relative of someone from the long-lost Earth X). Having a new Ray while the old one is still about (especially one who’s a schmucko supreme) seems insulting. Worst of all, he has terrible taste in friends…

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Jerk. The issue ends there, but what a cliffhanger, eh? This is shaping up to be a humdinger of an ending, and quite frankly, I’d like to see Father Time get his head squashed like a watermelon in a drill press. The new Red Bee is a beautiful design, with only one questionable aspect (the pink hair stripe is cute, but I’m wondering if it won’t date her as much as her grandfather’s pink stripey pants dated him.) It’s interesting to see characters this old with so little relative baggage, and the Morrison influence on the plot give it just enough edge of the psycho to make it all very fresh. Combine that with pretty art, and you have a book that ranks right between “Pretty Darn Good” and “Mostly Awesome,” or as we call it ’round here, 3 Star turf. Next issue could earn a solid 4.0 if the guest star is who I think it is… Any guesses?

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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