Or – “If They’re All From Earth-X, What Happened To A Through W?”

usff10.jpg

One of the problems with alternate Earths (after the obvious trying to remember which character resides on which Earth) is the name designations. Marvel’s current numbering system makes sense, but is also ridiculously obscure and complicated. The designation “Earth 616” (invented by Alan Moore, who says it’s arbitrary, though some claim it’s derived from the shipping date of Fantastic Four #1, the year 1961, and 6 standing for the month of June) making it clear that their world is one of many, but the overwhelming evidence that only 616 continuity really matters can be found in any issue of Exiles. As for DC, the use of Earth-1 to designate the SECOND Earth that was discovered again shows a bias towards “the home team” in terms of naming. The joke behind Earth X is that writer (I think it was Cary Bates) wanted to identify it as Earth-(swastika symbol), but Julie Schwartz refused to represent that image in any comic he edited. Julie erased the bars on the swastika, and voila! We have Earth-X! What does this have to do with the climactic issue of this miniseries? Not a thing! On we go!

usff1.jpgAt the end of last issue, the Fighters had defeated the “Not-Celestials” in a strange pocket of time, and good ol’ Uncle Sam had finally rousted the traitor (Stan Silver, the faux Ray) in his ranks. Sam’s counterpart Father Time found that, much as Doctor Frankenstein might have told him, creating a monster often means being left in the midst of the carnage yourself, to say nothing of villagers with pitchforks and torches. Seemingly to save his own butt, Time has given Sam all the information he needs to stop President Knight (who is not really President Knight at all, but an android killer called Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard), and Sam has outed the Prez on national television. Now, Uncle Sam (using one of his forgotten Golden Age nebulous powers to grow to giant size) has appeared on the White House lawn, but is in danger of being overwhelmed by Gonzo’s army of government controlled superhumans…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Y’know, if this were written by Mark Millar, Sam would be dead in about three panels… I’m just sayin’, is all. The press is in panic mode, showing live footage of the battle at the capital, as well as clear footage of the president with his human face off. The good news: the media has incontrovertible proof that Uncle Sam and his ragtag band haven’t hurt anyone, and that the deaths assigned to them are actually the work of President Gonzo himself. If that weren’t enough of a revelation, Sam has a couple more bombs to drop…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Wow. That’s about the wordiest slugfest I’ve read since Fabian Nicieza stopped writing Thunderbolts… Heh. I will say that the sight of a giant taking out tiny super-dorks with his stovepipe hat really makes my day. I find myself hoping this series is going to lead to an ongoing USFF series, because Sam is pretty awesome, as well as a relatively unique concept in super-heroics. Unfortunately, even the spirit of America can be overwhelmed, and Sam finds the hundreds of Bludhaven survivors to be too much for even him.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

The re’glar fellers an’ gals of America have come t’ their senses, and rally round the flag-wearing-man, going so far as to throw debris at the oncoming superhumans. Unfortunately, this makes them “terrorist sympathizers” in the eyes of the government pawn metas (once again, the parallels to the Bush administration bug me, though not as much as the “if you’re innocent, then you have nothing to fear” attitude that these psychos embody), and so they fire on the innocent civilians. “Fight them!” cries one of the women in the crowd. An off-panel voice thunders, “That won’t be necessary, ma’am…”

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“The Freedom Fighters are on the job!” And once again, Ray takes the lead! I enjoy that, the same way that I enjoy seeing Stargirl in her new status as JSA veteran. This particular Ray was a character whose first appearances I read off the stands as they happened, he’s one of “my guys,” right up there with Damage, Jade, and the late, lamented Blok of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Sam’s Quality heroes tear into the army of idiots (and Major Force gets taken out by Miss America, which rocks even if she didn’t kill him) and make short work of them, finally firing on all cylinders. Even the Red Bee gets some good shots in, though Doll-Man is very concerned about working with Father Time, pointing out how the man has been trying to kill them. Uncle Sam disagrees, suspecting that whatever Time has been up to is more complicated and clever than that. Cue the dramatic organ music, as we cut to the Oval Office, where Gonzo has just ordered his men to kill the Freedom Fighters…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“Ping?” That’s the sound of a Mother Box… “Fifty-two frightens them, doesn’t it?” What th’? And “shadow demons” were what the heroes dubbed The Anti-Monitor’s evil minions during the original Crisis, the creatures that killed thousands, including Dove, the Earth 2 Robin and Huntress. These panels are rife with information, but all it does is make things even less clear. Something big is building, and I suddenly wonder what it is the “Countdown” is counting down to… With Gonzo quickly under wraps (using the “Atomic Knight” armor from Bludhaven), Father Time calls Replikant for an evac, explaining to the artificial man what his REAL motives were… what they’ve always been.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Hmm. It’s an interesting approach, and I certainly didn’t see it coming, but it also doesn’t ring 100% true to me. Father Time’s whole rationale makes me think of the old George Carlin routine about a cat crashing into a plate-glass window: “I meant to do that… That was exactly how I wanted that to look.” In either case, Father Time is off to do something (on another Earth, perhaps?), and the Fighters have finally stopped Gonzo’s army. Miss America uses her new powers to heal nearly everyone present (and even Uncle Sam is amazed at the scope of her new abilities), and the press swarms the site. A reporter asks Uncle Sam if he has any messages for the new president, whomever that may be. Sam’s response?

usff6.jpg

I’ll say this for Daniel Acuna, he knows how to pose a dramatic scene. And I don’t know that I would want to be the one to cross Uncle Sam, would you? A few nights later, the newly-minted President Franklin has invited all our Fighters over for dinner, and laments the loss of the real President Knight. He also has an invitation for our heroes: to actually work together and take control of S.H.A.D.E., Father Time’s old black ops agency, for the greater good. Miss America, Red Bee, and Black Condor are in for sure, the Human Bomb and Phantom Lady figure they have nowhere else to go, The Ray goes where Uncle Sam goes (Go, Ray!), and Firebrand, the local left-wing nutjob, believes it to be his moral imperative to make sure that the liberal bleeding-heart voice is heard. Doll-Man, on the other hand, wants some time for himself and his new fiancee, Emma and opts out. And as for Sam? He’s got some harsh words for this erstwhile team.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

So, I’m confused… If the idea is that dumb, why is Sam onboard again? Interestingly the “next issue” blurb promises that more Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters is on the way, but whether it’s another limited, an ongoing, or just a role in the Countdown isn’t shown. I have to say, though, that this series started off rocky, and ended in a relatively awesome (if a bit didactic) way. There’s always the difficulty when it comes to politically charged stories of knowing your audience. Since a huge portion of comic creators are liberal, the stories tend to have that kind of unconscious bias. This book, on the other hand, was pretty much all over the place in it’s political leanings, even making the case that Father Time’s “end justifies the means” morality has it’s place in the superhero spectrum.

After eight issues with some beautiful art, and improving story, I have to call this one a success. The return of the Ray was impressively handled, with a subtle build-up of hatred for the new guy, capped off by his betrayal. The book definitely had overtones of Grant Morrison’s work (he put together the initial pitch) but tied into all aspects of the DCU (What’s up with the New Gods ties?) without overwhelming me with continuity. I’ve heard some negative opinions about this series, but frankly, it worked for me as a whole, and this issue as a stand-alone was worthy of 3 stars. If only Martian Manhunter hadn’t fallen completely to pieces.

3stars.jpg

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.

Previous post

Image Comics Sneak Peek of the Week

Next post

Supergirl & The Legion of Superheroes #27

7 Comments

  1. March 16, 2007 at 7:42 am — Reply

    Has it been established US&TFF takes place on an alternate Earth? One would think the outing of the president would ripple through the DCU in other titles like Superman, etc.

  2. Josh
    March 16, 2007 at 7:52 am — Reply

    This is the same universe that had World War III and hasn’t mentioned it all year. The outing of the president is small potatoes.

  3. March 16, 2007 at 8:00 am — Reply

    Indeed, it has NOT been established, but it was discussed when we recapped last issue, and it makes for a compelling argument. There is every chance that this IS the DCU, but wouldn’t you suspect that at least Superman or Jay Garrick would have hit Washington in about fourteen seconds flat when costumed commandos started smashing up the Washington monument?

    I suspect that Countdown may be moving towards the revelation of the multiverse, what with all the strange advertising going into it… But in any case, I want more Freedom Fighters!

  4. Peter Black
    March 16, 2007 at 8:33 am — Reply

    Father Time is probably Highfather. At least, the Grant Morrison version.

  5. March 16, 2007 at 10:10 am — Reply

    Ooh, now that’s an interesting approach… But here’s another question: Doesn’t his new face look more like Morrison’s “Mr. Miracle” version of Darkseid?

    Dum dun daaaah!

  6. March 16, 2007 at 12:27 pm — Reply

    That last speech made no sense…no sense at all. Kind of like Tony Stark saying, ‘I’ve realised using homicidal maniacs as living weapons is a terrible, awful idea – but I thought of it, so let’s keep it while I’m still alive!’

    Speaking of, not to nag but is Thunderbolts 112 on the list?

  7. March 16, 2007 at 3:06 pm — Reply

    It is. But I try to get them in chronological order, and I’m running a couple weeks behind. My rule of thumb has been to recap before the next issue comes out…

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section