Or – “Quality Comics Group, Represent!”

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DC’s history in the comic book industry is a long and storied one, but the most interesting facet of their current catalog of characters is the sheer number of them that USED to belong to competing publishing firms. The Ted Kord Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, The Question, Judomaster, Peacemaker and other ancillary characters (including Sarge Steel) came from the late, lamented Charlton Comics. Captain and Mary Marvel and Doctor Sivana (along with their assorted hangers-on) originated with Fawcett Comics until DC forced them out of business, and The Freedom Fighters (as well as JLA stalwart Plastic Man, Birds of Prey’s Lady Blackhawk and others) started their careers at Quality Comics. Regardless of their origins, though, the last US&FF miniseries was thought-provoking, infuriating, and entertainingly weird, and we seem to be setting sail for that territory again.

Previously, on Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters: Father Time, the relatively evil USF1.jpgcounterpart of Uncle Sam, created his own evil Freedom Fighter team, complete with new Phantom Lady, and ersatz Ray and Miss Americas. This didn’t sit well with Sam, and the discomfort grew when it became clear that they were nothing more than caped jack-booted thugs. Uncle Sam gathered his own resources (the children and followers of his old friends, including a new Red Bee and Invisible Hood) and slapped the taste out of Father Time’s mouth, only to find that he was being manipulated by Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard, who had replaced the President of the United States. Their battle was epic, including the best punch of 2007 and a weird ending in which Sam tells the new Prez how bad an idea the team is, then joins anyway. We take up our narrative some time later, as the FF battles an invasion of alien insects, bent upon turning the entire planet into a cosmic wasp’s nest. Worse than that? The Red Bee has been imprisoned and stuck in some sort of chrysalis while the rest of the team is overrun by the Orkin Man’s worst nightmare…

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I suspect that along with the new policy at DC that each story needs a splash page, they’ve initiated the awkward “Show Each Character’s Full Name No Matter How Awful It Makes The Dialogue Sound” policy that used to occur at Marvel years ago. It’s especially noticable when the entire team has a clearly labeled headshot on the main splash… While her friends fight their way through the touring cast of “A Bug’s Life,” The Red Bee finds that she’s starting to understand their incessant buzzing. “The Hive. God, no! I finally understand what they’re saying. I pray I’m not too late to stop it.” She bursts free of her cocoon and flies off towards a particular chemical signal…

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“Mark this solar system as occupied by the Swarm, and send no further colony ships, or I will kill them to defend my territory.” Amazingly, her bluff works, and the queen bee– er, spider, backs off, recalling her troopers to the stars. When Red Bee returns to her friends, they ask why she’s bright red, and why the fighting just sort of stopped. “Why are they letting us go?” asks Firebrand, and Red Bee tells them that she told them to stop. Phantom Lady calls up a shift door, and they teleport back to their headquarters at the White House… but it’s gone. The questions of continuity are finally answered, as the FF find themselves in a ruined Washington AFTER the events of Amazons Attack. A week later, Uncle Sam and the original Ray (Happy Terrill) have gathered at the new Freedom Fighters memorial, a tribute to the heroes who fell in Infinite Crisis. As they talk, Happy’s son Ray (the new… uh… Ray) arrives…

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Uncle Sam’s powers are nebulous and hard to describe, but basically he’s the spirit of America, and when he has a precognitive flash, it tends to come true. Sam reports that over 70% of Americans believe that they NEEDED a metahuman police force, and that the JLA and JSA have just taken in recruits to bolster their numbers. Happy tells them that he’s retired, but not very convincingly, and they head out. Meanwhile, at JSA headquarters, the new Red Bee confers with Doctor Mid-Nite, physician to the winged and powerful…

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I’m still not 100% sold on the new Phantom Lady being a boozy bimbo, but at least she has more character than the previous one. Jenna (Red Bee) reveals that she now has multifaceted eyes, that her strength has been more than tripled, and she isn’t even bothered as she marks her teammates with her chemical signature, but Doc tells her to be careful. “I’ve got antennaie popping out of my head and permanent sunbrun, but I think it’s a fair trade. You can bet that next time we face a threat, I won’t be the first one captured by the enemy like some helpless kid in a stupid costume!” Meanwhile, at the Pentagon…

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Miss America agrees with the sentiment, but asks when they decided to make SHADE activities public knowledge, and the President decides that he really does want to see about putting together a metahuman police force, sort of an Initiative, if you will, he said knowingly wink wink nudge nudge knowhatImean? Uncle Sam’s response? “Absolutely Not. My recruitment poster days are behind me.” Not at my bank, they’re not… Firebrand starts to explain in detail about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, but the President took Civics 201 as well.

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“Americans haven’t trusted the military to do police work, and they’re even more uncomfortable with the idea of super-powered troops watching their every move.” Good to see that SOMEBODY gets the reasoning behind that, other than Nixon after Kent State, isn’t it, Director Stark? The Ray and Black Condor fall into line, but the Human Bomb and Firebrand aren’t biting. The President asks Uncle Sam what he thinks of it all, and Sam tells it like it is…

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And with that, the most principled FFers are out, leaving the inexperienced Red Bee, Phantom Lady & Black Condor with the conservative Miss America and Ray. The President (what IS his name, anyway?) doesn’t weep over spilled milk, and sets about putting together his super-police force. The Freedom Fighters start down a dangerous path, taking out terrorists costumed and uncostumed, as well as keeping a high profile at movie awards and clubs (always a bad idea.) Some time later, Jenna is a bit frightened to find that she’s cramping and her period is late, even though she hasn’t had any entanglements in a while. Suddenly, she doubles over, falls to the floor and… bad things happen.

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It’s somewhat hard to tell, but I am pretty sure that we’re looking at a swarm of alien insects bursting out of Jenna’s body, and by the way, raise your hand if “EWWWWWWWWWW?” This is a really strange issue, and Uncle Sam’s point that they just finished fighting a force exactly like what the Prez wants to create is a valid one. I know that I whine about decompressed storytelling (and, at least in my mind, rightfully so) but this issue comes close to giving us almost TOO much. The art (by Renato Arlem) is interesting, reminding me in places of Howard Chaykin and others of Alex Toth, while maintaining it’s own rough charm. I can forgive some of the “here’s what’s happening” in a first issue, and I’m intrigued by how this is all going to play out, so I can give Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters #1 a nicely-done 3 out of 5 stars…

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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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10 Comments

  1. UltraMatt
    October 5, 2007 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    it feels like lately comics put together teams just so they can kill them off again one series later….that bother anyone else?

  2. kwaku
    October 5, 2007 at 2:21 pm — Reply

    Nice review.

    I thought the last page was a cocoon, which will transform her further.

    Also, the guy that the whole team is talking to is not the Prez but the NSA director.

    The art seemed better on certain characters……

    Anyway I’ll be back for next month.

  3. October 5, 2007 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    1) I’m still certain that 2007 will give us beter punches…

    2) Is it me, or is the opening scene essentially the same plot as the H4H WWH story? You know, ‘Token Insectoid team member gets their own Hive of space-bug underlings’?

  4. October 5, 2007 at 6:37 pm — Reply

    Guy trying to recruit them is NSA Director Robbins. Wonder if his first name is Tony?

    President is the same one who was in the Amazon Attacks series, so there is no suprise people are having trouble remembering him.

    99.9 % sure that mass is meant to be a cocoon. Red Bee is undergoing further changes.

    Phantom Lady is a boozer. The first series suggested that she was in league with Hilton and Lohan as far as being a party girl. Difference from this series and last, is that in this series, she is dealing with her father (ex-President) being killed by GOnzo and Father Time, AND she is more under the public eye. Believe that partying issue will be approached later in the series.

    Uncle Sam and Miss Amercia are being played much as they where back in their original Quality apperances, whatever powers that are needed for the time, they have. Common practice for G.A. characters at the time.

    I reviewed it last month for my site. Enjoyed it as well and will be checking out the next ones.

  5. Maximus Rift
    October 5, 2007 at 8:47 pm — Reply

    Actually, I really don’t know what I’m looking at. Could be a cocoon, could be alien bugs.

    Still, I like that the DCU doesn’t have the same president as the Real world.

  6. October 6, 2007 at 12:29 am — Reply

    I did enjoy the original version of these characters ala Pre-Crisis. I did not think I would care for the newest mini series, but I really did. I read this issue and I look forward to second book in this developing series.

  7. October 6, 2007 at 2:03 am — Reply

    I reviewed it last month for my site. Enjoyed it as well and will be checking out the next ones.

    You must stop saying that. :) Last month was five days ago, and the book came out nine days ago. It’s not as though I’ve been sitting on reviews for weeks at a time. :)

  8. October 6, 2007 at 2:06 pm — Reply

    Matt, I’m sorry! I didn’t realize that it read like that when I wrote it!

    Still, It’s great to see another perspective!

    Again, sorry.

  9. Brad
    October 7, 2007 at 8:18 am — Reply

    I agree, I think it is a cocoon. I know that comics don’t happen in a vacume, but yeah I’m getting WWH H4H/CW flash backs as this happens. I wonder if this means Uncle Sam will bite the big one. although, in the MU, Cap surrendered because he realized the people where against him (citizens of the MU, not the MU readers themselves) So if that is the case by nature of his powers, that means like the man said “I’m not going to be a party to this without the approval of the the American people”. So maybe Uncle Sam ends up leading the super cops in the DCU……

  10. October 7, 2007 at 6:56 pm — Reply

    Matthew wrote I “It’s not as though I’ve been sitting on reviews for weeks at a time.”

    I am guilty of buying my comics every Wednesday at lunch time, brining them home and set them aside because I have not read the books from the week before yet. I will always be a week behind.

    I am glad someone has the time, energy and drive to post daily and really write and not just post links and pretty images as I do.

    Thanks again and bring on that new Hero History dayumit!

    RobOrange

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