And now, a master class in how to deal with your comic being cancelled…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Liberty Project #8 awaits!

libertyproject8coverTHE LIBERTY PROJECT #8
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: James W. Fry
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Colorist: Adam Philips
Letterer: Mindy Eisman
Editor: Fred Burke
Publisher: Eclipse Comics
Cover Price: $1.75
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00

Previously in The Liberty Project: They are all petty criminals: Crackshot, soft-spoken genius marksman; Burnout, rebellious teen pyrokinetic; Cimmaron, reckless cowgirl who is literally a strong (and stubborn) as a mule; and Slick, whose nom de guerre is as much about his personality as his friction-controlling powers.  Each was arrested, convicted and jailed.  Each was given the option to participate in a special government program that would lessen their sentence, in return for working for the government.  (Yes, I know this sounds familiar.  Liberty Project #1 his the stands in June 1987, Suicide Squad in May of that same year.  Call it parallel evolution.)  On their first mission, they fought and captured a monstrous young man named Johnny Savage, who was promptly jailed and assigned to their team, causing problems both personal and logistical.  Now, Savage has escaped the facility and the remaining members have a very short window to catch him or risk the end of the entire Liberty Project…

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Tellingly, the first thing Johnny Savage does upon escaping is lash out at a happy young couple enjoying a romantic moment in the woods.  “You get to have real lives!” he cries, raging in a manner that reminds me that he’s just a kid inside that horrific framework.  “I didn’t do anything wrong! IT’S NOT MY FAULT!”  To be fair to the lad, he’s half-right, in that his parents’ insistence on repeated chemical treatments to “fix” his behavior problems gave him the ability to shift into his terrible other self, but once there, he kinda broke…  Cleveland?  Either way, his escape has left the rest of the Liberty Project with a quandary…

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Johnny’s escape has blown the lid off the Project, and brought down protests from the residents of Arlington, where their holding facility is headquartered.  The locals are enraged, and the Congressional money-men behind the whole thing are ready to pull the plug entirely.  Dr. Linnier, the man behind the entire operation, realizes that their only hope is to recapture Johnny Savage and prove that the Project is self-sustaining and safe.  Slick believes that he has a lead on where Savage is going, but Dr. Linnier has bad news for our heroes…

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That last panel says it all: Cimarron bubbling with rage, Crackshot sadly realizing the truth, Burnout looking to Slick for support, and Slick himself surprised at something he didn’t see coming.  That’s some powerful storytelling.  As for Slick’s theory: Even though Savage has always previously attacked people he hates, Slick believes that he may be targeting a singer he loves (whom he believes also loves him, thanks to the power of transference and vinyl audio technology), but the public won’t accept more convicted criminals swanning around unfettered.  The team agrees to wear the restraining gear, but didn’t count on another side of going public: People realizing who they really are.  Burnout is confronted by a man who blamed her for his daughter’s injuries, angering her to the point where she almost retaliates..

Almost.

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I’ve always been impressed by this sequence, implying deep back story that we know nothing about, and making us understand both sides of the standoff.  After all, a dangerous sociopathic superhuman has been brought down before she could attack a normal human…  but she’s also a 16-year-old girl, trying to do the right thing, who has been chained up and publicly paraded around for entirely political reasons.  (With all that said?  I still feel more for her and Slick’s morose expression in the second-to-last panel speaks volumes.  Once again, well done by James Fry.)  That evening, the concert goes off as planned, with four extra attendees and a few extra security guards.  Things heat up when Slick spies Savage in the crowd…

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The Liberty Project members chase him down, but find that the local police are also ready to engage him, with much more lethal intentions.  Dr. Linnier implores them to find Johnny first, to stop him without bloodshed, and the team (grudgingly) agrees, engaging the monstrous Savage, who only wants to get to Rhonda Samms, the one person who can stop his pain.  (That’s really heartbreaking, even though he’s an irredeemable, murderous jerk.)  The battle is joined, while the concert goes on…

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Johnny Savage breaks free, and finally finds his way to the stage to find the woman he thinks he loves.

And suddenly, The Liberty Project hears the sound of gunfire…

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Some time later, we return to Arlington to find that the Project is still under siege by press and protestors, and Dr. Linnier and Director Howard assemble Crackshot, Burnout, Cimmaron and Slick to tell them the bad news about their future…
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Howard tries to explain that it doesn’t matter that they are not at fault, and it doesn’t matter that his own foolish decision to bring Savage into the fold caused the entire disaster, but he is interrupted by a calm, determined response from Slick: “We’re not going.”

That’s when Director Howard shows the rest of his hand…

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The look on Crackshot’s face in panel six may be the most spot-on representation of contemptuous rage I’ve ever seen in a comic book panel, conveying everything we need to know about his emotional state.  Indeed, it’s the character work of both the scripting and Fry’s art that makes this short-lived series so memorable, even three decades later: Each character, even Savage, feels real, complex and interesting, if not always entirely heroic.  It’s a precursor, in many ways, to what Astro City would become a decade or so later.

It also makes the final page hurt just that much more…

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And THAT’S how you end a comic book, Faithful Spoilerites.

The Liberty Project weren’t gone for long, reappearing in a one-shot and the Total Eclipse crossover miniseries a year or two later, and even making a cameo in a Busiek-penned issue of ‘Jack Kirby’s Teen Agents’ in the 90s, but these original issues are still worth the occasional reread, even now.  The Liberty Project #8 is a book that manages to do the elusive “realism” in a way that doesn’t feel incredibly forced or overly grimdark, with phenomenal art and a deep, complex script to pair it with, earning a very impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It would be wonderful if, in this Suicide Squad-loving future, they could make another appearance, if only for a few more pages of character interplay between the four leads…

And now, a master class in how to deal with your comic being cancelled...  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Liberty Project #8 awaits! THE LIBERTY PROJECT #8 Writer: Kurt Busiek Penciler: James W. Fry Inker: Doug Hazlewood Colorist: Adam Philips Letterer: Mindy Eisman Editor: Fred Burke Publisher: Eclipse Comics Cover Price: $1.75 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00 Previously in The Liberty Project: They are all petty criminals: Crackshot, soft-spoken genius marksman; Burnout, rebellious teen pyrokinetic; Cimmaron, reckless cowgirl who is literally a strong (and stubborn) as a mule; and Slick, whose nom de guerre is as much about his…
Kurt Busiek's complex scripting, James Fry's charming art and a roster of characters that I dearly love... It's a wonderful comic book, top to bottom.

THE LIBERTY PROJECT #8

Writing
Art
Coloring

Kurt Busiek's complex scripting, James Fry's charming art and a roster of characters that I dearly love... It's a wonderful comic book, top to bottom.

User Rating: 4.73 ( 2 votes)

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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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1 Comment

  1. OverMaster
    October 2, 2016 at 2:50 pm — Reply

    Please tell me Director Howard eventually was hit by karma big-time.

    Also, since I didn’t know the first thing about this comic before this, when I first saw the banner in the main Retro Reviews page I assumed ‘Slick’ was Vibe and the ‘Savage’ they were talking about was Vandal Savage. My first impression was this had to be some sort of obscure flashback DC miniseries, since by 1988 Vibe was already dead.

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