Earlier today, Justin Gray tweeted, “’Freedom Fighters’ #1 drops into stores today. Lots of punching and flag waving. Feel free to purchase.” That little offering, combined with the enthusiasm for the book that was present at the DC Nation panel in Baltimore this past weekend, convinced me to grab this one, read it, and review it.
It didn’t hook me right away, but it sure feels like a fine substitute to scratch my “Atlas” sized itch. The formula is not dissimilar: great writing, great art, characters that are offbeat so they can be played faster and looser.
The problem I had with this first issue, however, was the sheer volume of information jammed into it. There is a casino rumble, a meteor hurtling towards the Earth, the kidnapping of the Vice President, and hints of a secret society so secret, it makes the Freemasons look like Girl Scouts. This, naturally, leads to an adventure fit for Indiana Jones or Benjamin Gates.
If that wasn’t enough, Gray and Palmiotti jam in six characters that every reader may not be intimately familiar with, especially if the last time a reader saw the Freedom Fighters was in “Infinite Crisis,” or maybe even the 1970s “Freedom Fighters.” Additionally, there is a two-page Presidential debriefing that threatens to stall the story, but the book recovers enough to serve up a brand new threat, cliffhanger style. Actually, that last threat is served up on a mesa, but mesas have cliffs, so it’s all good.
Moore’s art is keenly detailed, with some very strong storytelling and panel framing choices. There are some parts that are sharper than others, but that’s to be expected with any book. Similarly, Schwager tones down the color palette, but I expected louder, bolder colors, more in line with those on the Dave Johnson cover. The overall effect is still very strong, and much of it can be dismissed as the creative team learning each other’s abilities and strengths. Moore’s overall style, combined with the initial Aryan threat gave me a nice little flashback treat to the “Justice League Task Force” days of Sal Velluto.
Of the characters in this book, other than Uncle Sam, the Ray is the one I feel I am most familiar with, but I didn’t have trouble following along in this issue. I even found myself enjoying the attitude and grit displayed by the new (to me) Black Condor. I was a fan of Ryan Kendall, but this Condor is a warrior who is entertaining to read. I had concerns that he would just read as a simple Hawkman clone, but he isn’t. He is similar in tone to the avatar Hawkman from the 1990s, but without all of the baggage.
I’ll admit I’m as guilty as the next reviewer when it comes to hastily slinging the word “decompression” around, but in no way, shape, or form can this issue be considered decompressed. The calamities occurring here feel like a real world situation, where problems occur simultaneously or even pile up. Uncle Sam hops to each calamity, gathering his team for a more important problem.
It’s a very full issue that has a lot of information to offer the reader. I may not be running back to my local comic shop to add this to my pull list right now, but I’m definitely in for issue #2. These characters may not be my favorites, but neither were the characters in “Atlas.” This is a very good combination of writers, artists, and story making the characters compelling enough for me to say that I’m looking forward to the adventurous tale waiting for us in the next issue.