Saturday, October 20, 2007

Then and Now

First, another random discovery while making sense of the Collection: Freedom Fighters #5, cover dated December 1976. I don't think I bought this one off the racks, tho certainly the prominent display of Wonder Woman (hey, big surprise: she wasn't really dead!) suggests that as a possibility. I think rather this was one of a collection of issues I received in a trade with someone who preferred the Marvel issues in my collection which didn't really interest me.

In any case, it's a dramatic cover, but the story inside is a little wanting. Bob Rozakis gets the writing credits, and I really "knew" him better from his Answer Man column in the back of DC titles later in the seventies. You could write him your queries about continuity and such and he'd be glad to set you as straight as was possible. Of course, in those pre-Crisis days, the "imaginary story" possibility was thrown around a lot.

And it's interesting that he was writing the Freedom Fighters in light of that, because there seems to be a little bit of a continuity wonk going on here. It's hard to be sure exactly on which Earth (yes, there were many back then...)this story takes place...though the presence of Wonder Woman suggests Earth One or Two...probably One, owing to some minimal visual cues in the interior artwork of Ramona Fradon which suggest more present-day than historical context.

But since I've only got the single issue, I can't be sure where the story was supposed to be set. After all, by then, the Freedom Fighters would long ago have migrated to Earth X from Earth 2 to fight the Nazis...but I don't believe there ever was a Wonder Woman on that Earth, so perhaps they came to Earth 1...or maybe it was just a big goof. Whatevs, this was exactly the sort of compound confusion the Crisis was designed to fix.

(Shame, though, that Ray Thomas and the gang at All-Star Squadron worked so hard to tell that tale properly ten years later, only shortly before the Multiverse got the finger, making it all a little moot...)

Still, it was fun to find this issue so soon after having read the recent Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters miniseries trade. There's no doubt that the FF are in proper continuity now (tho thanks to the appetite of Mr. Mind/Evil Skeets, it sounds as though there are TWO sets of Freedom Fighters out there...)
and I surely enjoyed this series, and look forward to seeing where this group goes from here, now that they're getting another regular series and will be dealing with the seemingly ill-planned Amazons Attack aftermath.

The story in the mini gives Uncle Sam and the Gang (most of them killed in the opening pages of Infinite Crisis, to be re-invented here) some new relevance in our post-911, post-Bludhaven/Crisis world, as they join together to take on the dark forces of S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advance Defense Executive), a team of meta-humans authorized by the President of the US, who's now been replaced with some alien machine creature who's running the country into the ground. Oh, if only the troubles in the current Executive Office were so easily explained.

Still, it's a rollicking story through the fresh environments of New Earth, which for the purposes of this story have more similarities with our "real" world than we usually see. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have woven a tale to recreate these great heroes, in a way that manages to draw some sharp parallels to the troubles of this dimension that's entertaining, too. I have to admit I nearly stood up and cheered when the new Firebrand (he's okay, but he's no Danette Reilly!)says,

"The war is a big oil-sucking lie and people are dying by the truckload because of it. The whole world knows there were no warehouses packed with nuclear warheads, no underground vats of bio-toxins, no super-agents dropping from the sky like human bombs. Our nation is anesthetized and divided but somehow our leaders are not ashamed."

Yep, that pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? Sure I like my comics as Escapism the same as anyone, but its also nice to see some real world issues addressed from time to time, especially when we have so very many to spare. In fact, as we watch President Gonzo execute sacrifice innocent Americans in terrorist attacks to discredit meta-humans and begin to circle around the Constitution for the kill, having your president replaced by an alien/machine actually begins to seem one of the more reasonable explanations for the past six years in our world.

Daniel Acuna is the artist and his style seems to reflect well the dark and bright contrasts of this all-out fight to preserve the integrity of the United States.

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