Freedom Fighters #1 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Eddy Barrows, Penciller; Eber Ferreira, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Nazi takeover
Ray: The history of Earth-X has always been one of the more interesting and problematic ones in DC’s stables. A world where the Nazis won World War 2 and took over the United States, it focuses on a small band of resistance superheroes led by the personification of America, Uncle Sam. There have been a lot of attempts to integrate them into the main DCU, but Robert Venditti and Eddy Barrows’ new twelve-part maxiseries take them back where they belong – at a point where the story of superheroes resisting fascism feels more relevant than ever. Picking up in the aftermath of the fall of America, in 1963, the story follows the original Freedom Fighters as they meet underground. I was surprised that real-world figure Jesse Owens was one of the leaders of the movement here, a clever touch. But we barely have enough time to get to know them when the world’s corrupt authorities catch up to them. The shape-shifting Nazi Plastic Men that serve as the regime’s shock troops are one of the creepiest visuals I’ve seen in a comic in a long time.
The decision of this title to kill off its title characters right as the story begins is a bold one and sets the stakes very high. This is not a comic that shies away from the brutality of Nazi occupying forces. You’re not supposed to view them as generic evil dictators, but as monstrous sadists who hollow out a society. That becomes clear as we move on to the present day, where the Nazi occupation has been normalized. How deep it goes becomes clear early when the simple act of playing baseball nearly brings some kids in contact with Nazi tyranny. With a new dictator in charge, the regime’s grip on power is no looser, but a new group of Freedom Fighters is emerging – and Uncle Sam, thought lost after the death of his team in the 1960s, may be making a comeback. This isn’t a perfect comic, as we don’t really get to know either of the two teams in the issue, but it does a very good job of immersing us in its disturbing world. We’re immediately invested, and that’s a big part of success.
Corrina: Given the situation in America right now, with more of people who identify as Nazis feeling free to come out in the open, this could be a timely comic.
But, instead, it made me a bit uneasy.
Yes, it’s an unstinting look at the violence visited on the occupied America by the Nazis, including the graphic deaths of the original Freedom Fighters, but these depictions veer close (if not over) the line into the violence porn.
A whole issue of the Nazis murdering and executing people (with one instance of fighting back at the end) made me queasy. I think it’s because it didn’t delve into how some Americans must be compliant in this takeover. As we see in the real world, Nazis are still a problem in American society, not simply confined to the past in Nazi Germany. True, Plastic Man has gone over to the Nazis but these comic’s Nazis are two-dimensional evil, as opposed to three-dimensional scary with their philosophy having seeped into everyday life. (America First was historically a thing.) The Nazis are not all invaders, some of them are us.
The new Freedom Fighters team shows some promise. It’s just that the premise, as Ray said, can quickly become problematic if it’s not already.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.