Comic Book Review: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #4

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters has run hot and cold with The Revolution. When Gray and Palmiotti stick to trying to deliver a quality comic book story with interesting characters and exciting fights then I love this title. However, I am thoroughly unimpressed with this title when Gray and Palmiotti get too cute in trying to imitate Hunter S. Thompson or stand on their soapboxes and get a bit too preachy. Therefore, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #4 has the potential to be both really enjoyable and really lame all in the same issue. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Daniel Acuna

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This issue starts with The Black Condor kicking butt on the members of First Strike. During the fight, Human Bomb blasts Propaganda and kills him. Human Bomb threatens to kill the rest of First Strike if they don’t retreat. First Strike then decides to make a hasty retreat from the battle.

The Black Condor then tells the Freedom Fighters that the Human Bomb is a good fighter but that the rest of them are pretty unimpressive. Uncle Sam then breaks the news to Phantom Lady that her father has been murdered and was replaced by a machine. That this machine was forged from pan-dimensional alien technology. Uncle Sam explains that in the aftermath of the destruction of Bludhaven, a fetal probe pushed through a dimensional crack. Father Time discovered the astronaut fetus and started something called the Gonzo Project. He educated the machine and exposed it to all of recorded human history. That Father Time thinks that Gonzo is controllable, but the truth is that Gonzo is uncontrollable.

Phantom Lady still doesn’t believe Uncle Sam. Phantom Lady then uses her black light bands to manipulate space-time by folding dimensions and using them as doors. Basically, teleportation. Human Bomb says he needs his meds from S.H.A.D.E.’s laboratories or else he will explode in seven hours.

We cut over to S.H.A.D.E. headquarters where Father Time is dressing down the remaining members of First Strike. As punishment for retreating, Father Time snaps off one of Chief Justice’s fingers. Father Time then demotes Chief Justice as team leader and introduces the new team leader: Americommando. There are also two more new members: Railgun and Barracuda. Spin Doctor makes some smart assed comment to Americommando who responds by crushing Spin Doctor’s head to a pulp.

We shift to the home of Emma Glenn. There are two government agents outside Emma’s house conducting surveillance on Emma. Phantom Lady and Doll Man suddenly teleport into her kitchen. Doll Man tells Emma to come with them. That she is in danger. Emma says that she has a house and a job. She can’t just leave. Phantom Lady responds that they will bring the house with them. We then see the entire house suddenly vanish.

We shift to the S.H.A.D.E. research laboratory where Phantom Lady, Human Bomb and Firebrand suddenly appear. Phantom Lady informs all the scientists and technicians to immediately leave the building. Phantom Lady then teleports the entire laboratory to “The Heartland” where the Freedom Fighters are hiding out. Uncle Sam explains that the Heartland is a moment forever locked in time at the height of this country’s beauty. (Eh, I’d estimate that to probably be around 1900.) That they are safe from their enemies here.

We shift to Doll Man and Emma hugging each other. Yes, that is right; Doll Man is his normal height. I guess the Heartland is able to make him normal again. Doll Man is thrilled to finally be able to hold Emma.

We cut to Air Force One, where the new President of the United States, Gonzo, is talking about his plan to have S.H.A.D.E. operatives infiltrate on of Qurac’s nuclear plants and trigger a meltdown. That this will slow the nuclear arms race and turn the Qurac people against their government. Suddenly, we see a Gamera sized, no I’d say a Godzilla sizes Uncle Sam standing before Air Force One. Uncle Sam grabs the plane. Phantom Lady then teleports inside of Air Force One. She confronts Gonzo and uses her bands to discover that Gonzo is indeed a robot and not her father.

Uncle Sam sets Air Force One on the ground and the door opens and Gonzo throws a bloodied and beaten Phantom Lady out of the plane. Uncle Sam tells Gonzo that his reign of terror is over. Gonzo disagrees. Suddenly, the newly re-structured First Strike appears and Ammericomando tells the Freedom Fighters they have two choices: suicide or death. End of issue. End of issue.

The Good: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #4 was a pretty good issue. The pacing was just right. It moved along briskly, but didn’t feel choppy or rushed. All in all, this was a rather action packed issue. Gray and Palmiotti certainly have the talent for delivering fast paced action that hooks the reader at the beginning of the issue and leaves them wanting more at the end of the issue. The dialogue was a bit hit or miss. I think that Gray and Palmiotti craft some solid dialogue when it comes to our heroes. I dig the banter between the Freedom Fighters and think that there is nice chemistry between these characters. They are really starting to gel as a team.

As always, Human Bomb is the man. He has been my favorite character since the beginning of Battle for Bludhaven. The man in black doesn’t hesitate to kill bad guys. I liked his simple solution to getting First Strike to retreat. He used his powers to set an example and then threatened to do the same to the remaining members. Human Bomb is probably the most powerful member of the group, but it is his feelings of isolation, lack of confidence and instability with his powers that makes him such an appealing character.

I like this new Black Condor. I always thought that the Black Condor was a pretty lame character. Basically, he is just a dude that flies. No big deal. However, this new Black Condor is clearly benefiting from a big power upgrade. I like that he is super strong and fast to go along with his ability to fly. Add to that one seriously nasty attitude and you have a recipe of the team’s official ass-kicker with a mean streak. Every super team needs one.

I’m glad we are seeing more of Uncle Sam in action. I like his ambiguous magical based powers. I love this character and am happy that he is finally being represented as one of the big players in the DCU. I know we have the holy trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. As well as the next level of big named heroes from the JSA and JLA. However, Uncle Sam is a huge name with a long history. He first appeared in 1940 which is the same year as Green Lantern and the Flash and one before Wonder Woman. Uncle Sam definitely deserves a prominent role in this new DCU.

The Heartland is a great idea. This is a neat concept that will serve as the ideal base of operations for the Freedom Fighters.

The Bad: It is really simple. When Gray and Palmiotti focus on delivering an action based super hero story then we are treated with an entertaining issue. When Gray and Palmiotti start getting too cute and veer off on post 9/11 political diatribe then the quality of the story suffers greatly. Political commentary really isn’t Gray and Palmiotti’s strong point. Plus, I don’t see that their stories come across as political parodies. To me, to be a true political parody means that you parody all sides in politics.

Take South Park for example. They parody virtually every group in the political spectrum. However, Gray and Palmiotti only parody the George Bush conservatives while making the liberal viewpoint the “correct” and “proper” viewpoint of the heroes. That isn’t parody. That is propaganda. And propaganda is something that has never interested me. I don’t dig Bush and his cronies, however even if I agree with the particular view point that the propaganda is trying to push, I still have zero interest in it. I like my stories more complex and gray.

I’m also disappointed about the de-evolution of Father Time’s character. In Battle for Bludhaven, Father Time was a bad-assed character who was rather complex. He was more like Nick Fury in personality. He followed his orders and his only objective was to serve his government regardless of how nasty the job that was given to him. However, in the past couple of issues, Father Time has become more of a parody of a baseless villain. He certainly is very stereotypical and uninteresting in this issue. And he was just so outlandish in his dialogue and actions while addressing First Strike. Gray and Palmiotti write him in such an over the top bad guy that I expected him to start laughing “Mwa-hahahaha. I am so eeeevil.” while twirling his moustache. It is too bad that Gray and Palmiotti have taken a complex and interesting character and made him a cartoon-ish base villain.

Gonzo’s dialogue was also way too goofy and outlandish for me to take seriously. I know he is a villain, but Gray and Palmiotti just play him way to over the top for me to really buy into this character. Gonzo comes across as a poorly done parody and I’m not too sure if I’m supposed to take him seriously or not. And that isn’t a good thing. If the reader cannot take the main villain seriously, then it dampens the impact and effectiveness of the entire story. Comic book stories are only as good as the villain.

Overall: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #4 was a pretty good read. Gray and Palmiotti know how to deliver a fun and exciting read. If you don’t mind putting up with some of the silly over the top dialogue and rather one-sided political commentary, then I think you will enjoy this title. Gray and Palmiotti have succeeded in making the Freedom Fighters a cast of very appealing characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing DC make this title an ongoing monthly title.