Comic Book Review: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2

The Revolution enjoyed Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1. I think this title has an interesting collection of characters and has plenty of potential. Acuna’s artwork also is a real treat and gives this comic book a nice look. I fully expect Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2 to be another solid read. 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: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This issue begins with our heroes tracking down Uncle Sam and arriving at his log cabin ready to arrest him for conspiracy to commit treason. The Ray makes the first move to subdue Uncle Sam. But, the old man is just as fast as the Ray and searches Ray’s soul and picks out his weaknesses. That he is a womanizing narcissist. Uncle Sam then traps him in a crystal. Uncle Sam then uses the same crystal to trap Phantom Lady. Uncle Sam reads her character flaws: that she is self-destructive and uses drugs and alcohol to numb her guilt and fear. Uncle Sam then reads Human Bomb’s heart and says that he is highly emotional and lonely.

Uncle Sam then traps Doll Man in his hat. There Doll Man arrives in an alternate dimension where he is joined by Uncle Sam and other symbols of America like a bald eagle and a Bison. Uncle Sam tells Doll Man that he has been made into a slave and an assassin. Uncle Sam asks Doll Man why the serum that shrunk Doll Man has not been used to help people. That Father Time shut down the program and built prisons filled with people just like Doll Man. These prisons are training camps to train assassins like Doll Man. That Doll Man is the poster boy to prepare the world for an army of tiny killers. Uncle Sam says that Father Time is building a metahuman task force that will police the planet and crush freedom everywhere. Uncle Sam says that he is only as powerful as the idea of America. And that idea terrifies men like Father Time. Uncle Sam asks all of our heroes to join him as his Freedom Fighters.

We shift to our heroes returning to S.H.A.D.E.’s east coast base. However, instead of handing over a captured Uncle Sam, our heroes turn on the S.H.A.D.E. soldiers and proceed with trying to rescue Firebrand. Phantom Lady is sent to retrieve Firebrand. Meanwhile, Bigfoot and Destroyer arrive with more soldiers to capture our heroes. Bigfoot blasts Uncle Sam with a huge punch prompting Human Bomb to get pissed and blow a massive hole through Bigfoot’s chest. Phantom Lady then appears with Firebrand with her. Firebrand gives Uncle Sam a huge hug and says that he knew that Uncle Sam would come for him.

Doll Man then commandeers a jet and asks Uncle Sam where they are they going to go. Uncle Sam says that they are headed for Arizona to met John Trujillo who is about to become the new Black Condor.

We cut to Father Time and the android version of Sen. Knight are discussing Uncle Sam recruiting Doll Man, Phantom Lady, Human Bomb and Ray to join him. The two gentlemen are watching the Presidential election results. Android Sen. Knight has won every state except California and Oregon. It seems that Knight is Republican since his states are all colored red. Android Sen. Knight isn’t worried about Uncle Sam and his crew. The android says that as President he will sic this media dogs on them and brand them traitors and terrorists. He will have their people in Hollywood rush a few anti-metahuman films into production emphasizing paranoia and patriotism. He’ll get the religious fundamentalists to stir up evolution and intelligent design debates with a slant on non-government sanctioned metahumans. That the public will be so worked up that they will approve of any bill that he proposes. The android then says that “No one will realize Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard is running the free world into the ground.” End of issue.

The Good: I thought that Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2 started strong and was pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, the ending was poorly written and hurt the overall ranking of this issue.

The opening scene with the Freedom Fighters locking horns with Uncle Sam was nicely done. Uncle Sam is one of the coolest characters in the DCU. I liked how Uncle Sam dealt with our heroes by quickly neutralizing them without actually hurting them. The way that Uncle Sam quickly read each character and analyzed all of their character flaws was cool. It was an effective tool to give each character a little bit more depth by showing their personal fears and motivations. Uncle Sam is a character that I hope DC really pushes. He has so much potential.

The scene where Uncle Sam and his newly formed Freedom Fighters kick some butt and free Firebrand was well done. Gray and Palmiotti delivered some sick action in this scene. The Human Bomb was a stud in this entire scene with him taking out all of the soldiers when they first arrived at the blast to blowing a massive hole through Bigfoot’s chest. I certainly wasn’t expecting that! Human Bomb is probably my favorite character so the more panel time he gets the better.

Uncle Sam’s reaction to Human Bomb killing Bigfoot was perfect. Uncle Sam gives his support to Human Bomb while being firm about the fact that Bigfoot didn’t deserve to die. This was a nice blend of compassion and stern teaching. Human Bomb’s reaction to Bigfoot’s death was also just right. Human Bomb isn’t a killer. He just has powers that are hard to control combined with him being very emotional and tending to overreact. This scene just made Human Bomb an even more interesting and complex character.

The conversation between Phantom Girl and Firebrand while she is rescuing him did a nice job fleshing out her character. Gray and Palmiotti take time to show the reader that Phantom Girl is more than her obvious assets. I think it is brilliant that Phantom Girl uses her physical looks and the tendency for people to think beautiful women to be ditzy and unintelligent to her advantage. Whenever someone underestimates a person they lower their guard and that gives Phantom Girl a decided advantage. This was a nice way to include some solid character development in an action scene.

I liked Firebrand’s reaction to seeing Uncle Sam. You could feel the genuine love that Firebrand has for Uncle Sam. And then Gray and Palmiotti mixes in a little surprise with the promise of an all new Black Condor. I’m interested to see if Gray and Palmiotti can make this new Black Condor engaging and appealing. I usually find characters whose only power is that of flight to be rather lame and boring.

Gray and Palmiotti serve up a pleasant blend of action and character development in Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2. The reader gets enough action so this issue doesn’t seem too slow or boring. Yet, we still get quality dialogue and character development so this issue doesn’t seem like nothing but a mindless slugfest. It is nice to see a comic book with a nice balanced approach.

The pacing on this issue was just right. It had a nice flow and smooth transitions between the various scenes. The story is progressing in a forward fashion with a clearly constructed plot and purpose. Technically, this story is solidly plotted and developed. Gray and Palmiotti also dole out some solid dialogue. Each character is developing their own voice and personality. Gray and Palmiotti are mindful to make character development a priority. As a result, we are starting to see some descent chemistry beginning to develop between the various team members.

Acuna’s artwork is fantastic. I love his heavy lined and thick inked style. I know that this style of art is certainly not going to appeal to many people. However, it works for me. Acuna’s art is rich and vibrant and practically leaps off the page at the reader. Acuna gives Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters a very unique and distinctive look.

The Bad: Even though I thought the majority of this issue was well written, I was less than impressed with the final scene between Father Time and Gonzo the Mechanical Bastard. First, the name for the android version of Senator Knight is just too over the top. And Gonzo’s plans to use his media dogs, his people in Hollywood, religious fundamentalists and a plan for an orchestrated terrorist attack was just too silly and campy. Gray and Palmiotti come across as trying to hard invoke the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson. I loved Hunter S. Thompson. Gray and Palmiotti aren’t Hunter S. Thompson. They should stick with what they do best which is treating us to entertaining action stories.

It is clear that Gray and Palmiotti are taking their shots at the Bush administration with Gonzo and his plans. Now, I never voted for Bush. For the record, I didn’t vote Democrat either. The Revolution only supports third party candidates. So, needless to say, I’m no fan of Bush. And I thought a lot of the Bush bashing in the entertainment industry was pretty darn funny at first. However, after 6 years of the same stuff, it is starting to get old. Yeah, he is a total moron. I agree. I got it already. Move on to something else. It seems that every comic book I read has to be some veiled attack on the Bush Administration. Enough. Can I please read about something else?

There are plenty of other interesting political angles to take. How about how the two party system is a farce and in reality the Republicans and Democrats are the same thing and are only concerned with building a bloated federal government and denying American’s the right to a true democracy with multiple parties to choose from. How about how Corporate America have bought and sold every Republican and Democrat in Congress and are running our country. How about the threat of children of immigrants becoming home grown terrorists in America like what we have seen over in Britain? There are tons of interesting and cool political storylines that can be approached other than the overused Bush Administration bashing storylines that currently litter the comic book industry.

Instead of being creative, Gray and Palmiotti trot out the tired old Bush bashing theme with Gonzo and his plans. Gonzo is a Republican and, evidently, only Republicans will invade out personal freedoms. Yeah right. Tell that to the Japanese-Americans and Italian-Americans who were placed in internment camps and house arrest under the authority of a President who was a Democrat and a Congress run by the Democrats.

The use of LexCorp as their dogs to spread their anti-metahuman message made little sense. Lana Lang is now running LexCorp and with the honest manner that she is portrayed by Busiek in Action Comics, I don’t see her bending to the will of Gonzo. This is poor preparation and research by Gray and Palmiotti.

The use of media outlets seemed silly since all the major media outlets, except Fox, are liberal. Having Gonzo mention using of Hollywood to make movies to create feeling of paranoia and patriotism was simply idiotic. Hollywood is staunchly liberal and bashes Bush constantly. These two statements were so unbelievable and goofy that it made this scene totally unbelievable. I have no problems bashing a political party, but at least know who their allies are. And the major media outlets and Hollywood aren’t two allies that I would automatically associate with conservative Bush backers.

The use of the religious fundamentalists at least made sense in that they are a group that would certainly do the bidding of a Republican President. However a debate between Evolution and Intelligent Design with a slant on non-government controlled metahumans made absolutely no sense. These are two totally separate issues that have zero connection at all. For the record, I back Evolution. However, the use of religious fundamentalists just seemed like Gray and Palmiotti were trying to think of anything attached to the Republicans and Bush that they could bash even if it had absolutely nothing to do with their storyline. This just seemed totally pointless and unrelated to the plotline. I’m ok with bashing certain political groups, but at least make it remotely related to your storyline.

The orchestrating of a terrorist attack to get the American public to support Gonzo’s legislation was to ridiculously over the top. I was waiting for Gray and Palmiotti to mention how the Holocaust never happened and the Lunar landing was fake.

This final scene was so poorly written. It was horridly over the top that it was overkill. It was so hackneyed and lacked any coherency that it seemed more of a silly parody than anything that I would actually take seriously. I mean, why didn’t Gray and Palmiotti also say that Gonzo trips little old ladies and kicks puppies, too?!

I understand wanting to build up a villain. And I understand that Gray and Palmiotti decided to create a character in Gonzo to bash the Bush Administration. However, too much of anything can ruin a character or storyline. Gray and Palmiotti massively overreached in this scene. Instead of me being interested by Gonzo and his plans, I found myself laughing at Gonzo and his plans. Instead of me seeing Gonzo as a sinister villain, I saw him as a laughable villain like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. That is the problem with such heavy handed writing. It makes your character and his storyline a parody and a joke and then elicits an unintended response from the reader. I don’t think Gray and Palmiotti wanted me to bust out laughing at Gonzo and this scene.

Personally, I would not have given a name to the android Senator Knight. He doesn’t need one. However, if he absolutely must have a “real” name then I certainly would never have given him a Hunter S. Thompson-esque name. That was a bad idea. That made his character seem like even more of a farce.

I also would have only had Gonzo mention the possibility of using the Bludhaven event to continue to drive up hysteria and paranoia with the American public. I would have him use certain metahumans such as Black Adam to highlight the threat of non-government sanctioned metahumans. I don’t know if I would have gone much farther than that. Honestly, Father Time and Gonzo are pretty sinister already. I don’t know how much more they really needed to be built up!

My only criticism of Acuna’s artwork would be the outfits for the S.H.A.D.E. soldiers. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the S&M style outfits ala the Gimp from Pulp Fiction. It just doesn’t work for me. They look pretty silly.

Overall: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2 was another solid issue. It had a great beginning, a great middle and a weak ending. However, when Gray and Palmiotti aren’t wasting their time trying to imitate Hunter S. Thompson, they deliver a wonderfully interesting story with plenty of solid dialogue, excellent character development and nice action. The story itself is nicely constructed and well paced. Despite the poor effort at the end of this issue, I still really enjoyed this comic book. We have some great characters and a fun story.

Personally, I can ignore some political biases if the characters are interesting and the overall storyline is fun. I think your average reader will enjoy this comic. If you are a Republican then you probably will get annoyed by Gonzo. For everyone else, give this title a try. I think you will enjoy it.