“American Nightmare Part Three”

Written by JIMMY PALMIOTTI & JUSTIN GRAY
Art by TRAVIS MOORE & TREVOR SCOTT
Cover by DAVE JOHNSON

Published by DC Comics

Price: $2.99

Previously:  The vice president has been kidnapped.  In exchange for her liberty, the Freedom Fighters have been dispatched to gather a number of artifacts said to be part of a doomsday weapon built by the Confederacy during the Civil War.  The first artifact was located in Devil’s Tower, which also happened to house four ancient elemental demons called the Renegades.  Having accidentally released the Renegades, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters fought to contain the demons.  Not only did they fail, but they also paid a terrible price.

I remember loving the All Star Squadron when I was a wee lad and that’s the book I couldn’t help thinking of as I read Freedom Fighters.  But I read All Star Squadron from the beginning and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to drop into the middle of the book, into a sprawling cast of characters I was unfamiliar with, and try to navigate through the story.

The big problem with the Freedom Fighters is that as characters, the reader can’t tell them apart.  They might as well all be wearing the same scanty wardrobe, because they have little to distinguish their personalities.  What’s worse, none of them seem especially likeable.  With all of the griping and jerkiness displayed, one could easily use words rhyming with “sassbowls” and “richy” to describe them.  Although, it’s easy to imagine that on teams of super powered individuals, most of the people might not be graduates of Miss Manner and may not know how to play well with others.  They tend to need a large personality/model to keep them in line (Superman, Captain America, and apparently Uncle Sam, who is absent in this issue).  It also could be that the writers haven’t found their stride with the characters.  The characters haven’t been fleshed out enough to have achieved their individual voices.

On the plus side, this issue was the opposite extreme of an in-between issue.  There was a lot going on:  the elemental rampage, the loss of Uncle Sam, the team regrouping, conspiracy theories abounding, and a new villain introduced.  With so many moving parts and new subplots, it’s easy to see how some things slipped through the cracks.  Like the Human Bomb being mentioned as missing then suddenly being there (someone needs to No-Prize that).  Also, some teamwork would have been nice, since this team is supposed to be established.  Also, one member dispatches the Renegades single-handed with her basic power that she somehow didn’t think to use.

“I’m starting to think we’re in over our heads.” –Human Bomb

The only thing that stuck out was the idea of conspiracy theories to explain away seemingly disconnected events.  We have made idols of safety and control in our lives.  We seek a context of understanding for that which makes no sense. A lot of what horror attempts to do is make sense of evil. Evil is irrational and uncontrollable; true acts of evil are so irrational that conspiracy theories make sense.   We don’t like the feeling of helplessness that life often leaves us.

Freedom Fighters has problems with its pacing at turns being scattershot in its action and direction, and like a Michael Bay movie, not allowing a scene to play out before cutting to the next. The team dynamics still need to be figured out and the people behind the masks need to be revealed (as we learn nothing about them from their lame quips and clichés.  It’s a book still in its design phase, probably given birth a little prematurely.