These Dave Johnson covers continue to amaze me. Does anyone else see the “75” hidden (or maybe not-so-hidden) in the cover image we use here? It’s obscured on the (much more radiant) printed cover, but the tradeoff there really lets the composition breathe.
Inside the covers, “Black Condor and the Ass-kickers of America” continues to push forward, like a plow wiping a parking lot clear of underestimated snowfall. Maybe that’s a bad title, as the other characters don’t get as much of a chance to kick behind as Condor does. Personally, I’m OK with that. Condor, as Palmiotti and Gray deliver him here, is a compelling character worthy of headlining stories. He’s determined and headstrong, powerful and iconic.
That said, Palmiotti and Gray do give other members of the cast opportunities to step up, such as the spotlight thrown onto Miss America and her desire to fill Uncle Sam’s sizable commanding shoes in this issue. Phantom Lady is given a chance to show her own determination and steps up on a soapbox, while Firebrand prefers to (as Miss America refers to it) whine about his position. Ray and Human Bomb are relegated to the back, delivering bursts of power in combat, but not much more. Through it all, Palmiotti and Gray continue to advance the plot of ransoming the Vice President back from the clutches of the Jester. This issue offers a complete story, start to finish, but it truly is a slice of a much larger narrative.
There are moments in this book where Moore’s art appears on the edge of greatness. But once I settle in to amazement, Moore gives us a panel where the crux of the action takes place behind some characters in the foreground of the set-up. Moore gets the benefit of the doubt from me here as many of the pages have six panels and most of those panels have a great deal going on in them. The panels where one characters stands against a background are not iconic pinups, but rather measured shots that show the struggle – physical or mental – of the character. Another thing worth mentioning is that Moore has been on this book since the first issue and this book has maintained its monthly schedule. I’m beginning to appreciate Moore’s work more with every issue.
I just wish Schwager would liven the colors up to match. The yellows in this issue seemed pale, the oranges muddy, and the reds muted. Set against the backdrop of a subterranean prison, all of these colors should have had a little more pop, or been muted a little more consistently to accommodate the shadowy depths of the setting. The scene in Doll Man’s kitchen has tones that are too close in range to be spectacular as is the case with the setting of Phantom Lady’s home. Schwager does deliver spectacular glowing effects of the American artifact – the sword dubbed Sherman’s Wrath – and the teleportation emission from Phantom Lady.
Give “Freedom Fighters” a peek through the preview on CBR, or if you’ve got three bucks burning a hole in your pocket, pick up an issue. This one is a good one to start with. It is unlike anything else on the stands today, and each issue finds ways to top the previous one, even if just a little. This issue moves from page one to the end of the book with only a handful of caption boxes as Black Condor struggles to regain his freedom. The rest of the book moves forward based solely on action.