WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Freedom Fighters #6 by Robert Venditti, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Scott Hanna, Adriano Lucas and Andworld Design, in stores now.
In Freedom Fighters #5, the ruling nazi regime of Earth-X has finally had enough of the resurgent American super team and opts to activate their most lethal weapon: Overman, this parallel universe's version of Superman. Now, in the latest issue of Venditti and Barrows' maxiseries, Overman is unleashed.
But while some readers may already be familiar with the character, who appeared in Grant Morrison and Jim Lee's The Multiversity: Mastermen #1, Freedom Fighters #6 starts with a quick refresher about who Overman is and how he came to be. How does the issue do that, exactly? Easy. By paying homage to Morrison and Frank Quitely's modern classic, All-Star Superman.
Everyone knows Superman's origin story: His home planet Krypton was destroyed, he was rocketed to Earth and landed in Kansas, he was raised with good old American values by Jonathan and Martha Kent who taught him to use his extraordinary powers for the good of mankind. These beats are so well-known that, for the All-Star Superman limited series, Morrison and Quitely used the first issue's opening page to bring people up to speed on the character's origin; four simple panels were used to reiterate a story that everyone is familiar with.
Now, Freedom Fighters #6's first page has the exact same format as All-Star Superman #1's. Four panels, with the same layout and the same narration for the first three panels: "Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope." But things change in the fourth panel. Instead of featuring Jonathan and Martha Kent finding young Kal-El with the caption "Kindly couple," Freedom Fighters features a panel of Adolf Hitler finding the baby. The narration? "Genocidal tyrant."
It's a sick and twisted change, but it speaks volumes. With a single page, a single panel even, we understand exactly the difference between Superman and Overman. This character wasn't raised by a nice couple with good values, but a frightening, dangerous war criminal. And what a difference a single change can make.
The homage to All-Star Superman is brilliant, as it uses very little of the book's real estate to tell us everything we need to know about Earth-X's version of the Last Son of Krypton. What's more, this is also a nice nod to Overman's co-creator, Grant Morrison. The character first appeared in the writer's Multiversity comic series, and since Freedom Fighters is essentially a sequel to Mastermen #1, the latest issue in the series pays homage to Morrison by mirroring one of his most celebrated works.