By: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Travis Moore (penciller), Trevor Scott (inker), Allen Passalaqua (colorist)

The Story: What does the spirit of America do when it’s angry?  It punches you in the face.

The Review: By all accounts, this is the third series (the first two being minis) featuring the Freedom Fighters and written by the Gray-Palmiotti team.  The minis both had the problem of starting strong, then having the story fall part toward the end.  You’d think with that kind of experience, Gray-Palmiotti would have a firm handle on executing their plotting by now.

As it turns out though, this first story arc winds down just as anticlimactically.

Uncle Sam’s reappearance should have heralded the team getting its act together and taking down the Jester in all-American style.  Instead, his teammates spend the issue KO’ed while Uncle Sam has to finish the job himself.  And despite being a metaphysical concept come to supernatural life, Sam doesn’t have much in the way of skills and powers except a terrific right hook.  It makes for a fairly repetitive fight sequence, that’s for sure.

It doesn’t help Uncle Sam and Jester punctuate their punches with babble about American ideology and politics.  Let’s face it—very few people in general have a firm grasp on political science or the implications of their political beliefs.  If I may be so bold to say it, comic-book writers and readers probably have even less.  Can comics be a medium for political discourse?  Sure.  Superhero comics, not so much—check out Law and the Multiverse for just some of the wacky ways superheroes fly in the face our already jittery laws.

Besides the (to be perfectly honest) political nonsense the Jester rants, just the design of the villain himself undermines any sense of danger he’s supposed to have: Freddy Kreuger mask, peppermint-striped leggings, and a lantern.  Even if you can get past that, his obvious lack of clear motivation (is he taking revenge on behalf of his family, or genuinely interested in remaking the country in his own image?) paints him as demented rather than threatening.

At least Uncle Sam’s return brings back some emotional balance to the team, as they’ve been falling apart in his absence.  With Sam gone it would’ve been a good opportunity for the other members to develop their relationships and grow.  But besides Stormy and Black Condor hooking up, the other Fighters come off as flat as when they started.  They all wear black to Firebrand’s funeral, but there’s very little real sadness or sense of lost there.

At least Moore keeps the one positive of this title alive by bringing a great art game.  There’s nothing showy or stylized about his work—just clean, strong lines helped by Scott’s good inking and Passalaqua’s appropriate colors.  Simple as his work looks, Moore injects a lot of subtle details; each character, man or woman, has distinctive features (something many bolder artists can’t do).  Even Black Condor looks clearly Native American, and it has nothing to do with his Mohawk or his darker coloring—it’s the little touches Moore puts into the shape of his eyes, nose, mouth, and cheekbones.  Such attention is almost wasted on such a flat script.

Conclusion: Only pleasing art saves this title from total mediocrity, as this issue features the least inspired action and dialogue yet.  Cancellation may be coming too soon, but you can’t say it is totally undeserved.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I just realized referring to the writers as “Gray-Palmiotti” makes it sound like they’re married.  Well, you know, in the comics writing world, they pretty much are.

– “I’ve never been part of a team that murders people and I don’t plan to start now.”  Alright, Ray, we get it—you’ve been on way cooler super-teams.  Now stick it where you don’t shine.