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

The Story: Well, that gives new meaning to “blow up” doll.

The Review: There’s no point in naming names, but when you consider the pretty significant number of terrible titles on the stands out there, you have to wonder at the cancellation of Freedom Fighters less than a year after it launched.  It may have been a hard sell from the start, but it really can’t be considered on the same quality level as the series that deliver—in fact, will continue to deliver soul-sucking reads month after month.

Considering the open-ended finale to this issue, Gray-Palmiotti may have planned the Fighters’ disbandment all along, and if that’s true, this should have been the opening story arc.  The whole plot with the Arcadians took way too long and tried way too hard to give an epic feel, but never really gave a sense of danger or a cohesive tone to the series.

This issue immediately opens with a high-stakes conflict for the group: newly decommissioned, how will they fight the good fight now?  It seems the question has lit a fire under the team, as they act way more gung-ho and unified than they did the last eight issues.  It’s good to see them backing each other up, especially where Human Bomb’s more fragile status is concerned.  Their interactions have a comfortable familiarity that’s been missing for a while now.

Another missing element has been character growth (beyond Stormy and Black Condor shacking up, I mean), and this issue dives well into that.  Black Condor using his unemployment period to tackle crime in his reservation not only fleshes out his background and offers some fun moments (how dumb do you have to be to make locker room talk about your captor’s girlfriend in front of him?), it also makes a fitting political statement about his culture—without banging it over your head with nonsensical diatribes, Gray-Palmiotti’s preferred method of opinionating.

For Human Bomb, losing his government backing destabilizes not only his life as a crime fighter, but his personal life too.  It turns out he’s actually more competent than we’ve been led to believe: who knew he does most of the research/innovations on himself—himself?  The loss of his usual source of funding forces H.B. to take his work and decisions into his own hands, a big step for the character.  Also, we get to see him out of costume—and it’s not totally weird.

But Gray-Palmiotti haven’t been terrific creators of villains on this series, and this issue proves no different.  The concepts tend to be pretty hokey (the Euthanizer, time-traveling bringer of genocide to prevent overpopulation from ruining the Earth), and the execution cringe-worthy.  Worse, they never fail to drag our heroes into their corniness trap, producing dialogue like this: “You’re an abomination and you will not kill another persona as long as I’m here!”

Moore finishes this series with the great work he’s always done, designing the ill-conceived villains with such creativity you can almost take them seriously—that is, before they start talking.  He has a knack for bringing out great detail with his clean line-work, especially where characters are concerned.  Each of those meth lab thugs has clearly unique features, even though it’d have been way easier for Moore to carbon-copy such throwaway characters.  Scott offers perfect inking support, and Passalqua’s colors are eye-catching but not overdone.

Conclusion: Though Freedom Fighters has been largely uneven, I’m sorry to see it go.  But this team always manages to come back—let’s hope it finds its footing quicker next time around.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Seriously, I have to reiterate how much care Moore puts into his work—every single one of those zombies has an individual face.  DC needs to keep this guy on their payroll.