Current Reviews


Liberty Girl #3

Posted: Saturday, April 28, 2007
By: Ray Tate


Writers: Dennis Mallonee
Artists: Mark Sparacio, Carrie Fink(c)

"Liberty Girl and the Japanese Demon"

Writers: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Rob Jones
Publisher: Heroic

This is a very good issue of Liberty Girl. The first story is in fact superior to ninety percent of the projects offered by the Big Two. "Homecoming" characterizes Liberty Girl, addresses her ethical code, investigates her history, explores her powers and better distinguishes her from other heroes fitting the patriotic archetype.

Liberty Girl in these stories is the unofficial daughter of Doc Savage, known as Doc Hunter in the Heroic universe. Her bronzed skin and her habit of trilling when excited or curious are traits inherited from Doc, the progenitor of all super-heroes. A few issues ago, we met her Uncle Ted, who is a thinly-guised Theodore "Ham" Brooks, one of Doc's Amazing Five whom he referred to as "brothers."

Additional pulp allusions arise from this issue's plot. Often pulp writers grounded their fantastical elements in the cloth of cold hard fact. Harnessing the power of lightning and electricity is a pulp theme to be found in exploits of the Spider, the Shadow and of course Doc. In "Homecoming" Liberty Girl must face off against the legacy of an old foe named Tesla who used electricity as his weapon, unlike the real Nikolai Tesla whose discovery of alternating current benefited mankind. The ghost of Elena's foe motivates his grandson to seek revenge for his death at the hands of Elena Hunter a.k.a. Liberty Girl.

Intriguingly, electricity hurts Liberty Girl. This is yet another allusion to the history of the super-hero. While the pulp heroes were mortal men and women with great skill and physique, in nineteen-thirty-eight something new arrived in a humble comic book. That something was Superman. Unlike the near omnipotent figure he became, the original Superman was a little more plausible, and famously in the Fleischer cartoons, electricity was one of the forces that could take Superman down a peg. He had to struggle to overcome it, and you could tell in the brilliant animation that this struggle hurt.

Liberty Girl was in previous issues of the series presented as very powerful, but with Tesla's successful electrical strikes this issue sets some limitations on that power. Like the original Superman, Elena must work through the electrical blasts and suffer as she does so. The addition is a thoughtful touch with a historical resonance that keeps Liberty Girl more down to earth, and this tethering facilitates the drama conflict while keeping the character a creature of science fiction rather than outright fantasy.

Before getting to the gist of plot, readers learn a more about Elena. We learn some of her likes and dislikes. We learn that she made a deal with the press that no longer apparently holds in this paparazzi crazy time. The book functions on a good internal consistency. Elena was shaken by her Uncle Ted's jingoism seen last issue, and this reaction furthermore helps shape a distinctive character. One wonders what she may have thought of the opinions of the whack-job she saved in her premiere. We also learn of her past relationships with some of the hero community, represented by a cleverly named archer archetype, who also comes off as a unique super-hero.

The artwork by Mark Sparacio and Carrie Fink exhibits an airbrushed appearance that more comics should try to emulate. The overall look gives Liberty Girl rare depth and dimension and creates an even greater illusion of reality being spread across the pages. Consider also how the technique may affect the storycrafting. Might not the beauty and the realism of the art give a writer pause before unleashing a typical outlandish tale?

The second story in Liberty Girl is a period piece in which we see her operating in World War II. The art when compared to that of the first story is of course lacking, but the artist recognizes how simplicity of lines falls into place with the style promoted by the exquisite airbrushed look.

The story reminds readers of the inhumanity of war. An American based Japanese internment camp serves as the setting, and Liberty Girl tries to give the wrongfully imprisoned Japanese-Americans hope while rooting out a magically minded saboteur.

Barr's story is well plotted and uses the brief pages to their fullest. His dialogue is as ever well worded and well thought out except at the end. This last line should have been cut:

"Can you please...take us away from this place?"
"Someday I will, honey...But not today."

By saying "But not today" Liberty Girl seems to be rubbing the Japanese-Americans’ noses in it. Had Barr or the editor merely had Liberty Girl soar off with the thought of "Someday I will, honey," the scene would have been more positive and optimistic. Perhaps, future Liberty Girl stories can show her working to free the innocent and even tearing down the internment camps on the date of their decommission. That way history will be preserved as will Liberty Girl's character.

Liberty Girl is a very worthy comic book. It instills a different feeling in the reader and the character has a distinctive voice that readers should value hearing.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!