REVIEW: Freedom Fighters #1 prods us to appreciate history

Freedom Fighters #1 is out 12/19.

By Bo Stewart —  If you caught my review of Sara #1, you know how much I enjoy World War II stories. Something about that event—and the break in the human spirit it represents—lends itself to great stories. In many ways, I don’t think the world has recovered from WWII, and part of me believes we never will. Though many of us wish to move on, I find this lack of closure to be a good thing. Humanity needs constant reminders of the past or we will be doomed to let our mistakes repeat. Freedom Fighters is one such reminder. Like the TV show Man in the High Castle, Freedom Fighters reminds us of how pivotal World War II was to human history by reversing the script and creating a reality where the Nazis won, known in the DC Universe as Earth-X.

This debut issue does a lot of narrative heavy lifting. It gives us all the necessary background information on the original Freedom Fighters (established in the ‘60s), hints at an ongoing mystery surrounding the personified Uncle Sam, and sets the stakes for the central conflict with the modern-day version of the Freedom Fighters. Though this is a packed issue, it never feels overstuffed.

Our story opens on November 22, 1963 in Nazi occupied Dallas. Just as this is a significant day and place in real American history (the day and city of JFK’s assassination), it proves to be significant to the alternate history writer Robert Venditti is crafting. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but the event centers around Olympian and real-life American Hero, Jesse Owens, who also happens to be the leader of the original Freedom Fighters. Venditti is using these dates and historical figures deliberately. They are reminders of history that many have already forgotten. It’s a really nice and subtle way of layering (what I assume to be) the ongoing themes of the book into the narrative.

I suspect we will be following the modern-day team for the majority of the book, but I found myself more interested in the ‘60s sequence due to its bleaker tone. The art is impressive throughout, but I also can’t help but feel like it’s missing a ton of world-building opportunities. This is Nazi-occupied America – scenes where the sun is shining and kids are playing ball in a park just feel…off. The architecture, the vehicles, the fashion all feel too similar to our real world. Don’t get me wrong, the book is gorgeous, but it could have taken better advantage of its premise.

Alternate history is always a draw for me. Throw superheroes into the mix and you have the makings of a memorable book. Freedom Fighters has somewhat of a Watchmen feel in that a multigenerational superhero team is finding its place in a world where history took a drastically different turn. It doesn’t reach the thematic heights of that seminal graphic novel, but it also isn’t really trying to. I suspect the creators would be perfectly content if this book simply made us as readers reflect on our history and be grateful that we avoided the nightmare of this fictional world.

Overall: Freedom Fighters #1 is an ambitious book that cleverly uses alternate history as a prod to remember and learn from real history. 8.0/10

Freedom Fighters #1
Robert Venditti
Penciler: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Bo grinds for the Man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros