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Monday, September 5, 2011

Give Me Liberty. Frank Miller (Writer), Dave Gibbons (Art), Robin Smith (Colours). Penguin Books (1990)

This book is a production by enormous talents using skill, craft and intelligence. Martha Washington is a child of an enclosed ghetto in a very unpleasant future America. She escapes from the ghetto via the imprisonment in a mental hospital, finding freedom when the asylum is closed due to budget cuts. Martha joins PAX, the Peace Force, who promise to wipe your record clean. Martha then finds herself at war in Brazil, fighting a renegade fast food corporation call Fat Boy. She falls foul of Lieutenant Moretti and the story of their conflict, and how Moretti’s hatred for her entwines itself through his plans for power, forms the core of the book. The bigger story is the collapse of the United States of America as environmental disasters, civil unrest, and military mistakes all combine to undermine the country. The ease with which Frank Miller manages his large cast and the way that splintering of the country is described is amazing. The book has fake newspaper and magazine articles, now a bit of a cliché, but still they give great depth to the book, adding greatly to the portrait of the society. Frank Miller also uses television newscasts, much as in The Dark Knight, I think to better effect in this book. The connection between Martha Washington’s story and the larger story is natural and unforced, they strongly reinforce each other to deliver a hugely satisfying whole.
Martha Washington herself is a great leading character. A first-rate action hero, brave, confident and very resourceful, the story treats her harshly but never disrespectfully. I think she is easily one of the best female characters in comics.
Give Me Liberty lies far away from the constrictions of copyright characters like Batman or Daredevil and far, far from the repulsive sexual politics of the Sin City sequence. The creative team of Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons are both at the top of their powers in this book; the colouring by Robin Smith is fantastic also. Dave Gibbon’s art is astonishing, very different from the formal layouts in Watchmen, it flows with the action and yet is packed with telling detail. The characters are individual and expressive, they move like humans, their faces are eloquent, and he gives the terrifying implosion of the USA real weight and substance.
A masterpiece, a powerhouse of a comic that should not be missed.

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