HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Graphic Depictions Today's Date:

JSA: The Liberty File

I may be one of the few comic fans who likes the “Elseworlds” concept from DC: take your familiar heroes (almost always Batman and Superman) and villains (one word: “Luthor”) and change the setting. Place the characters in the far future, or the recent past, or simply change one small detail of the characters’ usually dense continuities and watch the fun unfold. It’s not always done right (see JLA: The Secret Society of Superheroes), but there are instances when it is done spectacularly well (Batman: Thrillkiller, ironically from the same author).

The only problem with Elseworlds is the price tag: they’re printed in “prestige format,” which puts the price at $5.95 on average, and sometimes more. May the man who invented prestige format burn eternally in the hottest points of the nether regions of Hell. There just isn’t justification for paying six dollars or more for a forty-eight page comic book with a cardboard cover, so most Elseworlds are ignored by the single issue buyer because of the high price. Those who buy graphic novels at a fevered pitch (i.e.: me) aren’t willing to shell out what adds up to half a graphic novel for so little in the way of page content, and a lot of prestige format books don’t get collected right away or at all. Prestige Format screws everything.

One of the reasons I missed out on JSA: The Liberty Files and its sequel JSA: The Unholy Three, was that I just wasn’t willing to pay for prestige format. Lucky for me, it was collected.

It’s 1944 and America is in the thick of WWII. Working in the intelligence community are several agents attempting to keep the USA one step ahead of the Nazis. These agents, the Owl (Dr. Mid-Nite), the Clock (Hourman) and the Bat (if you can’t get this one by yourself, get off of this site) are working to uncover the truth surrounding the Liberty File; a secret Nazi project that could spell the end of freedom and the beginning of a Teutonic world dictatorship. On their mission, they’ll run across several Golden Age heroes in and out of costume, as well as new versions of villains, and more than few surprises.

Writer Dan Jolley (Obergeist) goes further than most Elseworlds, focusing on his story more than just the idea changing setting on the capes, truly creating the feel of a comic about espionage more than superheroics. The use of the characters like the Owl, the Clock, and the Bat lend a lot to that atmosphere; they are all relatively low powered or no-powered as superheroes, forcing them to rely on more human means of solving cases and taking down opponents. The fact that the characters have to make contact with other agents, force information out of several individuals, and use firearms in several instances show that they are indeed human and not ready to have a slugfest with another masked man in tights. The masks they wear are meant to cover their faces and mask their identities, not “strike fear in the hearts of men.” It’s rare that a writer can add a level of realism to a story featuring superheroes, without making it a standard deconstructionist story.

Jolley takes care to give each character a distinct personality, and Jolley even manages to give the Bat(man) a slightly different treatment than normal; still there are the semi-psychotic hatred of crime, and the strict belief (if you listen to Grant Morrison) that he is the most capable man on earth, as demonstrated in a scene with the characters out of costume:

Terry Sloane: You have grenades in your jacket?! But we were just having dinner!
The Bat: Yes, and now we’re fighting one of the undead. So move your ass.

But in addition to these Bat-conventions are a pronounced sense of duty and a faint sense of patriotism. It’s rare for these qualities to be included in Batman’s personality and it’s interesting that Jolley included them, as it adds more dimensions to an already deep character type.

Something else that separates The Liberty File from other Elseworlds is the breadth of the story and the amount of characters that appear and are handled well. The story takes place over years and several locations including Egypt, Germany, Russia, and good old Gotham City. Jolley doesn’t focus on Batman and Superman (who eventually appears, but with several interesting twists), instead keeping with the title of the book: various Justice Society Members appear, in odd and interesting incarnations. Mr. Terrific, Black Canary, Green Lantern, The Sandman, Hawkman, The Flash, and others make appearances with varying degrees of characterization.

The artwork by Tony Harris is exquisite, as it always is when he’s involved with a comic. As demonstrated on Starman, he is an expert at creating mood with his visuals. The first two chapters, when espionage is the most prominent theme, are dark and noir-ish and the feeling that anything could jump out of the shadows and garrote you is strong. In later chapters, when superheroics become more prominent, the art shifts to a lighter, but no less vibrant and detailed line and the tone shifts. I’ve been hitting a good streak as far as artwork goes lately in my reviews, and this is the cream of the crop. Even the character design is great; the subtle changes made to some of the characters costumes, and the outright redesign of several others, make for interesting pictures to go with the interesting writing. The inks by Ray Snyder and the colors by Matt Hollingworth and J.D. Mettler are as equally as good, both of which adapt seamlessly to Harris’s change in penciling.

Go out and buy this, even if you never liked Elseworlds. It’s 260 pages of greatness, collecting the orignal Liberty File and The Unholy Three, and a cover gallery by Harris. It’s pricey at $19.95, but you get a lot of story for what you pay for. I like Elseworlds, but not all of them aspire to be more than a “What If” a la DC. It’s rare to find one this good. Enjoy the rarity.

JSA: The Liberty File


Robert Sparling

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites