Archive for Uncle Sam

Stabbing, Punching and Drinking

Well, I’m pretty far behind on my reviews, so let’s get a few done real quick…


Astonishing X-Men #22

The X-Men are still stuck on the Breakworld. The aliens think Colossus will destroy their world, and they’ve got a great big missile ready to blow up Earth in a couple of days — and no one can stop it. Emma Frost asks Danger, the sentient Danger Room computer, to kill her, and the robot can’t do it — her programming won’t let her kill anyone! Lockheed gets revealed as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Cyclops still has no powers. And the Breakworlders have the heroes badly outgunned, with no way to escape. But Cyclops has a plan that will require one member of the team to take an interstellar dirt nap…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I generally hate X-Men stories where the team goes into space, but this one has just been fun. Generally, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday have not done a single thing wrong in this entire series. Go git this one, a’ight?


She-Hulk #22

This is the first issue with Peter David as the writer, and there’s not much plot I can tell without giving away the good spoilers. But Shulkie is now a bounty hunter instead of a lawyer, and her latest pickup goes bad in a big way.

Verdict: Basically, thumbs up. Plot is pretty good, dialogue is good, mysterious goings-on are good. The thing is, I don’t like the idea of Shulkie as a bounty hunter. Bounty hunters are stupid. But could David have written her as a lawyer? Maybe not — no rap on his skillz, but it ain’t easy to write about legal issues if you don’t have the background. Still, Peter David is a good writer, and he deserves enough of a chance to win me over.


Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #2

What if Lindsay Lohan had superpowers? Sure, she’d fight crime, but she’d also be passed out drunk everywhere, going into fake rehab, screaming at the press, showing up blitzed at super-battles. Well, that’s what Phantom Lady does in this comic.

Verdict: Thumbs down. We get more than enough shallow celebrity-obsessed fake news as it is without it showing up in comics. This one just bored and depressed me.

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Viva la Revolucion!


Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters

Well, I picked up the “Uncle Sam” miniseries from last year and thought it started out pretty good, with a strongly political bent and really interesting characters, but ended up as a bit of a muddle. So far, this new series isn’t really starting off very well. The Freedom Fighters start out in space fighting off an invasion of space bees. The Red Bee saves everyone but gets transformed into an insect-human hybrid in the process. Then the team returns to earth to learn that the White House has been destroyed. Buh? Oh, right, the much-despised “Amazons Attack” miniseries. Pity they had to bring that up.

After that, the government offers the Freedom Fighters the chance to be the nation’s official superteam, which requires a lot less crimefighting and a lot more going to fancy parties and hanging out with famous people. Uncle Sam, Firebrand, the Human Bomb, and Doll Man all say “Ferget you, man” and take off, while Phantom Lady, Red Bee, the Ray, Miss America, and Black Condor sign on for the program.

Verdict: Thumbs down. But I’m going to give it another issue or two to improve.

Oh, and that’s an awesome cover.

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Friday Night Fights!

As Bahlactus commands: Friday nights are to commemorated on all comic book blogs by fighting! Fighting! FIGHTING!

Hey, what’s Giant Evil Uncle Sam up to?


Hmm, a good question, Giant Evil Uncle Sam, and one which I have not previously pondered. Any ideas?


Oh, goody!



(All images from the Darnell and Ross “Uncle Sam” comic. Giant Evil Uncle Sam fights dirty. I like him.)

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Politics in Comics: Uncle Sam

This is part of an occasional series I’m working on covering comic books with strong political content. In honor of Independence Day, I’d like us to take a look at the comic book versions of our national personification, Uncle Sam.

Of course, Uncle Sam, the bearded, top-hatted guy who wants YOU for U.S. Army, had his origins long before comic books (though his appearance was often refined in editorial cartoons in the 1800s). But during World War II, Quality Comics made him a superhero for a few years.

Uncle Sam’s first comic book appearance in 1940

The comic book version of Sam had various mystical powers and helped fight the Nazis ’til his comics were cancelled in 1944. DC Comics bought the rights to the character and revived him a few years later as the leader of a team called the Freedom Fighters. Later, they wrote a new origin for him in which he became the literal Spirit of America, reborn every few years in the body of a dying patriot.

My personal favorite incarnation of Uncle Sam in a comic book is from 1997’s “Uncle Sam,” written by Steve Darnell with art by super-painter and former Lubbockite Alex Ross. It was published by Vertigo Comics, a division within DC for more mature stories. It’s a much darker and less optimistic vision of Uncle Sam and America, but it’s also much more compelling. This is an Uncle Sam for grownups and realists.

The ’97 version of “Uncle Sam”

This one isn’t a superhero, and the story itself isn’t told in a superhero universe. In this comic, Uncle Sam is a deranged homeless man who just thinks he’s the immortal Spirit of America. Either that, or he really is the immortal Spirit of America who’s become paralyzed by guilt and shame over the state of the nation. It’s hard to tell, since he keeps having flashbacks of himself as a Revolutionary War soldier, and he gets into conversations with the national personifications of Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

Of course, these may just be hallucinations. It doesn’t seem likely that he’s able to talk to cigar-store Indians and lawn jockeys, or step into paintings, or live through fire, or grow to giant size. But we’re never entirely sure, because Sam’s never entirely sure either.

You should be nicer to your Uncle.

This is, at its heart, a broad examination of America’s history — specifically, the parts of our history (and our present!) that we feel less than proud of. Racism and slavery, the Indian wars, Shay’s Rebellion, Andersonville, Kent State, and far too many massacres and assassinations — the times when Americans have killed, hurt, or oppressed each other because of hate, greed, ideology, or stubbornness.

This is not a comic for the blind, knee-jerk nationalists out there. This is not a book for the “Love it or leave it” crowd. This is not a comic for people who think it’s treasonous to say we aren’t perfect. This is a book that takes a long, hard look at our history, forces us to look at the worst times, and tells us in no uncertain terms that we did wrong, that we failed, that we didn’t live up to the idealistic standards that we should have. Heck, Sam even meets up with a new incarnation of himself who claims to represent “the New America” — a country of media buzzwords, conspicuous wealth (but only for a few), consumerism, hypocrisy, and contempt. And Sam has to confront the question of whether America has changed from the land of freedom, justice, and equality to a nation of far shallower and less noble urges.

If all you want is a book full of marching bands, presidential portraits, and sanitized, whitewashed history… Well, you’re gonna hate this one. You’re gonna think it’s unpatriotic and anti-American. But it isn’t. As far as I’m concerned, a big part of being a patriot is knowing the nation’s history, knowing and accepting the times when we’ve failed to do what’s right, and — most importantly — resolving to do better in the present and the future. A patriot wants his nation to be the best ever, and you can’t move the country forward while keeping your eyes closed.

Will work for liberty

You’ll probably hear a lot of people say that this is a liberal comic book, and in a way, it is. But it was written in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president, and Darnell and Ross have said that they wrote it as a commentary on American history and current events. They’ve also said that if they re-wrote it today, they wouldn’t have to change very much of it…

The final message of the story: America isn’t perfect. Heck, it may never have been perfect, not the way we imagined it in elementary school. We’ve made mistakes, sometimes really, really big mistakes over the past 231 years. But we’re better as a nation when we’re trying to live up to the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Powers That Be will snicker and sneer and tell us that freedom and equality are outdated antiques in the modern world, that civil liberties will have to wait ’til we’re not in a crisis, that money is the only real American value. But they’re lying to you, because they’re afraid of the power you hold over them. “Liberty and Justice for All” has always been something worth fighting for. Every version of Uncle Sam would agree.

(Previously: Politics in Comics: Watchmen)

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