Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Freedom Fighters #8

Freedom Fighters #8 (June 1977)

title: "D-Day At Niagara!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Dick Ayers
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: uncredited
colorist: uncredited
editor: Jack C. Harris
letter column: Jack C. Harris
cover: Rich Buckler & Jack Abel

Order of Appearance: All appear on the splash page fighting the Crusaders (clockwise from left): Phantom Lady, The Human Bomb, The Ray, The Black Condor, Uncle Sam, and Doll Man,

Guest Stars:  None

Supporting Characters:
WGNY-TV reporter Martha Roberts, NYC District Attorney David Pearson, Asst DA Michael Tulane (debut)

The Crusaders (Americommando & Rusty, Barracuda, and Fireball & Sparky)

Overall Summary: 
The Crusaders volunteer to go after the Freedom Fighters, and meet them in a free-for-all fight at Niagara Falls!  

Plot Summary:
We begin the issue from where we left off last time: Black Condor is still flying crazed, after having tried to use his new mental powers at Santaland. Uncle Sam is still hanging on, trying desperately to calm his friend down. Then, he is unable to hold on to his wiry friend, and he drops into Niagara Falls. 

The other Freedom Fighters fly up, so the Ray quickly drops them off and burns away some of the water in the waterfall to keep Uncle Sam from being swept over. Uncle Sam, for his part, hits land and bounces back into the sky just as Black Condor regains his senses. 

Unfortunately, the water stoppage by the Ray causes a power outage in parts of upper New York state, including in New York City and Buffalo. At that specific time, New York City District Attorney David Pearson is meeting with a group presenting themselves as the World War Two comic-book characters The Crusaders. Pearson is ruminating on whether or not to officially sanction them to go hunting the Freedom Fighters, but when the lights go out they take it upon themselves to head out to Buffalo. 

At the same time, WGNY-TV newswoman Martha Roberts also takes advantage of the power outage to rush off to the Falls, even though her boss is against her covering the Freedom Fighters' ongoing saga. 

Back at Niagara Falls, the Ray tries to light up Buffalo in an effort to create some good-will and make up for his accidentally cutting the power. However, as he is literally a beacon in the sky, the Human Torch and Toro Fireball and Sparky have no trouble finding him and attacking him. He manages to escape their attack, but in so doing he inadvertently leads the Crusaders back to where the Freedom Fighters are hiding. 

Captain America Americommando attacks Uncle Sam, even cutting his hat in two with his shield. Phantom Lady and Human Bomb take on the Sub-Mariner Barracuda. Martha Roberts arrives just in time to watch Doll Man fighting Bucky Rusty.

The fight goes back and forth for several pages. Fireball and Sparky fight Black Condor and the Ray, but when the Ray absorbs the flames off Fireball, causing him to start to fall, Sparky rushes to try to catch him. They then both fall, toppling into the hand-rail and grabbing at Martha, causing her to slip behind the railing. Doll Man tries to save her, but Rusty stops him. However, the Human Bomb catches her as he climbs back up and out from his fall into the Falls with Barracuda. 

Phantom Lady uses her black light to blind Rusty, but Americommando knocks her out. Before Human Bomb can attack him, Barracuda rises from the Falls and causes the Human Bomb to explode. 

Uncle Sam is distracted by the explosion, and Americommando takes the opportunity to knock him out. Gloating, he takes off his mask, revealing to the hiding Martha Roberts that he is in fact the Silver Ghost! 

Here we are, at the second part of the inter-company "crossover" of The Crusaders. Let me just talk about this issue in Freedom Fighter continuity for a paragraph or two before getting to the crossover part of it, okay? 

After DA Pearson had Wonder Woman chase after the Freedom Fighters a few issues ago, it makes sense that he would try again with a super-team. In that regard it makes sense for the Crusaders to volunteer to go after the suspected terrorists. Imagine if Pearson had asked an actual super-hero team to do this! Can you imagine a group like the Challengers of the Unknown or the Metal Men or even the Justice League facing off against the Freedom Fighters?! My guess is that if that had happened, the Freedom Fighters' innocence would have been established toot suite. 

As it is, The Crusaders make good adversaries for the Fighters, and a fight of six versus five is not outside the realm of believability. In fact, I would argue that this issue's battle sequences are the best this book ever got. Each member (and Martha) had something to do, and the action flowed easily from start to finish. Well done to the choreography of Messrs Rozakis, Ayers, and Abel. 

I will just say that I was not a fan of the way that Martha Roberts' personality was sort of all over the place this issue, though. I LOVED how she showed spunk by sneaking away from her boss to cover her friends' predicament, but then I was not a fan of how she very quickly became "the damsel in distress" once she got there. I mean, come on, it's one thing to get in the way of two falling super-heroes, but then after falling down she can't climb back up by herself? 

As for the Crusaders, I loved them! Granted, I am a huge fan of Marvel's Invaders, so I am biased. But Americommando, Rusty, Barracuda, Fireball, and Sparky were all presented as competent super-heroes who held their own against the Freedom Fighters. Unlike Marvel's version of The Crusaders, these characters seem to have personality. I remember the first time that I read this story hoping that they would stick around the DC Universe after this story-line ended. Of course, as carbon copies of The Invaders, I guess they couldn't, but it would have been nice to see them altered to "fit" into the DC Universe, like later creations such as General Glory. They might have even been actual super-heroes on Earth-2, like the Justice Society, who are also considered comic-book characters on Earth-1 even though we all know that they "exist."

Of course, with the denouement on the last page, it seemed clear that the Crusaders were not what they claimed, which was a shame. I remember being surprised by the reveal, and wondering how the Silver Ghost had gotten strong enough that he could knock out Uncle Sam. As DC wanted, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next issue. Be back next week, and all will be revealed! 

Black Condor Moment 
Black Condor takes the fight to Fireball (or is it Sparky?)   

Doll Man Moment
Doll Man gets the best of Rusty  

Human Bomb Moment
The Human Bomb gets the better of Barracuda, punching him so hard he flies BACK
to the cliff edge! Now THAT'S power! 

Phantom Lady Moment 
Phantom Lady shows Barracuda that she is not a damsel in distress 

The Ray Moment
The Ray succeeds in burning off to steam the river flow from Niagara Falls!?!  

Uncle Sam Moment
You know Uncle Sam is angry if he calls you a "whipper-snapper" 

Best Moment
For the first time, I had trouble singling out just one member for "Best Moment." 
So this time, I present the splash page, featuring the Freedom Fighters
holding their own against the Crusaders. The entire fight sequence is "Best." 

Worst Moment
As a kid I knew enough science to know that it's nearly impossible to 
cut a top hat in half with a shield! 
I know that Rozakis was going for the "blade of hay cuts into a tree" 
type of scenario, but come on, can't we all agree that 
knocking Sam's hat off would have been the more likely scenario here?   

Moment They Could Have Been Cleared:
There isn't any real chance for the Freedom Fighter's vindication in this story, but if the rest of the Freedom Fighters had accompanied the Ray when he was shining over Buffalo maybe more people would have understood that they were really good guys? 

Freedom Fanmail
This highlight of this issue's letter column was the debut of the new letter column logo. The winner of the letterhead logo design contest was Mark Armstrong of Springfield, Missouri. That's his pencilled art on the page, inked by the multi-talented and super-nice guy, John Workman. This will remain the letter column header for the rest of the series. Congratulations, and nicely done, Mark! 
By the way, editor Jack C. Harris doesn't actually introduce himself, but he is now in charge with the departure of former editor Tony Isabella. 
Click to enlarge it for an easier-to-read version. 

Freedom of Information

  • The Ray ends his cover streak with seven, as he fails to appear on the cover for the first time. Conversely, after missing last issue's cover, the Human Bomb is back!  
  • The Human Bomb is shown blasting at the Barracuda on the cover, which is not how his powers work. 

The Freedom Fighters
assembled by Len Wein

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