Comic Review: Liberator #1

Liberator #1
Created and Written by Matt Miner
Art by Javier Sanchez Aranda, Joaquin Pereyra, and Yasmin Liang
Covers by Yildiray Cinar, Joel Gomez, Rod Reis, Tim Seely, Beth Sotello
Black Mask Studios
Release Date: June 19, 2013
Cover Price: $3.50

I can recall many moons ago (I won’t tell you how many because it would make me feel old), obsessive over my favorite comic book superheroes, pondering about what it would be like if someone was able to take these elements of the fantastic heroes and place them into a realistic, and believable context.

While we’ve seen Christopher Nolan bring a realistic grit to the Batman concept in film, and the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. team brings a realism context in the shape of Kick-Ass, we’ve not yet (really) come across a “real” superhero with a “real” cause. And by that cause, I’m referring to something other than supervillain crimefighting.

Enter Liberator: a new series funded by Kickstarter, and released by Black Mask comics that takes the concept of a realistic hero (no costumes, just ski masks and dark apparel), and places them against a real cause they believe worth fighting for.

In the case of Liberator, that cause is violence and abuse against animals. On a personal level, while I don’t consider myself to be a militant, protestor, or activist of the cause, it’s one I can get behind and support. I’m opposed to unnecessary abuse of animals, and being a dog person, I become infuriated when I hear of neglect to “˜man’s best friend’.

And while I may not be an activist in the true sense of the word, I do my own thing: Jay Fowler and myself were the first to expose David Motari for the abuse of the puppy in Afghanistan on the Social Blend podcast that was eventually picked up by the mainstream media because of our efforts; and I also am the close live-in friend of two doggies I rescued from years gone by (my best friends!)

My personal experiences aside, and back to the comic: Liberator follows the story of Guerrero, a young supporter of animal rights who refuses to participate in the very public protest light, and instead becomes a strategic vigilante against abusers with the aim of rescuing the tortured animals. The opening issue is not an origin tale in the true sense of the phrase, but rather is an introductory initiation to his world, and his violent methods of rescuing the abused creatures.

The opening sequence is most excellent, carefully and meticulously planned for great impact, with the consequence of being a scene you could envision as the beginning of a movie or a television series. The writing is of a good quality, though with all introductory issues, it’s difficult to gauge its solidarity as the focus is solely on setting the scene for the following issues to come.

That being said, the concept is a winner though. The idea of removing the supervillain from "realistic hero concepts" and replacing them with tangible bad guys you’ve heard of and seen before makes a HUGE transformation in enjoying the story. It’s also a strong promotion for a valid cause, and at the very least will help promote compassion towards our furry, feathered, or scaled friends.

There are some fundamentals dropped into the story that indicate that future issues may swerve towards some issues other than animal abuse, and that, I think, is an important move. While the concept is fresh and nice, I can foresee that issue after issue of torching dogfighting locations to become tedious without character development or the introduction of additional themes. The setups are there, and that makes it promising.

Despite my praises thus far, there is one scene that jumps out to me as being unrealistically toon-esque, and that would be where the abused dog comes to the rescue of Guerrero. It was a little formulaic, and situations such as these don’t often occur in life, which seemed to cause a dichotomous split between the scene itself and the overall realism perspective. Most readers may overlook this, but my cynical reaction took me out of the reading experience altogether.

Aside from that, I rather enjoyed the first issue of Liberator – but let me tell you something awesome: the artwork is absolutely fantastic. The pencils and inks layout a nice rendering of the events, but the coloring and textures in the panels absolutely make the artwork POP out of the page. Even if you’re not an advocate of the cause, it’s worth taking a peek at Liberator for the beautiful imagery conveyed in this comic.

As I finished reading Liberator #1, and as I close this review, I consider the possibilities that this comic has opened up for the medium. With organizations such as Occupy Wall Street in the last couple of years, and the increasing negative sentiment from young members of the public towards the government and corporations, it makes me muse about what kind of heroes we now may see take on these larger (though no less important) causes.

Liberator kicks down a door to new possibilities in comics. Even if you’re not a fan of the cause, it’s worth taking a look for two reasons: the future capability this comic book has opened up for the medium, and for the fabulous artwork. This first issue is definitely a must-read for those curious about reading something new and different.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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