Sunday, November 8, 2015

Short Lived Comic Series #1 - The Liberty Project

While this blog was mainly meant to focus on the books and graphic novels that I read, occasionally I will post my thoughts on a short-lived comic series that I might read.  During the '80s and '90s, there were a number of independent comic book companies that put out titles that were actually very good and a lot of fun, but for various reasons, they just didn't last.

The Liberty Project is one of those series!

The Liberty Project was an 8-issue comic series published by Eclipse Comics, which ran from 1987-88.  It was the story of four super-powered criminals who were given a second chance by becoming a part of the "Liberty Project" - basically, they had the opportunity to do good, go on missions to rescue and/or save people, and this could lead to their possible freedom.  There's Cimarron who has super strength; Slick, who has the ability to cause the ground to become so slick no one can stand; Crackshot, a reluctant villain who truly wants to turn his life around - who also happens to be such a sure shot, he never misses; and then there's Burnout, a young girl with a severe attitude problem who can make things blow up.

The series is written by Kurt Busiek, who, at the time, was not quite as famous as a comic creator as he is today.  But the stories are well-written, the characters are definitely developed nicely, and quite frankly the series contains a major element that is missing from most comics being published today - FUN!  That's right, these eight issues were a heck of a lot of fun to read.  Sure, the characters are technically criminals, and sure, their first impulse upon joining the Project is to figure out a way to cheat the system and escape.  But Busiek is an excellent writer, and he makes you, as the reader, actually care about the characters (despite Slick's cockiness and Burnout's constant anger).  With each issue, you learn a little bit more about the characters and come to realize there is more to them than their outside appearance may seem to tell.  Even their fifth member, Savage (who is a teenager who got injected with chemicals that turn him into a beastly ram-type savage) has human elements that keep him from becoming completely hateable.

The series had some great moments - from Slick realizing he might actually be able to do the "hero" thing, to Cimarron's team-up with Valkyrie (from the Airboy strip, not from Marvel Comics), and ultimately the story in their final issue, which I won't give it away, as it really does have a big impact on the characters.

Sadly, there were several unresolved stories that were left hanging when the series ended - from where the characters got their powers (which was never explained, but hinted at when some aliens made the comment that, "They don't even realize where their powers come from") to the return of the aliens that they fought and defeated, among others.

The series continued into Total Eclipse, which was a company-wide crossover that combined characters from a number of the company's titles.  Unfortunately, when I found these issues in a $1 bin and bought them, I didn't know they continued into Total Eclipse, so now I'll have to hunt down that series.

But, I do have another short-series that the LP team appeared in, and that is Topps Comics' series,
Jack Kirby's TeenAgents.  This was a four-issue series, also written by the talented Mr. Busiek (which may explain the Project's appearance in the book) about four super-powered teens who come from a secret society living inside the earth.  They show up top-side and immediately become embroiled in various battles.  It's another fun read, and in issue 3, Busiek brings back the Liberty Project, albeit with some different members this time around (I can only assume these characters made their appearance in Total Eclipse).  Crackshot is gone, Burnout is older with red hair now and a different costume, And we have two new members - Raider X, who is a huge hero with a Death's Head style helmet (we don't get to see who he or she is under the helmet in this series); and Heartbreak, a young blond man who seems to be a romantic (never could really figure out what his power is).  The Project only appears in issue 3 and the first few pages of issue 4.

I haven't been able to find any reference to any appearances by the team after their TeenAgents appearance.

Sadly, they don't make comics like this any more.  Marvel's Squirrel Girl and DC's Starfire are probably the only two mainstream comics on the market today that come anywhere close.  Yes, I know I'm getting old, when I start saying, "I remember when....."

RATING:  9 super powered punches out of 10 for reminding me how good comics could be!

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