LIBERATOR #3 welcomes us with a lush Templesmith cover, then dives right into a charged-up situation: Jeanette and Damon, caught in the middle of a B&E/rescue. It's appropriate to start things out with some tension; things are starting to shake up, and we see now-recognizable characters embarking on paths to change. Some of it is for the good (Jeanette seems to be getting more organized and resourceful), and some is for the bad (Damon is losing his objectivity, and crossing some lines). Either way? Things are amping up, and we're about to see some major conflicts.
At the heart of the issue (and perhaps the arc as a whole) is the question of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Knowing that Damon and Jeanette operate outside of the law, the police are positioned as antagonists -- except the university cops don't seem to be too brutal, and they even accept Jeanette's made-up-on-the-spot excuse as truth. Randy, too, has been primed for villain status, but we see him being helpful (even with attitude) and learn that he's on the side of the law -- whatever that means. Damon, in contrast, is torching his credibility like it's a fur shop; he's not just breaking in to save animals anymore, he's resorting to more calculating tactics with less direct (and more violent) outcomes. He's also becoming increasingly careless as he takes things further. It's complex and it's thought-provoking -- how far is too far, and what happens when you lose sight of your purpose?
Count it as a sign that I've gotten too attached to these characters, but I'm disappointed in some of the ways they handled situations. Damon's loss of control puts him at risk of getting into trouble with the law AND being unable to save animals (there's not much rescuing he can do when he himself is in a cage!), and while it's a great character shift that makes his story more interesting, it's tough to watch him go overboard. Jeanette disappoints too, on a different level -- she came across as so strong and opinionated in the first two issues, but her wishy-washy excuses to her activist friends make her seem insecure or uncommitted (maintaining security culture by not blabbing makes sense, but fishing for the nearest excuse seems so out of place for bold Jeanette).
LIBERATOR doesn't necessarily owe us a full-circle explanation, but since the book has been so thorough about other parts of the animal rescue process, I'd really like to know what happened to those bunnies. Part of what makes this title so hopeful in spite of all of the danger and cruelty is the expectation that Damon' and Jeanette's actions will result in healthier, happier lives for the rescued animals, and punctuating the tension and conflict with happy endings for animals might help more concretely connect the Liberators' actions with a positive outcome.
LIBERATOR is a much-needed comic right now, because in spite of its fictional narrative, it's so purposeful and so rooted in reality. Comics are a form of escapism, certainly, but they don't have to be without connection to real issues. We might not all be able to relate to Damon or Jeanette (especially after this issue), and we might not be masking up at night to liberate animals from inhumane situations, but we can see the good in their intentions, and we can learn things. The best part is that we can do this while reading an engaging comic with an unpredictable and interesting story. (Excuse me, I need to go adopt a bunny now.)