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Liberator #4 Review

4

Things get bloody as the four-issue arc comes to an end, but is it for the right reasons?

The Good

LIBERATOR has been about risk since the very start, and the arc-ending fourth issue is no exception. Now that we know what's really going on with Randy, Bassi, McMartin, et al, the stakes are even higher -- it's about the animals as much as ever, but it's also about preserving the safety of humans (both via choosing property damage over violence, and keeping the activists out of prison so they're able to continue their work).

This issue reveals why Jeanette is the star of the series' exceptional covers; she's the protagonist it's easiest to align with. She's strong-willed, committed to the cause, dedicated to non-violent action, and able to identify when a situation is getting out of hand. That we see her continuing her pursuit of animal justice irrespective of Damon's fate seals in her choice of altruism over selfishness; while Damon's demons may have clouded his judgment and pushed him towards reckless actions, Jeanette works through physical and emotional pain with an unwavering focus on the animals.

The complexity of the McMartin incident lends meaning to the ensuing consequences; it's not just a bad guy falling into a woodchipper after assaulting Jeanette and threatening Damon, it's a statement about risks gone wrong and the perils that vigilantism/activism pulls in its wake. It's also a great payoff for the plot thread seeded earlier in the issue when Jeanette defended nonviolent activism; just like she can't control Damon, she also can't fully control every variable in a raid, and the reality of the situation is finding oneself (and others) in the line of fire.

The Bad

I feel like there are a few pieces of the narrative that might have been more fully addressed with a longer arc. It's evident that Damon's past with McMartin is fueling an anger that may or may not be as strong as his resolve to save animals, and I'm not sure whether to agree with Jeanette, perceive him as a hero-gone-bad, or feel like Damon's just horribly, inevitably unlucky at the issue's climax. While real life is, undoubtedly, full of ambiguously-motivated moments -- in essence, making Damon's situation tragically more true-to-form -- I left issue #4 cheering on Jeanette as a hero and wondering what happened to Damon.

The Verdict

LIBERATOR closes out its first arc with a spray of negative emotions -- namely, fear and anger -- but also gives us hope in the form of Jeanette and her rededication to the cause. Damon comes out quite a bit less on top of the situation (though his ending is less clear than Jeanette's), but the series has always been about real heroes (of the ski-mask wearing variety) rather than spandex-clad wish-fulfillment vehicles, and real people don't always live up to expectations. The issue's close is a pointed reminder about what it's all about -- the animals -- and a forward-focused mantra for Jeanette, her comrades, and perhaps impassioned readers.

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