Filed under: Comic Reviews, Image Comics | Tags: Chris Claremont, Dave Johnson, Erik Larsen, Freak Force, Image Comics, Jim Lee, Jim Valentino, Johnny Armstrong, Keith Giffen, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefield, Savage Dragon, Spawn, Superpatriot, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio
20-years ago a group of 8 comic book creators brought their collective heads together and formed Image Comics. Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefield, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Whilce Portacio & Chris Claremont brought a new approach to the corporate take on who owned the rights to the characters being created. One of the earliest creations from those early days was Superpatriot – an Erik Larsen creation from the pages of Savage Dragon which spun-off into his own mini-series.
Initially this 4-issue release in 1993 gave Larsen the chance to develop the character further than a cameo appearance and take a mindless, army drone through to a more solid footing as a legit character. Originally starting out as WWII soldier Johnny Armstrong he was captured by the Nazi’s only to become a guinea pig for their science experiments. Unfortunately for the Nazi’s he gained superhuman powers, donned an American flag-styled costume and became deeper involved in the underground wars as he took on some of the worlds supervillians. This is where he’s true transformation took place as he was brutally attacked and ripped limb from limb, only to be brought back as part-cyborg and a military puppet.
A heady mix of T-1000 meets Captain America meets Wolverine meets Image Comic’s creative freedom and BOOM! – you’ve got an uber-violent tale of breaking free from the shackles of the army – after shooting several enemies, several thousand times – fighting Savage Dragon himself and being torn in half during another battle. This could all sound like senseless violence and in many scenes that is EXACTLY what it is, but there’s an under-current to this 1st mini-series produced that drags a sense of humanity out of a less-than-human character.
I actually think this was one of the first characters I read from Image back when I was 13….just before finding Spawn, Savage Dragon and then a short-lived comic ban imposed by my mum….but that’s another story :D. What’s most impressive with this story though, is the fact that I seem to have owned, loaned, sold and bought it a dozen times over. It still reads as well as I remember it and it’s a true breakaway from today’s slightly cleaner, calculated tales on offer. The element of risk is still there somehow in a title I’ve seen pop-up in a follow-up mini (Superpatriot: Liberty & Justice in the mid-90’s) and even a more recent incarnation (Superpatriot: America’s Fighting Force in 2011) – again mini’s that I’ve owned & read multiple times. Of course, Superpatriot hasn’t disappeared in between those as he appears in his cameo role in Savage Dragon and a more regular stint in Freak Force. All titles I’ve picked up to and returned to for this character alone.
This mini itself has some key talent on show, created by Larsen but with Keith Giffen on hand to tell the story and Dave Johnson on art – it’s a rich source of intricately detailed labs and sprawling, flashy war zones. So all-in-all it’s a solid foundation for the character and actually leaves you wanting to pick up those other mini’s to see how things developed or to catch his appearances in other image titles over the last 20-years. In recent times, Image has proven to have made a strong return to the forefront of top titles – with a similar approach to risk-taking on new ideas as they did in the early 90’s. Track this and as many of the Image titles you can, both recent and from their extensive back catalogue – you’re sure to find something that entertains, intrigues and slaps you in the face.
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