4 out of 5
Following directly on the events of Insurrection vol. 1, the thrills in Liberty flip our perspective: to another offworld outpost – Gateway – POV of officers Gallows and Augusta, happy to do their daily duties policing the peace of their generally quiet homestead. Gallows is even welcoming his family to the outpost, proclaiming its greatness… when an alarm buzzes: the Zhind are attacking. As all gear up to battle, there’s another alert – Gateway is to, essentially, be abandoned, so that the local fighting force can go to support the SJS in their battle against some upstart insurrectionists. Those upstarts being, of course, Luther and his crew. Gallows and Augusta are torn: they want to support the Meg and SJS, but they do not want to abandon Gateway to the Zhind; they curse Luther: now they, too, are to be insurrectionists – ignoring the SJS order – to stay behind and fight for their home.
Already challenging the authoritarian rule that’s occasionally made “cool” in the Dreddverse – against architect writers like Wagner who emphasized the inherent commentary of the comic – Dan Abnett now takes the intensity and emotion of his unique Insurrection strip and ups the ante even further, with this challenge to his underdog, Luther. Not only have we seen the toll “ideals” take upon those who fight for them, but we’re brought to question how they affect those who aren’t fighting them as well.
Augusta convinces Gallows that their principles may actually align with those of the Liberty insurrectionists, and so they eventually go to join the war on the frontlines. Here, Abnett can unroll his tragedy: suffice it to say that no one is safe in this title, and there can really be no ending except for victory for the judges. There are no degrees. Their rule must always be absolute.
There’s a pretty killer twist in the book, and at least one greatly affecting shock, but I did slightly disagree with a narrative shift Dan makes towards the end. I do get why he chose this approach – it allows some insight that would’ve been difficult to achieve otherwise, and gives voice to some final thoughts, but I feel like some work could’ve been done to achieve the same without this shift; it’s essentially a flash forward, and it undermines the ultimate impact of the ending. Michael Carroll also switches over to his more “traditional” style in this volume, gently transitioning us in the first chapter from painted gray tones to his block shadows in the succeeding chapters. The art still looks great, but I can’t deny preferring the previous style; I tried to suss out if there was a reason for this – if the dual-tone look was more fitting for this phase of the story – but I’m not convinced that was the case; I’m thinking it was just more time-effective to drop the painted look. If we didn’t have a comparison, it’d surely be fine, though.
Even with these quibbles, Liberty is still a grand conclusion to a massive swing of a story.