“Freedom” by Seamus Heffernan begins in the darkness of a murky cellar, with a Loyalist being interrogated by what he calls “vile Patriots”. Their questions about the identity of a mysterious man they call The Bird are cut short by an explosion, and a boy is awoken from his nightmare by the sounds of fighting in the distance.
So begins Chapter I of Book I of this dark yet whimsical tale about Adam Farr, a young lad who goes to Boston during the summer of 1779 to seek apprenticeship with a Tory merchant, but finds himself embroiled in a conflict he wants no part of. Set mere months before Massachusetts ratifies its state Constitution, the very one upon which our nation’s grand document is based, this graphic serial novel attempts to show the day-to-day lives of families torn between Loyalism and Rebellion against the Crown. As the first part of the story slowly unfolds, we get a short glimpse into the life of a rural family without a father figure present, of a worn down mother trying to raise two boys while their father is away and their adult brother seems to have little patience with them.
As young Adam and his elder brother Noah ride into Boston, a tumble with soldiers foreshadows the violence to come from the constant tensions between the Redcoat army and the patriotic but fearful Colonists. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger for poor Adam, caught in the middle of a war he barely understands.
The artistic style of the book is reminiscent of the woodcut prints of the era, with angular features and straight lines dominant. Action scenes make great use of light and shadow, especially given the stark black ink on white medium. Facial expressions are simple, but effectively convey the character’s emotions most of the time. Lettering is somewhat inconsistent, though I do like the use of a serif font for emphasis in contrast to the irregular sans serif used for normal dialogue. The level of detail overall is also inconsistent; closeup and action scenes are very detailed whereas distant shots and panoramas seem rushed or oversimplified.
This work is certainly a welcome diversion from the usual mutant superhero or otherwise sci-fi laden graphic novel so popular these days. Mr. Heffernan has succeeded in drawing the reader into the gripping conflict that led to the founding of our great nation, as well as the mystery of the Liberty Eagle.
You can visit the author’s page here.
© 2012 Morgan Johnson