This month, one of the most influential series in the history of independent comics gets a brand new release. When looking back at Frank Miller’s legendary body of work, many people cite his landmark work on Daredevil, Batman and Sin City as his most important contributions. However, his work with equally legendary comic creator Dave Gibbons on the various titles encompassing the life of Martha Washington cannot be overlooked.
The story begins in the squalid corridors of a maximum-security housing project, where a young girl will rise from the war-torn streets of Chicago to battle injustice in a world insane with corruption. Her fight will take her far, from the frontlines of the second American Civil War to the cold, unforgiving reaches of space. She will be called a hero, a traitor, and nearly everything in between, but all along the way, her courage, her integrity, and her unwavering commitment to that most valuable of rights – liberty – will inspire a movement that will never surrender.
From the time of its release, it was easy to see why this series had fans foaming at the mouth. With both creators cementing themselves as all-time greats in the 1980s (Miller with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Gibbons with Watchmen), the idea of them collaborating on a book together was a comic fan’s dream. And when it hit the shelves, it more than delivered. Miller delivered on what was expected of him in the action department – particularly on the gritty street level front with the riot scenes being especially gripping – while bringing the same snarky political satire he started to develop in The Dark Knight Returns with his takes on American government and corporations still having relevancy today. But the biggest strength of this collection is Martha Washington herself. Her growth from a poverty stricken resident of a Chicago housing project under the regime of a president-turned-dictator, to an intelligent and fearless freedom fighter for the reformed US army known as PAX, to a war hero who becomes one of the most influential figures in the United States makes for a truly great read. Each series in the collection offers a window into her life and career and flows together to create a great lifetime narrative.
Miller is obviously an tremendous artist in his own right, but for this project he left the art department in the hands of Gibbons who provides some of the best art of his career. Martha’s character growth is enhanced by Gibbon’s work with the undying toughness of the character always evident. The variety to his art is also outstanding with street riots, spaceships and even dinosaurs all vibrantly depicted with sequential storytelling that is second to none.
This collection collects the entire Martha Washington saga and is a perfect opportunity to see two of the greatest talents to ever grace the comic industry cut loose to create something very special. Perfect for first time readers and those looking for an excuse to revisit this classic series.
The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century is published by Dark Horse Comics on the 22nd June (£24.99, hardback, 600pp, 9781506700359)