PREVIOUSLY: Rob Liefeld’s FIGHTING AMERICAN
While Rob Liefeld originally licensed the rights to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American primarily as an excuse to publish his leftover Captain America art and stick it to Marvel, he clearly saw some value in this character and so after his initial 2-issue series, his company published this new 3-issue series featuring a fully original story.
In the first issue, John Flagg (again, he’s only ever referred to by that name in this series too, no mention is made of Nelson or how he got his powers, so we don’t know if his origin is exactly the same in this continuity) is back at his farm in Kansas, having once again quit being Fighting American. General Cole has sent SPICE (that’s how her name is written throughout this series, not S.P.I.C.E. like in the previous series) to go see him and try to convince him to change his mind. Her pleading doesn’t appear to move him, until suddenly they’re both attacked by Poison Ivan and Hotsky Trotski (yes, that’s how it’s spelled). Reference is made to their previous career as communists, but after the fall of the Soviet Union now they’re paid hitmen working for the Russian Mafia.
John suddenly changes into his Fighting American costume (nevermind why he still had it, along with his shield, since he quit) and fights back against the villains. It’s then we see that, despite not being able to be thrown like Captain American’s shield, Fighting American’s shield has it’s own unique properties, as he’s able to use it to shoot too metal spikes out of it. The issue also features a surprise at the end of the issue, as another old Fighting American villain: Round Robin, whom has adapted very well to the capitalist way of life.
SPICE suddenly turns on Fighting American and starts trying to kill him. Most of this issue is a big fight scene between them, as General Cole and his assistant think that she must be infected with a computer virus. In the end this turn happens to be the work of another old Fighting American villain: Invisible Irving, although he’s given a drastic revamp in this issue. Rather than being a common criminal who invented special pant that can make him and other objects invisible, he’s described here as the result of an old scientific experience run by the KGB that went wrong. He was bombarded with so much radiation that he was turned into an intangible being who can possess the bodies of others (including, apparently, androids).
Now back with the US Army, Fighting American and SPICE take on some more revamped versions of old supervillains from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s original run: the mad scientist Von Feygel and Double-Header. And then it all ends with Fighting American tracking down Round Robin, who had put a $10 million dollar bounty on Fighting American’s head. There are a couple of plot twists before this story comes to a satisfying conclusion.
There’s also a subplot that runs throughout the three issues, as we meet Kelly, the daughter of Mary Stewart, who was John’s secretary in the original series. In this continuity, they had some kind of relationship and now Mary has recently died (as, unlike John, she’s continued to age normally since the 50’s) and it appears that Kelly is actually John’s secret daughter, and she’s inherited some of his powers. She meets with General Cole, who says she will have “a great impact on the future of Fighting American.” This was a storyline that was clearly being set up to be explored in future stories.
This series, while not perfect, as it’s mostly just a bunch of fight scenes, is a big step-up in quality from the first Awesome Comics miniseries, as now Loeb was given the freedom to craft his own story without trying to fit a bunch of pre-existing pages of artwork into something new. I also very much enjoyed Ed McGuinness’ artwork, he had a big cartoony style. This series showed the potential that Fighting American has with the right creative team behind him.
Also, the book came out fairly regularly, with the first issue coming out in November 1997, the month after the Liefeld miniseries’ 2nd and final issue, and then the next issue came out two months after that and then the final issue came out two months after that, ending in March 1998.
Interestingly, the book ends with an ad for Awesome’s next Fighting American miniseries, or perhaps it was meant to be a one-shot: COLD WAR, which would once again involve Rob Liefeld. Whether that’s writing or drawing or both isn’t explained, as the only details we are given is that the current Fighting American will somehow be facing the original 1950’s version of Fighting American and Speedboy. However that was supposed to happen, I bet it would have been interesting to see.
Then in the back there’s an announcement that Jim Starlin, Stephen Platt, and Batt would be producing DOGS OF WAR, which is described as “the first story arc of an all-new Fighting American ongoing series.”
So once again, the fans waited. . .