The Life and Times of Martha Washington
There’s no way of getting around it: This is a flawed collection, but not so much as I feared it could be.
In a way it is an excellent reflection of its writers strengths and weaknesses, whereas Gibbon’s art is generally excellent no matter what.
All in all, it’s the first story, Give Me Liberty, that is the best and the smartest, contrasting Martha with Moretti, a black girl with nothing versus a rich, colonial spoilt white boy and everything flows from that collision. The concept of the Green is quite the idea and I could see some politician doing it for real at some point.
The other aspect that really comes to the fore is how it reads like a story that 2000AD would have done. It has a scattergun approach, everything and everyone gets a kicking in this. And there’s very wry gags, like the Surgeon’-General’s pronouncement: Crime is not a disease, disease is crime! Judge Death would approve.
The second main story, Martha Washington Goes to War, is 80% good, it’s only in the fifth and final issue it goes off the rails, with rapid plot leaps all over the place. The third and final main tale, Martha Washington Saves the World, is far better. Martha versus AI, you know who’s going to win that one.
Then there’s the end, Martha Washington Dies and, well… The way the previous tale ended opened up a lot of doors for the character, but instead her creators lost interest and then killed her off years later with a weird, mystical conclusion, with the world once more in the crapper. All the doors opened by the ending of the previous story are slammed shut and it feels a bit of a waste.
In a way, it’s the Frank Miller as he was versus the Frank Miller he became and I know which I prefer.
The short stories covered are very good, but are more intermission than anything substantive.
Strangely, this is the first DHC collection I’ve bought in ages where the production values are, by their standards, lacking! The paper is thin, the compression increased compared to most of the other DHC trades I have. I was expecting this to be akin to the new Usagi Yojimbo or Elfquest trades but it’s noticeably slimmer, due to that paper type.
If you haven’t read it, I’d say it’s definitely worth a look, it does some very smart story-telling and there’s worse ways to spend £15-16 these days.