Liberty: Deception is an Orwellian sci-fi adventure that’s both fun and smart. Vengroff does an excellent job of balancing radical freedom with debilitating oppression, while at the same time keeping the reader in suspense. Anyone who’s into political drama, science fiction, and Hitchcockian twists should definitely pick up a copy. Indie comics don’t get much better than this.
Set in the dystopian city of Atrius, the story’s hero—Tertulius Justus—must escape from the land’s most impenetrable prison. Using his past fame and previous title, Justus manages to convince the guards he’s an undercover investigator sent to the detention center on a top secrete mission. The guards buy his story and give him twelve hours to conduct his ‘review’. Now, Justus must devise a plan, assemble a crew, and escape the inescapable before the guards catch on to his ruse.
While this synopsis portrays Liberty: Deception as nothing more than an ordinary prison-break story, the narrative is anything but that. In fact, every time you think you know what’s going on, check yourself: you couldn’t be further from the truth. And that’s part of the beauty of this franchise: everything is a deception. Without giving away too much, the peaceful city of Atrium is anything but innocent, the monsters of the Fringe are more human than they seem, and the hero’s former job is the biggest con of all.
Besides this general sense of disillusionment, you’ll also find a lot of great action scenes, a heap of suspense, and some genuinely poignant moments. The characters are also a lot of fun. There’s tons of hilarious banter between them, and they really bring out the best (and worst) in each other. In particular, I really liked Claw Conway: he’s a punkish, sooth-talking sociopath with a penchant for violence (kind of like my ex-girlfriend).
But that’s not the best part. What really separates Liberty: Deception from its imitators is its striking dichotomy between the highly oppressive Atrius and the shockingly chaotic Fringe. On the one hand, we have a totalitarian regime filled with security and opulence, but no freedom; on the other hand, we have a lawless wasteland with tons of liberty, but neither safety nor wealth. It’s this juxtaposition between polar opposites that really sets the mood and intensity in the series. We know these extremes cannot coexist: one has to go.
In fact, if I have any criticism for Liberty Deception, it’s that once we finally become acquainted with the Fringe, the story ends. Now, I understand this is just the first volume, but damn, I really want to see more. I mean the Fringe just looks badass. There are cannibals, junkies, gangs, Matt Damon (just kidding), human traffickers—name a vice, it’s there. There were some other minor issues I had, like how the heroes are a little too trusting of each other (they are hardened killers after all), and how they overcome obstacles a little too easily. But these problems were not significant enough to distract from the general narrative, so I’ll only mention them in bypassing.
Overall, other than the fact that we don’t get to see the Fringe as much as we’d like, I really enjoyed Liberty Deception and I can’t wait for volume #2. Vengroff and his team do an excellent job of creating memorable characters in a brilliant setting—all wrapped up in a smart political allegory. I definitely recommend this series: one of the best indie franchises of 2017.
Liberty: Deception vol. 1
Writer: Travis Vengroff
Artist: Raymund Bermudez and the Art Shaft Team
Colorist: Joana Lafuente
Letterer: Eduardo Camacho