Given the, um, individual charms of Frank Miller's writing on All-Star Batman these days, I'm not sure it'll come as a massive surprise to anyone if I say that I'm not sure that MARTHA WASHINGTON DIES is worth the price of admission. But what was surprising - to me, at least - was that the story in this oneshot was clearly never meant to be anything other than the epilogue to next year's collection of all of Miller and Dave Gibbons' Martha Washington stories (Give Me Liberty from the 1980s - which I remember being disappointed by as a teenager, reading it and thinking "There's no there there. Is this really meant to be great? Am I missing something?" - and Martha Washington Goes To War from, I think, the early '90s). The strip in this issue offers no real story at all, other than fulfilling the promise/threat of the title, but also offers no context for anyone who hasn't read any of the earlier works. What it does offer is the chance to make cheap analysis into Miller's state of mind - the narration talks of an America under attack by "barbarians" who seek an "armageddon we'll never let them have" and chant, even though they've tried to destroy religion ("Back when there were churches. Back before the barbarians won their awful victory..."). Has this story now become all about Miller's 9/11 epiphany...? What else could it mean when Martha seems to become fireworks exploding in the skies above New York City, after all?
To call this "light" would be polite - It's 17 pages long, and of that, there are four double-page spreads and an additional four splash pages - and as nicely as Gibbons and colorist Angus McKie can make things, there's still a feeling of being somewhat cheated by the presentation of this as a full-priced comic as opposed to some kind of budget teaser for the complete book advertised on the inside back cover here. There may be some extra value for completists in the five page original synopsis by Miller for the opening of Give Me Liberty - although a cynic like me looks at it more as the only way they could make this book more than 20 pages long - but overall, this was a pretty disappointingly empty Awful.