I grew up hearing a lot of interesting things regarding Martha Washington, a dynamic character shaped by Frank Miller's writing and Dave Gibbons' excellent pencil-work. I would have shelled out money for the individual trades, but I came across this beautifully bound omnibus instead. If you want to own all of Martha's adventures, including the one-shots, this is the book to get. Each story is prefaced by mini-essays written by Gibbons himself, and these introductions are worth reading because the man genuinely cares about this character and all of the things he and Frank had to go through to bring her to life.
Story-wise, the best part of Martha's tale is captured in her first graphic novel, Give Me Liberty. This was written around the time when Frank Miller's storytelling abilities were on a major roll, as was Dave Gibbons' gritty, cinematic layouts. GML chronicles Martha Washington's birth, her troubled childhood in a futuristic slum, and her trials as a soldier. She rises through the ranks, fights corruption within her own army, and experiences the collapse of an already broken political system first-hand. It's pretty heavy-going at times, but the satire is funny, the world is superbly fleshed out (via mock magazine articles that crop up throughout the story), the dialogue is sharp, and the pacing is on par with any good science fiction movie.
GML is followed by a few standalone stories, which are pretty good and remind me of classic 2000 AD progs. These stories pave the way for the book's second arc, Martha Washington Goes to War. It's a decent story, but it doesn't hold a candle to GML in terms of depth and insight. Miller's writing takes a few left turns, and some of the characters and situations become a bit more removed from the grittiness of the last arc. The conclusion is a bit iffy too, but it's an entertaining read nonetheless.
After a couple more one-shots, we're given Martha Washington Saves the World, my least favorite of the stories contained within. I think Miller's writing takes more of a dive here as the story isn't nearly as interesting as it should be and the stakes are a little confusing and generic (a rogue AI, clones, brainwashing, an ancient alien city ship, yadda yadda yadda). With a title like that, you would think it would be an epic and grounded story, but it's fairly short and takes place off-planet, with a lot of space ships, laser guns, and lengthy expository dialogue. It's kind of interesting when you read these stories in chronological order, because even here, you can chart Miller's dwindling ability to maintain interest in his own writing, as it is apparent in many other books he wrote at the time.
The last story, Martha Washington Dies, is self-explanatory, but it's painfully short and somewhat alienating. The reader is dropped right in the middle of a situation that isn't adequately explained, many years into the future. It feels like the last issue of a 10-12 issue series that never made it to the printers. Needless to say, it's very underwhelming considering all of the stories that came before and how well-developed Martha Washington became over a 20 year period. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it feels rushed, considering how Miller had already started exhibiting stories that felt like they were bashed out to meet a deadline. I just think Martha Washington deserved a better ending is all.
Ultimately, this omnibus deserves four stars because it contains a lot of great extras (sketches, layouts, promo images) on top of the excellent introductions provided by Dave Gibbons. Even if you don't like the stories that take place after GML, you can at least have all of them under one cover, sitting on your shelf, and sit comfortably knowing you own all of Martha's adventures.