Previously, we’ve reviewed Justice League: The New Frontier, a direct-to-video animated movie adapted from Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel, taking the Silver Age and re-spinning it to reflect the real-world politics of the time, and some more modern sensabilities. At the time of that review, we hadn’t done a review of the much longer graphic novel on which the comic was based. We’re rectifying that now with a review of part 1, with part 2 to follow next week.
Title: DC: The New Frontier – Vol. 1
Writers: Darwyn Cooke
Illustrators: Darwyn Cooke
Original Publication Date: 2004
Cover Price: $19.95
Buy From: Amazon.com
The Golden Age of supers is over. Following the end of World War II, and the start of the Cold War (with all the related paranoia), many heroes were forced to either unmask for the government, retire, or operate outside the law. The series follows this transition period, with the beginnings of Silver Age heroes like The Flash II, Hal Jordan becoming Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter and others, while also exploring less well-known heroes and groups of heroes like the Black Hawks, the Losers, and the Challengers of the Unknown.
There are many great moments in this. Some of these were done in the animated film, that we previously reviewed, some that weren’t. The Martian Manhunter learning about humanity from TV. Ted Grant going up against Ali. The origin of John Henry. Wonder Woman meeting with President Eisenhower. The Death of the Losers. Oh, and how they set up The Centre as the series main antagonist.
A lot of these characters really don’t get a lot of time. Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, the Manhunter and Hal Jordan get the most screen time and development. The other characters kind of go on screen, we get to meet them, and they go off-screen, have major adventures – ones that make an impact on the world, but we don’t get to see them. I understand that this is the first half of a 6-issue series, but this series really could have stood to run for a year, particularly considering that at the time this was published, this may have been some readers first introduction to the Black Hawks, and the Challengers of the Unknown.
Originality – While it’s an adaptation of existing characters, and re-telling their stories for a new generation, it’s done in a more modern way, without being stuck in a 50s TV mindset. 4 out of 6.
Artwork – Cooke’s artwork is excellent – stylistically fitting the period atmosphere, while still feeling realistic. 5 out of 6.
Story – This is now, officially, my favorite supers story. For me it is better than Watchmen, better than Dark Knight Returns, better than Kingdom Come – and I really liked those comics. 6 out of 6.
Characterization – Hal Jordan, Superman, and Wonder Woman are very well written, deep characters. Batman isn’t quite as deep, and his biggest piece of character development doesn’t show up until the latter half of the series. Barry Allen gets a lot of character development for his relatively brief screen time – all things considered he’s pretty well known, but if you’ve never read any stories with the character before, and all your prior knowledge of him is from his sacrifice in Crisis of Infinite Earths, every little bit helps. 5 out of 6
Emotional Response – For all the bright colors, this is a dark comic, though not grimdark (which is good, because I’m sick of grimdark) and story really helps provoke that response. 5 out of 6.
Flow – The comic covers a lot of chronological time without the story’s flow being disrupted, and it weaves the origin stories of a lot of characters into the story fairly effortlessly – which takes a lot of skill. 6 out of 6.
Overall – While the Crises that have occurred over the years have changed the timeline of the DC universe, the characters themselves haven’t changed that much, making this the perfect place to introduce someone to the universe. 6 out of 6.
In total DC: The New Frontier – Vol. 1 gets 37 out of 42.