Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Absolute New Frontier - A Review

Absolute New Frontier - Darwyn Cooke - Writer and Illustrator, Dave Stewart - Colors
Format - The over sized hard bound collection of the six issue mini-series.
Premise - The prologue to the start of the JLA. Starting in 1945 and working up to the first appearance of the JLA, Darwyn Cooke gives us a prologue to the silver age.

What I Liked:
1) Almost everything, but I will break it down a bit. The art. Darwyn Cooke's art is more of an animation/cartoon style. While it appears simplistic in the line work, it is anything but simplistic. The art is full of details, expression, drama and is really a movie on paper. His sense of layout and design are fantastic and he evokes all levels of emotion in both big and small moments. Dave Stewart's colors really add to the story and the tone of each chapter, light when needed and dark when needed.

2) The story. Darwyn Cooke gets it in my book. He has nailed what comics mean to me better then anyone else. He also put into words better then I ever have about what these comics from yesterday meant. The story starts in 1945 with a group of serviceman known as the Losers and their mission to save Captain Flagg. Johnny Thunder's heroic exit is fantastic as he jumps into the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We then slowly see the US government force super heroes to register or retire. Superman and Wonder Woman are the governments enforcement agents and only Batman escapes the government's crackdown on super heroes. We later find out that Superman let Batman pretend to defeat him as Superman would not betray his friend (note to Marvel re" Civil War - it was done better in this book as a sub plot). As the silver age heroes slowly emerge over time a menace so big arises that only they as a combined force can overcome it. This leads to super heroes being welcome in the US again and the formation of the JLA.

The epilogue is John F. Kennedy's New Frontier speech, with pictures of how the world is changing after the super heroes saved the earth. Reading this with the images made me love super heroes comics all over again and invoked the feelings that comics gave me as a kid. The last part reads over a double page spread of all the super heroes rushing off on some mission. "Are we up to the task -- are we equal to the challenge? Or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present. This is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make-- between public interest and public comfort -- between national greatness or national decline -- between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of "normalcy" -- between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try."

Then in his notes to the book Cooke really nails the whole thing for me and makes this one of my favorite comics for all times and possibly the best comic story of all times. Regarding the epilogue Darwyn Cooke says "I had always known that this speech of Kennedy's would close out the book. Kennedy's actual qualities as a person and a leader may be debatable, but the power and scope of these words is still felt upon reading them over 45 years later. With Kennedy , it was never the man that impressed me; it was the ideal he embodied. In that way he typifies the spirit that charges the super-hero stories of the silver age. Not to be taken at anything but face value, an impossible ideal that points up to a better way to live."
To what I can just say amen. This is what so many comics miss today, by making our heroes as fallible as we are, we have nothing to strive for or any goal to try and reach.

What I didn't Like:


Grade A

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