It is officially March 1 meaning we are now just seventeen days away from the HBOMax Premiere of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. As we eagerly anticipate the release I wanted to ease my own impatience by dedicating some time and energy to other great JL properties of the past.
Today, we look at the Magnum Opus of the late Darywn Cooke, The New Frontier.
The Setting: The story kicks off in the late 1940’s and takes us into the early 1960’s. For those not too familiar with comic book history, the 1950’s were a time when superheroes did not reign supreme in comics; heck they weren’t even really part of the market!
Where the late 30’s and 40’s were seen as the golden age of superhero comics, the early 60’s would introduce what is known as the silver age. Darwyn Cooke’s work creates a story during this absent time that bridges the two ages together.
Some might disagree but what set this work apart from so many other graphic novels is the signature art style of Cooke. He used his talents to fill the book’s pages with his 50’s and 60’s graphic art style that is unmistakable to any comic fan; an art style that fit just perfectly into the book’s narrative.
Character Focus: Unlike so many other Justice League stories this book didn’t focus entirely around the trinity! All three appear but they are not our protagonists.
With the end of WWII, and the Cold War growing more fridged by the day, the golden age heroes were forced to retire while others found a way to continue. Superman and Wonder Woman ironically ended up becoming international policy enforces for the United States. Batman, being Batman, avoided capture and unmasking by the government and continued his solo work in Gotham.
With all three in difficult positions, and unable to carry out their roles as they once could, the story instead focuses on three silver age characters and their origins (remember, this story is set to bridge the two eras). The Flash, Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern, and the Martian Manhunter are the trinity for this tale.
Hope: The book has images that have reminders of Bruce Timm and Jack Kirby, it paints moments of classic saturday morning cartoons and joy. At the same time it also depicts tragic and dark clips within it pages as well. The combination of the polar opposite elements and the panels between them, serve as an excellent window into a time of such uncertainty, change, growth, and tragedy in U.S. history.
Within capturing the spirit of the age the book dedicates itself to pushing forward the core message of superheroes; hope in humanity and a better tomorrow.
Hal Jordan fears his role as a hero and his worth to consider himself someone believing he doesn.t have courage. Yet the ring tells him of courage’s true definition and many forms; a moment that strongly represents the ideals that the United States promoted at the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century. The Flash seeks to do what he can in order to make his country a better place, and the Martian is eager to return home from a foreign, and yet another, violent land.
Cooke doesn’t take Alan Moore’s approach to heroism seen in Watchmen but embraces completely the power of hope for tomorrow. This makes the conclusion of the book, vignettes of our characters alongside JKF’s speech from 1960, a powerful and perfect conclusion to such an iconic piece of comic book history.
The New Frontier is my personal favorite DC graphic novel EVER. I highly recommend the read and promise you won’t be dissapointed. There are many great quotes, kick-ass moments, references to the age and historical figures, heartbreaking panels, and even ends with a full-page dedicated to the front cover of the Justice League’s first appearance in 1960.
It is truly a work of perfection.