Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In Review of: New Frontier by Cooke and Stewart

Is it wallowing in nostalgia to try and update your favorite myths? Is it, for want of a better term, fanwank to try and imagine a complexity to beginnings of the Justice League or Abin Sur’s crash that simply wasn’t there at the beginning? Does the origin of Jon J’onzz really need the Miller-ization that takes place in these beautifully crafted trades?

Such is the beguiling series of questions that plague me in regards to Cooke’s New Frontier.

It almost seems that the work cannot possibly be seen with rose colored glasses as an integral part of the evaluation. Cooke was doing the work with a real love of the material and shows, no question. He’s filled out things, answered questions, given us background motivation that would never have been possible in the late 1950’s. More than anything this is a work of love, one that dovetails fairly well with Robinson and Smith’s Golden Age book. If you have a love of the early Gil Kane Green Lanterns and Atoms, get nostalgic at the goofy ernestness of Sekowsky’s JLA’s, then you’re bound to love this series. It would be hard not to. Unlike a Miller Batman: Year One, this is not a radical re-interpretation of the beloved Silver Age characters, but a reaffirmation of their continued relevance.

It is also a rather nostalgic wankfest that has an almost Roy Thomas-level need to fill in the gaps and motivations of many of these same Silver Age legends. And that may not be a bad thing.

I think that this stands out in stark relief to the dismal handling of the characters that exists right now. Hal Jordan went insane? Not in this universe. He may be flawed, but this Hal longs for the stars and gets his wish. Nothing insane about this man. This Batman has none of the psychotic about him, but he is the true Dark Knight, in classic fashion.

Cooke’s art is lovingly colored, and the coloring is a delicious surprise here. Dave Stewart expands on the palette that would have made sense on the books of the early ‘60’s vintage, without making it appear too modern or not “of the time”. It’s a delicate task, and he performs admirably. I have to say that I’ll be ya that the art looks even better in the Ultimate version of this. Cooke puts in a million great touches: the Flash’s large Infantino head, the real reason Batman adopted his 1950’s look, the ins and outs of the Ferris-Jordan relationship, Lois Lane as a real investigative reporter. Its fun stuff.

My own touchpoint this series is simply not one of nostalgia. I never fell in love with those beloved-to-others Infantino Flashs, I never really dug the early JLAs. I come to this book with all the accumulated continuity without any of the childhood emotion. I reserve that for old Marvels. So in the end, I really enjoyed New Frontier, thought that it was a great ride, but I didn’t have me dancing around the room in childish wonder at seeing my heroes again as they once were: unsullied by years upon years of meaningless continuity and forced relevance.

And don’t we all want to do the Comic Book Happy Dance?!?


steely dan said...

I loved this book. It's one of the few graphic novels that actually reads like a novel and not simply a padded short story. The artwork was gorgeous and the design of the Absolute edition is beautiful. My only criticism is that I felt that Cooke lost a little bit of control over the narrative toward the end. Too many new characters were introduced to the story at too late a stage.

I actually think this makes for a nice third part of an unofficial trilogy when paired with Miller and Mazzuchelli's "Batman Year One" and Cooke's "Selina's Big Score." Anyway, that's my two cents.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

I agree, this one really does read like a novel, something that Miller and Mazzuchelli didn't have the room to expand to in 4 simple issues (though I have no doubt how well they would have done it, after reading Daredevil:Born Again).

I think that I might have issues with the pacing in the middle act, where we spend a little too much time with the challengers, who are rather incidental to the main point, and a little too much time with Hal brooding. That said, there is much fun to be had with Lois and her manipulating the men around her cause she's darn cute!