Saturday, September 25, 2010

DC: The New Frontier

by Darwyn Cooke

I was surprised it's taken me this long to get around to reading this comic, and have found it to be a real treat.  Basically, Cooke writes an almost total reboot of the DC Universe, set between the end of the Second World War and the early 60s.  It's the time when the new heroes of the Silver Age begin to emerge, and it respects and honors as canon the work of the Golden Age.

The story begins with the last mission of The Losers (the Kirby version, not the Vertigo crew), as they end up on the Island That Time Forgot, searching for Rick Flagg.  From there, the story mostly follows Hal Jordan as he flies missions in Korea, and later becomes a test pilot for Ferris Airlines.  We also follow J'onn J'onnz as he becomes a Gotham police detective and sometimes partner to Slam Bradley.  As the books progress, we check in with a number of different heroes, although little is seen of the Golden Age crowd, with the exceptions of Superman (who is working for the government), Wonder Woman (who is fired by the government after expressing her opinions), and Batman (who is operating in Gotham against federal law).

The storyline seems very scattershot and random for the first of the two volumes, but in the second book, it begins to pull itself together as we learn of the type of threat that the Island that Time Forgot (now called the Centre) poses to life.  The various heroes, government agencies, and science-based militias (Challengers of the Unknown, Sea Devils, etc.) have to work together to defeat it, and perhaps usher in a new age of heroism.

I like the consistent approach Cooke takes to these characters.  He works hard to have them, and the people around them, react believably to the fantastic things they are or are seeing.  I also like that he integrates so many corners of the DCU in a way that could never have happened when they were first being published.

The art in this book is, of course, amazing.  What I like most about Cooke's work is the way he pays so much attention to architectural detail.  While I'm sure many are attracted to his shiny rockets and experimental jet planes, what I love the most is the air traffic control tower at Ferris.  It's the way he draws people's offices and high-tech bases that make this such a wonderful comic to me.  He employs the same aesthetic sense he used in his Parker comic, and it makes the book very satisfying. 

What really makes this project work is the way he taps into the reader's nostalgia and love for a certain era of comics history, but also manages to tell a contemporary and compelling tale.  This is some great stuff.

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