The New Frontier Volume 2
by Darwyn Cooke
Much like the book itself (except for a sentence or two on the back cover), this review has no ‘What happened before …’ blurb (see my review of volume 1 for some history). What I will say about the presentation of this book – it’s nice to see heroes smiling on the cover of a comic book for once …
A lot of what I said in my review about Vol. 1 applies here – Cooke’s cinematic sytle takes a little time to get used to, but it is perfect for the story, with the three widescreen panels giving a lovely rhythm to the pages and breathing room for the story; knowing DC history helps to get the most out of the books, but is not essential to proceedings; and the full-page spreads used for the money shots are powerful and arresting.
The sense of this story occurring in real history is what gives this story its sense of scope and depth. The age of rockets, trust in the government, Ed Murrow talking about John Henry’s death – it gives proceedings weight and enforces the feel of recounting a ‘true’ history.
A large emphasis is placed on Hal Jordan and his becoming Green Lantern, as if this was the turning point of the Silver Age (and the link between the superheroes and the rocket era). I have never been a big fan of Hal, but I have to admit that the joy of his discovery is highly infectious.
There are lots of nice moments for fans of comics peppered throughout the book, such as Superman meeting the modernised Batman and Robin: ‘I set out to scare criminals, not children.’ The story itself is about the giant floating island from Vol.1, The Centre, and the danger it presents to the world. It is a plot-driven ‘Big Bad’ (if I may borrow the phrase from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), which is quite refreshing, leading to a genuine reason for the ‘gathering of the heroes’ scene, with the powerful moment of Superman’s ‘Who’s with me?!!’, and the following shots afterwards.
Everyone in Silver Age DC seems to turn up – the magical folk, Ray Palmer, Adam Strange and many others – that provides the sense of scope and respect for what has gone before. There is a great double-page spread of all the team going out to carry out the plan, there’s Flash running fast, you have Superman NOT saving the day, Aquaman showing up at the end for some plot resolution – it’s a real joy to read.
The epilogue covers a lot after the end of the story, catching up to the final page with the cover to the first Justice League of America comic book, but you can’t blame Cooke for trying to cram so much into this wonderful story. This is most definitely good comics.