Title: DC: The New Frontier.
Writer(s): Darwyn Cooke.
Artist(s): Darwyn Cooke.
Guest Artist(s): J. Bone, David Bullock & Michael Cho.
Colourist(s): Dave Stewart.
Letterer(s): Jared K. Fletcher.
Publisher: DC Black Label.
Release Date: February 19th, 2019 (first published October 4th, 2006).
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Some stories need to be told despite being outside the canonical events set forth within a fictional universe. These stories have the liberty to explore ideas and themes outside those restricted by the ongoing story arcs. At DC Comics, it is a beloved, if not sometimes dreaded, practice to have writers and artists work on what-if stories for fans to quietly indulge away from any judgemental glare from comic book purists. While there’s no denying that more often than not, these stories have the unfortunate tendency to deliver appalling material that have you running back to canon content, there are some unique and creative stories that succeed in delivering the most unexpected and eye-opening stories in the comic book industry. Most of these stories tend to focus on a certain character and present a self-contained and compelling adventure, but one Eisner Award-winning writer-artist looked at things differently and looked to deliver an epic that reinvented a whole universe.
What is DC: The New Frontier about? Set in the 1960s America, in the midst of the Cold War and the rise of civil rights movements, the story presents an era in real-life history where masked mystery men who fought in the Second World War are to be outlawed. While iconic heroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman work undercover to assure the safety of the world, other heroes find themselves in hiding, abandoning their costumes, or lurking in the shadows looking to lend a hand to all those who serve justice. With a dangerous threat looming on the horizon, these heroes are, however, needed once again if humanity is ever to see another day again. Collecting the six-issues dual-volume comic book limited series, the legendary Canadian comic book writer and artist Darwyn Cooke presents a genre-defining tale where history meets superheroes.
Similar to writer Alan Moore’s Watchmen, without its nihilistic and vigilante-questioning tone, this story is constructed with a grounded approach where it seeks to integrate the DC Universe within an almost historically-accurate era of humankind. Inexplicably perfect, creator Darwyn Cooke reimagines a whole universe set in the 1950s and offers fans a beautiful story that bridges the gap between the Golden and Silver age of superhero comic books. Alternating between various points of view, he does an incrementally beautiful job in humanizing them and allowing them to grow into the heroes they were always meant to be. With characters and squads such as the Challengers of the Unknown, the Suicide Squad, Martian Manhunter, and Hal Jordan, amongst others, carrying this story from cover to cover, it is with sheer brilliance that Darwyn Cooke manages to set the world ablaze and present one of the greatest origin stories for the Justice League. Although it is hectic storywise, with no particular linearity in the chronology of events, and it does a clunky job in properly distributing attention on certain characters—you can tell that he has a certain affinity towards the Green Lantern—the story still grows on you with its characters, history, and themes.
To both write and illustrate this masterpiece is a challenge in itself that only Darwyn Cooke could’ve accomplished with such splendour. A good chunk of the story doesn’t necessarily put superheroes in the spotlight as war heroes obtain just as much respect throughout the graphic novel. How Darwyn Cooke cleverly embraces both the realistic and fantastical elements is what essentially makes this story outstanding. While there is a hefty dose of realism attributable to the narrative, he also incorporates plenty of quirky, zany, and crazy ingredients to make this a truly spectacular event. Amongst all the chaos that is teased into the story, dinosaurs remain the most entertaining. And so, through a cartoonish art style, Darwyn Cooke brings to life the impossible and does so in an incredibly cinematic fashion, through exceptional panel configurations (e.g. the three-panel widescreen pages) as well as epic sequences that merit its own wall in an art museum. The artistic touch that simply perfects this oeuvre also lies in Dave Stewart’s vibrant colouring and thick black contouring that turns this story into a bombastic, flashy, and sizzling adventure.
DC: The New Frontier is a visionary story blending superheroes into real-life history as it presents the unifying powers of humankind amidst a strange alien threat.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!
The animated movie adaptation was released on February 28th, 2008.