Masterful. Darwyn Cooke is amazing. Set in the heyday of the Silver Age, Cooke begins a story that is at once nostalgically heroic and reminiscent of a simpler time, and profoundly complex, dealing with political and sociological issues ignored by writers of the period. In this story is the seed of the idea that would become Marvel's Civil War, and it's done much, much better than Millar could ever have hoped for.
New Frontier is a story of origins and of transition. The JSA is on the way out and in their place, the rise of the ordinary mortal. With new confidence in themselves after ridding the world of fascist tyranny, Americans begin to take back control of their lives and in the fashion typical of the McCarthy era, hunt down and force from work the masked vigilantes they had relied so heavily upon in the past. Amid the creation of nuclear and space technology old heroes question their purpose and new ones come of age and in the background, a planet-wide menace that will redefine the role of superheroes in the world.
After just finishing Johns's New Krypton, New Frontier reads like a classical work of art. Cooke's prose is crisp, unpretentious and unaffected and his artwork manages to capture the subtleties of feeling and complexity of emotions in really poignant scenes as well known heroes adjust to mankind's change for the worse around mid-century. How would Superman react to the war in Vietnam? Would his patriotism require him to support the war? What would his role be? How would Batman react to government pressure to organize and license vigilantism in America?
What separates good comic writing from poor comic writing isn't the scale of the epic, it's the seriousness of the philosophical questions posed and the depth of emotional turmoil and discovery that's drawn out. Good comic writing brings thought-provoking questions that we as ordinary people don't have to think about, but are forced to confront as we identify with and desire to be like our heroes. I'm not saying that New Frontier is incredibly profound in the same way a book like Secret Identity is or Superman for all Seasons, but it definitely has a depth that's lacking in so many continuity, soap-opera stories that plague the comic world today in its over-abundance of titles and stupid obsession with one-upmanship. New Frontier is a blast from the past and a reminder of why we first fell in love with comics. The best thing I can say to sum up how it makes you feel is to make a comparison. Have you ever gone back and watched a movie or tv show that you thought was the absolute greatest thing ever when you were a kid only to find it cheesy and sorely disappointing? That the memory of it and how it made you feel was far better than the quality of it? We all have. New Frontier is going back to that old movie that you loved so much as a kid and finding that it really was
and still is
the greatest thing ever. It feels like confirmation of the values, the past, the memories and the dreams you hold dear.