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Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier Comic Book Review

Updated on October 27, 2014

DC: The New Frontier -- Darwyn Cooke's Beautiful Retelling of the Early Years of Modern Superheroes

DC: The New Frontier was a series of six comic book issues in 2004 that focused on the 1950s, when many of the major superheroes that populate the modern DC universe were introduced, joining the iconic trio of World War II-era characters Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

The series, since published in collections, has won numerous industry awards, and was the basis for an animated film. The writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke, is also known in the comic book world for his work on Catwoman, the Spirit and Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter.

This image is taken from the New Frontier series.

A Sweeping Epic That is Brisk and Bold

DC: The New Frontier is a great re-introduction to many of comic company's mainstay characters, and the nice thing about the series is that it also brings in a lot of secondary and tertiary characters and let's them shine as well. For instance, you don't need to know the history of the Challengers of the Unknown, the Suicide Squad or King Faraday to appreciate their appearances (though, of course, it helps).

The story begins during a period of time when most of the World War II heroes have left the scene. Non-superhero groups like the Challengers take the stage, but then hints of an ominous global danger start popping up. As the danger grows closer, new superheroes take the stage, leading to an all-out battle against the enemy off the Florida shore.

I really enjoyed the sweep of the saga, which touches on so many point of the DC Universe history. The enemy, when it is finally revealed, is a bit hokey. But then again, in the 1950s and 1960s many of the bad guys in the comics were hokey. So maybe that was done on purpose. The art is bold, and the pace is very brisk, so you end up whizzing right through to the end of the tale.

I will say that when re-reading the series, I was more impressed with the artwork and some of the smaller scenes than the full scope of the story. But that is perhaps a minor quibble. This series won a fair number of industry awards, and deservedly so. I highly recommend reading it as soon as possible!

DC: The New Frontier Collections

Here is your opportunity to order DC: The New Frontier if you don't already have the series:

The Real Stars of The Show!

Hal Jordan and the Martian Manhunter

Dozens of superheroes and well-established non-superhero characters appear during the series, but the main thrust of the story is the development of Hal Jordan from a young lad enthralled with meeting his idol Chuck Yeager to his emergence as the Green Lantern, possibly the most powerful of all heroes.

But the series also gives plenty of space to the Martian Manhunter's arrival on Earth and his attempt to fit in, then return to his planet.

The two characters play very different roles in the tale. Jordan in many ways is the emotional center of the story, as we see him survive the Korean War and grow as a test pilot until he is ready to take over as the Green Lantern. The Martian Manhunter, meanwhile, helps propel the plot as a Gotham City police detective who discovers a growing danger to our world.

Classic Green Lantern - Check Out His Early Adventures!

DC Comics has put out a number of books that have collected the early stories of Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. It is fascinating to see how the stories from the 1950s and 1960s differ from today's, and writers John Broome and Gardner Fox did a wonderful job integrating many science-fiction themes into the series. Gil Kane's artwork on the series was considered groundbreaking as he moved the stories away from the static six panels per page format that previously dominated.

The Green Lantern Chronicles Vol. 1
The Green Lantern Chronicles Vol. 1
This collects the first three Green Lantern stories in Showcase (issues 22-24) as well as the first three issues of his own book. In color!

DC Heroes To The Rescue!

Here are some links to web sites that discuss DC: The New Frontier

Darwyn Cooke

Writer and Artist

Darwyn Cooke worked for Warner Bros. Animation and later as a storyboard artist before tackling DC: The New Frontier, and that influence leaps out on almost every page of the series. He has a crisp, clean style, favoring large open panels in contrast to numerous comic book artists whose work is so dark and murky that it's hard to see what is going on. His work on Hollywood cartoons is also revealed in his use of perspective. Numerous panels look like movie stills, and could be framed and used as posters.

Hal Jordan Kissing Carol Ferris Goodbye - A Perfect Example of Cooke's Cinematic Influence

Throughout the series Cooke uses full-page illustrations to emphasize the grand sweep of the tale. Many of these pages echo the movie posters of the past, including this one of Hal Jordan kissing carol Ferris goodbye before heading off for the final fight.

Darwyn Cooke Books

Darwyn Cooke revamped a number of DC characters, including Catwoman and the Spirit. He also has done a number of other works that have received high acclaim. Here are a few that you might be interested in:

Batman: Ego and Other Tails
Batman: Ego and Other Tails
This contains Cooke's early Batman tales, as well as the Catwoman story Selina's Big Score.

Dave Stewart's Impact

The Colorist Makes A Huge Difference!

Dave Stewart's contribution to DC: The New Frontier was essential in that he completely captures the nostalgic feel of Cooke's art. Comics back in the 1950s and 1960s were bold, in that they believed in splashing color everywhere that they could. One example is a page showing Hal Jordan at the 1959 Motorama, with greens and oranges coming alive.

He also knows how to contrast colors for the most impact. There's a scene with Wonder Woman and Superman above Paradise Island, and the ocean, sky and green island are magical with warm colors. Later, when Wonder Woman relates what happened when the island is attacked by the villain the colors are dark and brownish.

Stewart won the Eisner for best colorist for the year DC: The New Frontier appeared. He has won it five other times and is nominated again for 2011.

Coast City Auto Show - Great Example of Dave Stewart's Impact

Coast City Auto Show 1959
Coast City Auto Show 1959

Check out Dave Stewart's coloring in this sample. His bright colors capture the optimism and confidence of the auto industry of the 1950s, when every American loved big exciting cars!

Has DC: The New Frontier Stood The Test of Time? - Here's Your Chance to Make Your Opinion Known

Some comic book series become classics that can be read over and over again and remain just as compelling. Others just don't stand up and fade away. I think DC: The New Frontier is one of those series that's worth dusting off every once in a while and re-reading. Am I in the minority on this?

Has DC: The New Frontier Stood the Test of Time?

See results

Fun Scenes

The Ones I Remember Best

Here are some of my favorite scenes from DC: The New Frontier. These aren't necessarily the most important ones in the book, or the most dramatic. They are just the ones that I remember the most for various reasons. Presented in the order they appear in the book:

1) Superman confronts Wonder Woman in Indo-China. Check out the horror on Superman's face when he realizes what Wonder Woman has done. Then marvel at how she towers over him after getting down off the table. Another nice touch: Superman's ill-fitting costume.

2) Batman's impact on Slam Bradley, the cult members and the kidnapped child. Perfectly captures the early image of Batman as a frightening character.

3) Task Force X's fight above the Statue of Liberty. Written beautifully enough that you feel for Hugh Evans, while admiring the beauty of the artwork.

4) Superman's fight with the giant robot in Tokyo. The wild colors and the sheer silliness of the robot are just over the top.

5) Hal Jordan's first flight as the Green Lantern. Feel the joy!

6) Robin's excitement over meeting Superman. The way he jumps around and does acrobatics while Batman and Superman talk brings out the boy in the Boy Wonder. Bonus -- Cooke actually gives a plausible explanation for Batman's lighter, less-threatening updated costume.

7) The cheering of Superman as he heads off the fight the enemy, and the shocked look on everyone's faces afterwards.

8) The skinniness of the Flash when compared to Green Arrow and King Faraday.

9) The Steve Ditko-influenced trip that Nate Adam, Ace Morgan and Hal Jordan experience inside the villain.

10) The look on Lois Lane's face after Aquaman appears.

Robin Meets Superman! - Check out Robin's Excitement

Darwyn Cooke captures the thrill of meeting Superman through the eyes of Robin, the new Boy Wonder. In later panels Robin is shown doing acrobatics in the background while the two adult heroes talk, perfectly illustrating the youthful exuberance of the youngster in a nice touch.

I've given you my top 10 favorite scenes from DC: The New Frontier. Why don't you share with everyone what scenes you thought were the best?

Was DC: The New Frontier As Good As They Say? - Time To Give Your Opinion!

DC: The New Frontier won the Eisner Award for best limited series and the Harvey Award for best continuing or limited series when it was published. It also won Eisners for Best Publication Design and Best Coloring, and Harvey awards for Best Artist and Best Colorist.

Do You Think The Series Deserved All Those Honors?

Darwyn Cooke's Version of the Spirit! - A Fresh Look at Will Eisner's Classic Hero!

The Spirit Vol. 1 collects the first six issues of the 2007 comic series, as well as a one-shot adventure where the Spirit and Batman team up. This is Darwyn Cooke's version of the Spirit, modernized and played a bit more for laughs than the character under its original creator, Will Eisner. The character is very different from the original, and the stories are lighter and more fun. Once again Dave Stewart is along for the ride to help bring Cooke's art to life. Well worth getting!

DC: The New Frontier Follow-Up Products

DC: The New Frontier originally appeared in six 64-page comic books without ads back in 2004. DC collected the six books into two volumes, published in 2004 and 2005. The volumes were then collected into one hardcover called Absolute DC: the New Frontier, with annotations, new story pages and rare promotional art.

The series also spawned a direct-to-video animated film called Justice League: The New Frontier in 2008, as well as action figures and at least two later comic books with ties to the series, including Justice League: the New Frontier Special and Solo issue No. 5.

Justice League: The New Frontier Official Trailer - See how the series translates to the screen!

Justice League: The New Frontier was released in February, 2008, as a direct-to-video animated adaptation of the comic books. The movie is pretty faithful to the books, though Batman has a more major role at the end of the movie. There are a few other changes but that's the one that stood out for me.

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