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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To boldly go...
First of all, Darwyn Cooke's art is superb. He's of the same sort of school as Bruce Timm, who designed the excellent Batman animated series of the nineties, inspired by Jack Kirby and Fleischer Superman cartoons but with the rough edges knocked off. All the characters are distinct in face and build, do not resort to the usual superhero art cliches. The action scenes...
Published on 28 Aug 2006 by S. Bentley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good for the most part
Darwyn Cooke imagines the DC heroes back in the Silver Age, the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the first of two volumes called DC: New Frontier. Cooke works in real life events into the superhero story such as the Korean war, Eisenhower, fears over the bomb and McCarthyism. And while the book generally works quite well on the whole, it feels like a lot of heroes are...
Published 10 months ago by Sam Quixote


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To boldly go..., 28 Aug 2006
By 
S. Bentley "stuarthoratiobentley" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1 (Paperback)
First of all, Darwyn Cooke's art is superb. He's of the same sort of school as Bruce Timm, who designed the excellent Batman animated series of the nineties, inspired by Jack Kirby and Fleischer Superman cartoons but with the rough edges knocked off. All the characters are distinct in face and build, do not resort to the usual superhero art cliches. The action scenes are dynamic as all get out and he always manages to imbue a scene with a feel. If you want a superhero story that looks fantastic, this is it.

Second of all, the story is superb. America in the 50s is an interesting time as it embodies a golden age for that nation (if only the caucasians), whilst showing a dark underbelly. The victors of World War 2 were embroiled in a cold war that brought out their darkest fears, even as they reached to the stars. Even as they enjoyed their riches, there was great racial tension. It was also a period where superhero titles were on the wane, due to Frederick Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, in which he argued that superheroes were responsible for psychologically disturbing America's youth (not, as one might suspect, the fallout of the war and the intense paranoia directed towards communists?). The large number of titles available in the war years had dwindled back to Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman with a greater number of other genres, like war, horror and cowboy comics taking their place.

And Cooke captures this. A lot of the story in this volume features characters like the Challengers of the Unknown, the original Suicide Squad and Losers, as well as locales like Dinosaur Island. Indeed, the scenes on Dinosaur Island are a set piece dream that remind of the old Harryhausen flicks but with a greater realism and symbolism.

Where the superheroes do appear (and it's a thrill when they do), they are woven into the times. Wonder Woman is helping women throw off their shackles, Green Lantern to be Hal Jordan is a pilot who looks set to join the space race and Ted Grant, the Wildcat, boxes in a casino. The action piece with the Flash is one of the best uses of the characters I'd ever seen and made me wish that Cooke would write a Flash book. At the same time, Cooke touches the essence of these characters. They all feel true to themselves (with the possible exception of Superman, who, as in Frank Miller's work, is played as a Government stooge, something that I have never felt appropriate to the character), doing what they would have been doing at the time if their comics hadn't been neutered by the Comics code.

And there seems to be one addition (although this may just show a gap in my knowledge of comic's history) in that the modern character Steel (I think) is implanted into the past with a much more violent origin involving the Ku Klux Klan that would never have been done at the time.

Intriguing also is the deeper storyline that surfaces towards the end of this volume involving Batman, cultists and J'Onn J'Onzz, the Martian Manhunter. It feels as if this book is moving to an exciting conclusion and I've ordered my copy of volume two straight away.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good for the most part, 3 Sep 2013
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
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This review is from: DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1 (Paperback)
Darwyn Cooke imagines the DC heroes back in the Silver Age, the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the first of two volumes called DC: New Frontier. Cooke works in real life events into the superhero story such as the Korean war, Eisenhower, fears over the bomb and McCarthyism. And while the book generally works quite well on the whole, it feels like a lot of heroes are underused - maybe that's the intention - and as a result the book becomes less interesting as it goes on.

The characters who get the most focus are the old Suicide Squad (not the New 52 idiots currently cast in that awful title), a group of tough soldiers sent on suicide missions. The book opens strangely with some soldiers shipwrecked upon an island that contains dinosaurs, kind of like DC's version of the Savage Land, as they struggle to survive. It's never clear what the dinosaurs have to do with the rest of the book but it's still a great opening sequence that's exciting, fun and pretty darn tense too.

Other, more familiar characters appear - Bruce Wayne shows up at some fancy dinners playing the part of louche millionaire while his alter-ego Batman investigates a series of cult murders with John Jones, a human detective who is really the alien J'onn J'onzz the Martian Manhunter (one of MM's powers is shape-shifting). It's delightful seeing J'onn become John as he learns by watching pulpy crime serials on TV how to act human but comes off as a cheesy fictional character.

Batman meanwhile is in the early days of his career and people aren't sure what to make of him - is he a criminal or a hero? But he does terrify people, unfortunately both criminals and the public, making kids cry after he saves them! We're also introduced to a young and idealistic Hal Jordan whose plane gets shot down in Korea and has to survive with a handgun, all the time with an eye towards space. Wonder Woman and Superman are both tools of the government, used to help the US in their international wars. And that's basically the whole gang.

All of which is great - the setting, the way Cooke writes and draws the characters, it's all done really, really well and I was loving the heck out of it. But the final third of the book underlines something I hadn't noticed (or cared about) before - the book has no plot. Things just happen because that's the era. The space race is on, various wars in the East are going on, the 50s are turning to the 60s and a new, youthful president is on his way into the Oval Office... throw in a few superheroes reacting to those events and that's fine. But by the end, I was scratching my head wondering what exactly the book was driving at. Is it really just a book that's all about the conceit rather than the story? It seems like it, though I have Volume 2 and haven't read it yet, maybe it'll explain more in that?

And while it's great seeing the superheroes in this context, they're really underused. Batman and Martian Manhunter are in maybe 10 pages tops. Same for Wonder Woman and even less for Superman. More time is devoted to guys out of costume and connected to the military in some way, and if I can't name them it's because they just weren't memorable enough. That and the way Cooke draws the men out of costume makes them all look the same. I'm not sure why Cooke chose this route but I'm not convinced the gamble worked. In the end, the lack of story, the exclusion of interesting, colourful characters in favour of blander characters, made New Frontier a bit of a bust.

Putting aside the same-y character designs, I love everything about Cooke's art. It's clean, it's crisp, it's wonderfully expressive, and Dave Stewart's colours really bring the pages to life. I like that Cooke chose to present the story in four wide panels per page, giving the story a cinematic quality and showing a lot of detail in the background besides the focus on the characters. It showcases Cooke's clearly extensive research as well as draws the reader more closely into this era.

New Frontier Volume 1 starts well but the lack of direction and final third of the book - which seems to be nothing but lengthy exposition - makes me wary to call it a masterpiece though I'll read the second book and see where it goes. Cooke would go on to write more successful books set in this time with his adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker books, and New Frontier is certainly no failure, but it's also not that great.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Superhero action from the 50s, 13 Jan 2008
By 
T. R. Alexander (East Anglia, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1 (Paperback)
Set during the 1950s era, this book is a nice change of pace to the more modern comics I have been reading recently. Due to the prevailing culture of paranoia and suspicion during the early Cold War period, the heroes of the time have been force to retire, register with the government or go underground and become as hunted as those they face. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman still do their best to protect the innocent but with new threats arising, a new generation of heroes are also coming to the fore, heroes such as Hal Jordan, the Flash and the Martian Manhunter.

This book was a joy to read with a great involving story and brilliantly retro art that suits the story perfectly. The era that the story is set is brought to life expertly and the plot is funny and enthralling throughout. I also like the brief appearance and origin of, what I assume to be the hero Steel in a rather dark and violent aside that is beautifully written and is probably my favourite part of the book. If the piece has a flaw it is that some of the characters are somewhat underused but that is only to be expected when you put all these iconic figures together. I will definitely be getting the second volume of this great series.
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DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1
DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1 by Darwyn Cooke (Paperback - 25 Feb 2005)
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