DC Comics
DC: The New Frontier Trade-Paperback Review
By Hervé St-Louis
July 22, 2021 - 09:17

DC Comics
Writer(s): Darwyn Cooke
Artist(s): Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, David Bullock, Michael Cho
Colourist(s): Dave Stewart
Letterer(s): Jared K. Fletcher
Cover Artist(s): Darwyn Cooke
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9092-4
$34.99 USA, $45.99 CAD

The Golden Age of heroes has waned, and they are now chased, asked to retire, or sanctioned by the government. However, a new age of heroes rises up to meet a new deadly threat for the rest of the planet. Can older and newer heroes work together to stop this menace?

Although Darwyn Cooke did not just draw superhero comics, this series will remain the comic work he is best known for. At heart, he was a fan of DC Comics, and in this series, he told the one story he wanted to tell for years, much like Alan Moore had done in Watchmen. The difference, is that Cooke was drawing and writing everything himself, joining a rare group of cartoonists who master the superhero genre, such as John Byrne, Frank Miller, Jim Starlin, and Jack Kirby, of course.

As is wont of such cartoonists, they offer a vision that is copied and inspires their generation for years to come, while drawing the accolades of the non-superhero comic book critics, fans, and connoisseurs. One of the strengths of Cooke is his ability to mix comic book timelines with real world events, drawing as much as possible from the lore of previous comics and creating a meta tale where all origins and endings are part of one gigantic storyline. For example, his use of Nathaniel Adams set the stage for the future appearance of Captain Atom without pushing it. Fans of the character will know that Adams did not die in the nuclear blast but was pushed to the future, inheriting new powers, as he appears to die in an important mission inside of the island size creature that threatens the world.

Surprisingly, it was the first time that I was reading this epic comic. Don’t ask me why I had never picked it up. I have no reasonable excuse, except to say, that I completely missed it. I did watch the cartoon adaptation and thus was familiar with the work. I fond that the cartoon, as products of that genre often do, streamlined the story and made it easier for non comic book readers to relate and understand. There are many sets of non-superhero characters in this story. Some, like the Challengers of the Unknown were easier to differentiate, but I had to use reference for many of the others. This detracted from the reading experience.

A major criticism of the story is the over reliance on narrative boxes for various characters. At best, they should have been coloured or lettered differently to better differentiate each character. The problem with this narrative device in the New Frontier, is that they all had the same internal monologue voice. It became repetitive and made the real stars of the series, like Barry Allen, John Jones, and Hal Jordan seem less important.

Visually, the comic is incredible and nearly perfect with a good mix of retro neon, and futurist designs echoing the postwar era. Now, the storytelling was not always perfect. There are several pages which could be read as a double-spread but were not. The action did not always flow from panel to panel quite well. The colouring by Dave Stewart was impressive and added to the mood of the story in many places. Stewart is great at creating unified colour palettes for pages.

The edition that I obtained is a 500 plus page trade-paperback that comes with an extra DC New Frontier Special story and preview pages from the animated adaptation of the comic. The edition I have is labelled as being published under the Black Label imprint in listings, but it is not. It is an edition that was released just before the Black label imprint took over. There are so many editions of this series that it can be complicated sometimes to figure out which is which. Unfortunately, using the correct ISBN number does not help either.

Rating: 8/10

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