Comics Spotlight On: The New Frontier

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Happy Comics Release Day!

Given that I picked on DC earlier this week for their Cry of Justice mini-series and their continual reliance on gore and death, I wanted to spotlight something they did very right.

DC: The New Frontier.

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When someone asks me why I love superheroes, this is the story I give them.

The New Frontier was published as a six-issue mini-series beginning in 2004, the same year as Identity Crisis, the mini-series that I panned on Monday. I feel about that the same way I feel about the musical episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. If I had to go through that mediocre season just so I could have the musical episode, then it was worth it.

Summary:

The story begins in the 1950s, as the Golden Age heroes are retiring or being forced to retire by a hostile government and then follows the renewal of the age of heroes with the appearances of the Silver Age Flash, Green Lantern, and many others, most notably the Martian Manhunter.

All the heroes, those trusted by the government and those working on their own, are brought together to face the overwhelming threat of a sentient island intent on destroying America and then the world.

But that’s only the bare bones of the plot. It’s really about what makes a hero, with or without powers.

What Kids Will Like About It:

The opening chapter features a military squad fighting dinosaurs–including a T-Rex– on the Island That Time Forget. There’s a terrific action sequence as Flash fights Captain Cold to save his lady love, Iris. Hal Jordan’s joy at being able to fly via power ring is great to read.

And there’s a wonderful action sequence at the end as the heroes band together against all odds to save the world.

The New Frontier was made into a direct to DVD movie, which might be a good way to introduce kids to the story. It’s a nice adaptation but while it preserves the story, I thought it was a little solemn.

What Parents Will Like About It:

This story deals with some very serious issues: The government spying on citizens. Racism. Madness. Death. Like Pixar’s Up, it’s a very adult story with very childlike trappings and thus can reach both audiences.

It has one of the most touching and tragic sacrifices to save others that I’ve ever read. Even now, it puts a lump in my throat. (Sadly, this didn’t make it into the movie.)

It is also the best Hal Jordan story I’ve ever read. I’d never particularly liked the character until this story. And if you’re a fan of the Barry Allen Flash or the Martian Manhunter, you want to read this story.

Best Panel:

I could pick a lot of heroic panels or splash pages. But the one image that sticks with me more than any other from the series is this one, which shows the tragic end of John Henry Irons.

This image is exactly what I meant when I said superhero stories could handle the most horrific events well, with the right tone, without resorting to blood or the death of innocents.

About the Creator:

The series is the vision of Darwyn Cooke, who also wrote Selina’s Big Score for DC, a novel that started the Catwoman revamp continued by Ed Brubaker. Cooke has been featured in the New York Times for his graphic novel adaption of The Hunter, based on the 1962 crime novel by Donald Westlake.

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