Saturday, February 21, 2004

Cover to Cover

Let's call this an experiment. Hopefully it will be a successful one, and hopefully it won't be a boring one. I've just finished reading DC: The New Frontier #2 for the secondtime, and have decided to to a very lengthy "review" of it. Now, before I start I should say two things: one, there might be spoilers, though a book like this really doesn't have "spoilers" and two, my knowledge of the DCU especially its history, is very, very limited, so I'll try not to make any assumptions about something I'm not sure about.

Okay, we can start with the cover, which I'll foolishly admit threw me off at first. I honestly had no idea what it was. Funny, isn't it. Of course, after looking closely I realized that it was part of Flash's costume...but then I noticed that it wasn't just that. The beakers and the vials, the "explosion" at the end of the lightning bolt, the crimson-black color surrounding what could conceivably be the moon...Darwyn Cooke has given us the origin of the Flash right on the cover. Now, I may just be slow, maybe everyone picked up on that as soon as the saw it, but I didn't. I think it may very well be one of the best covers I've ever seen.

The inside cover has one of those "Duck and Cover" adds that were so common in the time period, which also adds a bit more nostalgia to the book, not that it needs anymore. So, here we are, Book Two: Strange Adventures.

Chapter Four (hard to believe Cooke covered three chapters in the last book, but it was sure long enough) Gods and Monsters. How fitting. Cooke begins the issue with a "retelling" (could be a re-imagining" for all I know) of how the Martian Manhunter came to Earth. Now, Jonn is very recognizable, but he's also quite creepy.

From there we go to Superman, who has happened upon a massacre of sorts, in Indo-China. Further investigation reveals Wonder Woman is somewhat responsible. We get a small tale of how she freed some captured women, then gave them an option to avenge themselves. They did so, and harshly. Diana's speech hits close to home when Kal asks how she could stand by and watch, that she was supposed to set an example. Diana's reply: "What, hand them a smile and a box of flags? Their families, their mates...their children were murdered before their eyes. This is civil war. I've given them freedom and a chance for justice...the Amercian Way!" She could very well be talking about modern problems, not just those of years past.

After that we return to Jonn, acclimating himself with American culture, which is quite humourous, especially the use of another Warner property, Bugs Bunny. When he happens to catch a detective show (Mike Hammer no less) he decides that's what he'll be, Det. John Johns

From there we have a small series of events (one panel each) showing the origin of Flash, Russias first venture into space and Eisenhower's pledge to stop communism and to advance our own space program.

Then we go back to Gotham (two years later by now) to find John Johns and a private detective named Slam, hot on the trail of some kidnappers. Slams comment that "John is the only honest cop in Gotham, other than that new guy, Gordon," lends itself nicely to the nostalgic feel. He also comments on the hokeyness of Johns' comments, "corny as a comic book," he says.

When they do make it to the kidnappers hideout, they discover they've been beaten to the punch. Here we have our first look at Batman in action. What's really interesting here is that not only does this serve as our intro to Batman, but when the place catches fire we also get the chance to discover Johns only real weakness.

When Bats takes down the leader of the cult, Cooke lets his characters describe the horror, as opposed to letting the art do it for him. Here, less is indeed more. Slam describes Batmans handling of the crook as such: "I've seen my share of hard candy. I was a jarhead i the Pacific. There was even a time I collected for the juice man to make ends meet. But this--this bat-guy, he made my blood run cold."

The fact that Batman scares the very kid he's trying to save was a nice touch too. I'm not sure about the next part, as Johns picks up a locked book the cult had, and their leader is screaming about "the centre." Hopefully it's a dangling plotline that will get wrapped up, otherwise it's a piece of DC history I'm unfamiliar with.

End Chapter Three. I'll take a moment to comment on the visuals for it right now. Cooke's Wonder Woman is hands down the best I've ever seen. She seems much more like a warrior than the T&A object she's become. His Manhunter is creepy in alien form, and very "hard-boiled" as a human, very cliched, which is the effect he's going for. In fact, Johns appearence and demeanor reflect how the rest of the world percieved America to be. Cooke's Superman is spot-on, reminding me very much of the old Fleischer cartoons (definitely not a bad thing). The panels with Wonder Woman and Superman are quite interesting, seeing her basically take charge of the situation, not backing down from "the man." Very, "women's lib" kind of thing, without beating you over the head with it. His Batman seems to almost move on the page, and is almost as creepy as his Manhunter. In fact, all the art seems very "fluidic." it's almost like watching an old newsreel or one of those old serials. The fact that Bats doesn't say a word makes his appearence that much better.

Told you it would be long...and that's just the one chapter. Perhaps I'm in over my head, so I'll break these up. Chapter five later, that'll give me a bit more time to collect my thoughts on it, maybe reread the book again, then maybe I'll get to six by tomorrow.


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