Return to a Golden Age: Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier
♦ Originally published back in 2004, the late Darwyn Cooke’s affectionate love letter to DC’s most iconic superheroes and superheroines was a revelation when it was first published.
Then DC republished it as a chunky 520-page lavish hardcover, which is now available in trade paperback. You can still get the hardcover, but be prepared to pay a lot for it.
Cooke put DC heroes like Green Lantern, The Flash, Superman, Martian Manhunter and Batman in a real-world historical context, placing them in factual conflicts like the Korean War and alongside historical figures like Eisenhower and the racism of 1950s America, allowing him to distill the era’s Cold War paranoia via the treatment of Martian Manhunter.
Cooke’s art is classically elegant while staying contemporary and fresh at the same time. Cooke’s ambitious intention is to distill the history of the DC universe through the prism of real-world history, and sometimes his reach exceeds his grasp, but this still holds up as an innovative and enjoyable distillation of Cooke’s obvious love for classic comics.
The book also includes the one-shot that accompanied the New Frontier animated special, which acts as a rather nice postscript to the series, and the various covers and promotional art for the series. It’s a hefty tome but if you’ve never read The New Frontier before, it is a must-get for aficionados of American superhero comics with a rare streak of intelligence and nostalgic cool running through it. Cooke was a great writer and incredibly talented artist, and this series holds up just as well as it did when it was first published just over a decade ago. What is also interesting is that its sensibilities seem to be informing some of DC’s current output…