Remember the rush you got the first time you read Dark Knight, or your first manga comic, or your first Jack Kirby comic? The first comic you ever read by Alan Moore, or the first time you cracked the pages of Sandman or Preacher? Remember that spark when everything came together; old influences and new, comics and television and real life and a certain inexpressible special spark that made the book special? Remember how it felt like a bolt of lightning striking, sparking a whole new direction for comics?
New Frontier is such a comic.
I know that sounds like awfully high praise for a comic that’s only halfway done. Who knows how it will turn out? An awful lot of Alan Moore comics have weak endings, after all. But the point isn’t the end, it’s the journey itself, the amazing roller coaster ride that only a master of comics art can bring.
Make no mistake: Darwyn Cooke is a master. It seems weird to acknowledge him as one because he’s done so few comics in his career. But Cooke came from animation, where he helped develop Batman: the Animated Series, a cartoon that started a revolution of intelligence and production quality in cartoons. Before Batman, most cartoons looked cheap, thrown together with low production values and idiotic stories since, after all, kids don’t care about the quality of cartoons they watch, right? Batman proved that truism wrong. Kids do care about production quality and intelligence, and adults do, too, which helped to dramatically enlarge the audience for the cartoon.
Now Cooke has moved away from television and back to his first love, comics, and he’s bringing the same intelligence, passion and artistic vision to his magnum opus, New Frontier. Employing an animation-influenced art style, the comic looks deceptively simple at first glance. Cooke’s style is light and friendly when you first look at it, a welcoming sight to any reader. But look closer and there’s real depth. Like his idol Alex Toth, Cooke draws in a style where every line is important, every simple stroke conveys significance. That helps to add real depth to his story. More importantly, his style clearly and elegantly helps to convey the story he’s telling. Art and story work perfectly in concert with each other, one complimenting the other in order to tell an interesting story.
So yeah, I’ve fallen in love with this comic. It’s not perfect – there’s a sequence in this third issue that drags a bit – but Cooke has done such a brilliant job of bringing the reader along, of making them care deeply about some of the most obscure and silly DC characters of the ‘60s, that I have to trust him to follow through with a payoff.
You can buy it now or you can buy it in trade paperback in 2005, but why not be one of the first at your comics shop to say he’s read the next Dark Knight? This is the next comics classic.