Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC (duh)
Price: $6.95 USD
A black man survives being lynched by the KKK, and takes revenge as a masked vigilante. Four men survive a plane crash against all odds and logic. They team up to challenge the unknown forces of the world. Hal Jordan is hired by Ferris Aircraft as a test subject for secret experiments. He’s then invited to join Task Force X on a mission to Mars. Seems they’ve found evidence of a living Martian on Earth. That Martian opens a magic book, (recovered in last issue’s adventure), and learns of a terrible evil power; A power already on Earth.
Well this is a 7-dollar comic, I can tell you that! 64 pages without ads; the origin of the Suicide Squad; a new black hero (who looks like Hooded Justice from ‘Watchmen’); the Manhunter laughing at a sci-fi film; the formation of a new team of adventurers; more of Hal Jordan; a dammed scary Batman; and Wonder Woman being pushed aside because of her politics. This is a big hearty meal of a comic book, with a chicken breast, three vegetables, bottomless breadbasket and a tall glass of milk. ‘The New Frontier’ leaves you sated, with enough room for desert.
From start to finish, Cooke creates a mood of paranoia and moral relativity. We learn how Task Force X was formed and its connection to other hidden government groups. (One such group, Argent, quietly eliminated most “mystery men”.) Batman basically scares the Manhunter into helping him. A victim of racial prejudice fights against his tormenters. This is a time of fear, of uncertainty, of anything different being destroyed to maintain the status quo.
But weird isn’t always a bad thing. Weird is four strangers surviving a plane crash with no injuries. The Challengers of the Unknown are brought together by a mystery, something none of them can explain. Deep down, they seem to realize there’s more to the world than what can be explained. But instead of running away from it, they embrace it. Each of these men has succeeded in their field. The only challenges left for them are the things no one else has seen. As character Rocky Davis says, “We four are adventurers at heart”. They’ve beaten death and now they’re looking for new ways to escape it. I don’t think the Challengers are out to rid the world of monsters. If they did, there’d be nothing left to fight. And their lives, all our lives, would be very dull. The Manhunter observes that Americans fear the unknown and hate what they can’t control or understand. The Challengers are heroes because they don’t fear the unknown, and try to learn about what they don’t understand.
Task Force X destroys all of that. They are deeply disturbed people who’ve also survived deadly situations, but not as “neatly” as the challengers. For them, survival came at a price. Other people died so they could live. They’re haunted by the guilt. All they do is keep surviving, no matter what.
The series has a retro-style look with modern touches. The art isn’t as stiff as most DC comics from the 1950s. There’s an element of life to these characters. Perhaps it’s the extra detail put into the faces and motions. Cooke’s art is simple at first, but closer examination reveals as much realism as “serious” art. I don’t think anyone can draw just like Cooke. And it’s great to see him use his skills to the utmost in his own series. Buy it!
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