And Justice For All…

Contrary to what most people tend to believe, comic books have always existed on the periphery of the social and political fabric. It is a medium that is ideal for exploring subjects of all depths and magnitudes, being both literary and visual in nature. For decades comics has been willing and able to broach topics both taboo and politically unsavory, though often in the most of subtle of ways, under the guise of men in capes and bright colors. In many ways these characters were not just fighting goofy villains with borderline WWF gimmicks, they were fighting for what it both good and imaginative inside all of us. Sure, you don’t believe me. It’s kids stuff, right? The truth is, if you gave me fifty dollars of your money, I guarantee I could find a few graphic novels that would not only change your mind about the medium of comics ( CLICK HERE for a few suggestions), but perhaps even the way you see the world in general.

But you’re not going to do that. Tonight, though, I found something more palatable to society’s tastes. A movie. Something you could rent through Blockbuster Online or Netflix without any financial gamble. Sure, it’s a cartoon, but hear me out.

A few years ago, a bright new writer named Darwyn Cooke wrote a graphic novel called The New Frontier. The book was sort of a modern glimpse of Silver Age comics. The term silver age refers to a specific period in comic book history, revising it’s original form from the Golden Age, and paving the way for the Modern Age. The silver age is both the wellspring and the bane of modern comics. You see, most of the stigmas about comics that the average person has comes from the silver age. It was wierd time, and many of the ideas the were birthed in that period were odd and some were borderline psychotic. But a lot of these ideas cultivated the imaginative and mature world of the Modern Age. It was like the progression from childhood to adulthood.

So it was kind of curious that Cooke chose to write about this wierd, wonderful era. I’d heard great review of the New Frontier, but at the time, I was going off to college and I foolishly believed it was time to put away childish things. It took time, but I slowly found my way back to the medium that I loved. By then, Cooke had become something of an Indie Rockstar in the comics world, getting great press, but staying on the fringe. He preferred to work on the smaller books that he felt was more important, like a pulp fiction version of Catwoman and the creation of deceased comics legend Will Eisner, The Spirit.

So again, I thought it was curious that DC comics chose Cooke’s New Frontier as the subject of their second major animated movie in a line that they are currently producing. They didn’t know it at the time, but the first movie they put out, Superman/Doomsday (which adapted the Death of Superman storyline from the 90’s) bombed horribly. Seriously, it was crap. So if Justice League New Frontier bombed, it would not bode well for the other animated released which are already well into production. But I’m here to say: it’s brilliant.

You can describe it a number of ways. In some ways it is a somewhat liberal, yet patriotic allegory for modern American issues. I don’t think it’s a stretch to infer that Hal Jordan’s statements about the Korean War reflect the feeling of some for the war in Iraq. I also believe that this is very much a Silver Age love letter by the film’s creators. And yes, in the end, it is a big, Flash-y (sorry) action movie starring the World’s Finest heroes.

The movie presents iconic (though in some cases, harsh) takes on the heroes that make up this world. Some will be familiar to you, such as Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman. But here, they are not leather fetish, nipple armored dancers, super-powered deadbeat dads or… err, Dixie Carter with hooker bracelets. This is very much a comic book brought to life. And in this case, it is brought to life by people you know. It stars Neil Patrick Harris, David Boreanaz (Angel), Kyle Maclachlan, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto and, as an inside joke, Lucy Lawless as the aforementioned amazon princess.

I won’t get into the plot exactly, since I don’t want to give away the movie. However I will say that the title of the movie is misleading, since the Justice League doesn’t technically appear as a team. That’s not what this is about. All of the characters do appear, and each, in true comic form, is given his or her moment to shine, giving the audience a clear understanding of the characters and their motivations and fears. Now, there are a number of characters that the audience will not know (Adam Strange, Green Arrow, the Blackhawks). And that is the movie’s one major flaw. Past the halfway mark, heroes begin appearing randomly without any introduction or foreshadowing (especially that last one). It is a noticeable error, but not distracting from the enjoyment of the film.

Make no mistake, this isn’t just some cartoon. In fact, I would hesitate before showing it to small children. The fact is, one of the main characters murders a soldier in an act of self preservation. And many other deaths are implied or shown to some degree or another. But if you enjoyed other comic book movies, I suggest you give this one a try. It is very much an example of some of the best elements of comics and science fiction. And it is also a good example for what great comic movie adaptations could be by simply involving the writer and creators who established these characters. Remember, these aren’t just funny book superheroes. They are the closest thing we have to modern mythology.

As for me… tomorrow is the day for new shipments at the local comic shop. I might just have to buy the New Frontier graphic novel.

see ya,

~ADAM

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptContrary to what most people tend to believe, comic books have always existed on the periphery of the social and political fabric. It is a medium that is ideal for exploring subjects of all depths and magnitudes, being both literary and visual in nature. For decades comics has been willing and able to broach topics both taboo and politically unsavory, though often in the most of subtle of ways, under the guise of men in capes and bright colors. In many ways these characters were not just fighting goofy villains with borderline WWF gimmicks, they were fighting for what it both good and imaginative inside all of us. Sure, you don’t believe me. It’s kids stuff, right? The truth is, if you gave me fifty dollars of your money, I guarantee I could find a few graphic novels that would […] […]

    Reply

  2. Very good and helpful post.
    Thx, your blog in my RSS reader now 😉

    Reply

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