03 July, 2013

Social D was Right

I was wrong about The New Frontier. I was wrong and I'm sorry about that. So very, very sorry.

My main problems were that the beginning of the story struck me as dirivative of Watchmen which I think is a fair assumption considering how much of the landscape of comics is dirivative of Moore and Gibbons' work. (Also Cooke wrote and drew a Before Watchmen story and wrote another so, in hindsight, I am not all that far off base. But let's not waste any more calories than we already have). Where it becomes a stupid opinion is that it's much, much more than that, which is something most Watchmen rip-offs do not manage.

There's also a few more nebulous problems like the lack of Batman (and the Trinity in general), the appropriateness of the Centre as a villain (and it's inexplicable and hateful British spelling), and the fact that it's both too sprawling and too small.

Yet, now I feel the flaws less acutely and those few niggling doubts are overcome by the quality of the art and the quality of the storytelling. They're just mars on the piece, they aren't the piece itself. Darwyn Cooke might not be the literary heavy weight that Alan Moore is (which I mention because, rightly or wrongly, he weighs heavily in my outlook on comic books. . . mostly wrongly the more time goes on) or as prolific as a Jason Aaron or as clever as Jonathan Hickman, but he delivers something that none of these men can, which is that he can draw the stories that he writes.

He delivers something that is inherently part of the whole. There is no invisioning, there's no collaboration or compromises, there's just the finished work. Not every comic written and drawn by the same guy have that cohesion, though. Darwyn Cooke is just the guy who can fuse those things together, through style, though design, and through story. As a guy who piddles about with pens and pencils sometimes and has a back catalog full of genre bullshit that is inspiring. It means that someone can do it and do it well.

I think a lot of my esteem for Cooke comes from the work he did after The New Frontier (ie: the work I read after I read The New Frontier). Books like The Spirit and his odd story in Jonah Hex (a Canadian western? Okay. I guess that's not too weird) and especially his work on the Parker graphic novels have opened my eyes to the talented writer and artist that he always was. It wasn't that he got better it was that I was just too full of shit to see what was in front of me. The guy who forged that epic run on The Spirit is the same guy who spun out this wonderful not-quite Elseworlds tale.

Cooke loves good old fashioned fun and The New Frontier is chock full of that feeling-- that feeling that some things were better back then and if they weren't, at least they were simpler, more pure, more black and white. It's nostalgia done well. It doesn't shy away from the ugliness of the past, either. That's just another layer that he uses.

Another thing I find myself saying a lot and writing a lot is that this feels like storytelling judo. Cooke isn't screwing with things or skewering them or anything, instead he's it's using the momentum of nostalgia and the weight of the past to move into something else, bigger, and more impactful. And, again: It's great to see that someone can actually manage that.

I'm know I'm not breaking any news, I just wanted to make a correction. At least to increase the power of my other opinions, I'll say it again: I was wrong about The New Frontier.

That cartoon is still unlistenable, though. You'll bury me with that opinion.

And here's a Social Distortion song--

SIDE NOTE: The New Frontier was also a Las Vegas hotel. Like most of Las Vegas, it is thankfully long gone. What remains, though, are a few precious shards of history. I was going through an auction catalouge on my road trip with my dad and I found, coincidentally, some New Frontier chips for sale. They were estimated to sell for at least a thousand dollars. We are all obviously in the wrong racket.