Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Book Two: Strange Adventures (DC comics)
DC: The New Frontier #2 When: April 2004
Why: Darwyn Cooke How: Darwyn Cooke

The story so far...
America is changing as the decades bleed from the forties, to the fifties, to the sixties and the emergence of world influences. Men of power are changing in both the White House, and the ranks of the superhero community.

The old guard are forced to come to terms with the new breed of heroes emerging, and the strange new events and threats that accompany them. Among the new blood, Martian Manhunter, the Flash and Green Lantern, all bringing with them vibrance and youth to a jaded post-war tier.

As alien presences begin to press greater influence on this world, the heroes and their villains take shape, and are inevitably drawn to one and other in the common goal of justice. This is not the story of an end to the old ways, but rather to the hope of a new frontier.

Previous Form:
Flash (#82): Aided DKR Batman in the defeat of Superman.
Captain Cold: Making his first appearance.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Flash 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Flash 5 (Professor)
Speed: Flash 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Flash 6 (Generator)
Agility: Flash 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Captain Cold 4 (Arsenal)

Gurr-gee-gee-geeeee...Y'know, the Flash was one of the many characters I regarded as close favourites, and as much as I loved his colourful villains, even as a child there was something that stuck with me: None of them are really in his league...

Okay, obviously that's only marginally true, because they do engage him regularly, and have even out lasted this particular Flash [Barry Allen] to menace his successor, Wally West.
But I don't really feel I need to elaborate. I think most of you, familiar with the nature of this section, already know what I'm getting at.

Guys who mess with the weather, guys with concealed joy buzzers, guys who spin really fast... Look, I live in Australia, and even I laugh at the notion of a boomerang wielding ginger in a silly coat, and I actually know how deadly the damned things are!

The problem with all of these guys is that they're going up against a chap who can dress you up in a customized three-piece suit before you can even blink, just to pull your pants down infront of everybody! He's the fastest man alive!

Our tape ranks the Flash, particularly police scientist, Barry Allen, at a healthy Meta rating. Even so, this doesn't really acknowledge the fact that, like a low rating Hulk, the Flash is a fairly one-note character. Granted, his note is very potent and versatile with the right imagination, but is still essentially defined by moving fast.

You'll get discrepencies in the canon, but a guy who moves fast (without the magic of a speed force plot device) can be undone by something as simple as a rope tied across a highway, which is probably where we arrive for Captain Cold.

A guy who burgled an Eskimo and whipped himself up a soft-serve gun isn't the most intimidating guy to walk down the street, but against a man who depends on movement, he suddenly makes a lot of sense. As a specialist villain, Captain Cold attacks the Flash at his strength, using his cyclon powered freeze guns to literally stop the Flash in his tracks.

There are a lot of ways for the Flash to get around that kind of power, and at the end of the day I'm not going to try to form an argument for a one-on-one victory for Cold. Suffice to say, his position as a senior member of the Rogues is often the key to his victory, if not more contrived applications of strategy.

I like Captain Cold. He's a fun and interesting villain.
Leonard Snart is probably as sympathetic as your Mr. Freeze's of the world, but there's a special charm about his character and brazen attitude to some of the deeds he and his company perpetrate.

The Math: The Flash (Meta Class)
The Pick: The Flash (He runs fast!)

What went down...
Iris Allen, reporter for a swanky magazine, is on location in Las Veges for the big title fight between Wildcat and Clay to do a piece on fashion when, during a phone call to her husband Barry, things turn sour!

An explosion sends the lounge singer on stage sprawling, and from deep within the icey smoke steps an individual even colder: Captain Cold!
Spying the young lady on the telephone, Cold fires a blast that freezes the phone right out of her hand, but not before she can tell her husband the identity of her attacker. A man all too familiar to Barry Allen aka The Flash!

Moving at fantastic speeds, the weird red garbed Flash blurs his way across the nation in the direction of Las Vegas! As quick as his name implies, the Flash arrives at the club, catching a speedy hug from his favourite gal, before making a line for the man with the frigid disposition.

In the time it takes for Cold to shout "stop", the Flash is on him, pulling his punch at the last second, just to hear what the villain has to say for himself.

Having anticipated the potential interference of the scarlet speedster, Captain Cold reveals a contingency plot. Planted throughout the city are six tiny cryogenic explosives, each set to detonate thirty seconds from Cold's escape, or instantly should the Flash strike him. With his exit covered, the Flash has no choice but to abandon justice to ensure the safety of the public.

A waiting chopper descends through the open roof of the club, arriving to collect Captain Cold and his ill gotten gains, as a unique collection of personalities watches on from a private box. "I wish my buddy Jay was here. He sure would've loved to have seen this," remarks the champ, Ted "Wildcat" Grant.

The Flash streaks a red and gold blur all across the glitzy neon lit city, but is only able to turn up five of the alleged six bombs. After checking three times over it dawns on the Flash that the sixth was a final stalling tactic, to keep him busy while Cold made his getaway.

With the bombs tied to a balloon, the Flash powers his way up through a hotel, launching himself at high speed to collide perfectly with the open cockpit of the escaping helicopter. He yanks Cold into a carefully calculated descent toward a decorative fountain, rather than the pavement below.

Landing with a splash, Cold has a meltdown over the Flash's continued interference in his schemes, even miles away from Central City.

Things go from bad to worse for Captain Cold, as his ice gun begins to malfunction thanks to a little super speedy tampering at the hands of the Flash! Waist deep in water, Captain Cold is left by the hero to be detained poetically in bondage of his own design, the ice of the fountain freezing into an impressive sculpture as his gun explodes.

Then, high above the club, Cold's cryogenic bombs detonate, showering the Las Vegas desert with snow. Vibrating out of the visual frequency, Barry Allen takes in the rare sight with the rest of the crowd.

The hammer...
Your winner, and raining speedster, The Flash!

Okay, yes. I realise that doesn't make any sense, but I really wanted to have some kind of witty pun, and that was the best I could come up with at such short notice. I'll be sure to come with something prepared next time, ya lousy critical mooks!

So, if you stay abrest of comics hooplah you'll be well familiar with Darwyn Cooke's masterpiece, DC: The New Frontier. Few can debate the sheer grandeur of this comic, that was widely acclaimed by industry and fan alike as one of the best mini-series to be released in the last decade.

Not too long after the release of the book, DC/Warner announced a series of direct-to-video animated projects, including adaptations of well known comic series, including The New Frontier. Flash forward to now [see what I did there?] and you can soak in the exciting news and previews coming our way, with the official release date, Spring 2008!

The New Frontier really is the kind of comic any DC superhero fan needs to read. While it embodies much of what uninformed fans regard as DC's faults, it seems to be a book that has managed to transcend even the most irrational of barriers to be one of the most important superhero works ever.

New Frontier owes much of it's success to a sincere and indulgent take on the characters, that pays worthy homage to the days of old, but does so with a modern sensibility that takes full advantage of the development of comic book story telling techniques, and streamlines it all into an exciting, vignette styled sequential read.

The characters all benefit from fifty years of hindsight, strong in characterization, and instantly recognisable to most modern readers, despite the nostalgia slant. Batman appears; paranoid and solitary in a fashion more familiar to the last twenty years of the character. Likewise, Wonder Woman is far from a timid bondage queen, more akin to today's Wonder Woman, strong and certain in her actions -- a true warrior princess, ready to strike with uncompromising justice!

Many regard it for it's spine as a strong Hal Jordan story, but while you wouldn't know it from this site, but I'm a big Martian Manhunter fan. I think his portions of the story, particularly his interactions as a Gotham City detective, are the most pleasure I took from it. In a lot of ways it harkens back to one of my favourite stories from a 1988 issue of Secret Origins, that retells a similar period in Martian Manhunter's life through a very stylized style that echoes the three panel format here, and the type written monologue.

All in all New Frontier is a great read, that goes to lengths to remind us in a time of numerical restarts and character revamps, that the classics don't tarnish. As much as we all desire change, no one can rightly say that a Batman or a Superman is just a cape. These characters, human or otherwise, are legends!

I'm looking forward a great deal to the animated feature, and if you weren't aware or interested previously, hopefully this little entry has provided a teaser to whet your apetite. I think it's going to be a blast, with an interesting cast of voice talent, including Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen/The Flash.

I can't say I've ever thought of The Flash as sounding that shade of young, but I don't doubt the competence of Harris' acting ability, and this is a younger period for the Flash. Ugh, I could start ranting and raving about "my" Flash and all the different Flashes, and that would be very topical given recent events with Bart Allen, but I think I'll leave that for another day.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 7
[The greatest triumph in straight superhero storytelling of the last decade. A must-read for anyone comfortable with the genre. Technicolour, character and action like you won't find it anywhere else. Brilliant!]

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