Sunday, March 09, 2008

A New Vision of the Justice League's Origin!

Comics scripter and artist, Darwyn Cooke, created quite a splash when he wrote the mini-series, Justice League: The New Frontier. Those issues have been gathered into a graphic novel.

When I first read the issues, I have to admit to being a little put off. The story seemed to meander a little and took too long to develop in some ways. But it was really interesting seeing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash during the paranoid times of McCarthyism. The art seemed a little too unfinished for my taste for the first couple issues, but it was the first time I’d ever seen any of Cooke’s work. His writing and his art grew on me. By the third issue, I was won over by the storyline and the different look of the characters.

Justice League: The New Frontier is the second of DC Comics’ and Warner’s direct-to-DVD efforts. The first was Superman: Doomsday. Hopefully there will be a lot more to come. The special editions have the trailer for the Batman animated feature that will be coming out soon.

The movie strikes the same tone as the graphic novel. The mid-1950s to 1960 are represented in a number of ways. The suspicion of anyone from outside the country – including of Superman – is well-defined. Hal Jordan (voiced by David Boreanaz, Angel, Bones) as a Korean Air Force fighter pilot is well done and sets up his eventual recruitment by the Green Lanterns.

The Martian Manhunter (voice by Miguel Ferrer, Crossing Jordan, The Bionic Woman) seizes a big part of the story as both an alien newly arrived to our planet, a detective, and an outsider viewing the strange and politically suspicious world of the 1950s. One of the best parts of the movie for my son and I was watching the Martian Manhunter change into various characters while he watched television. When he unexpectedly changed into Bugs Bunny, we both lost it.

I really missed the opening segments of the comic book where the Losers comics heroes took on the dinosaurs of Dinosaur Island. I didn’t like the ending the Losers experienced, but I really noticed them absent from the continuity.

Like the comic series, you have to watch the movie closely to figure out everything that’s going on. The original Justice League origin story featured an alien menace to the world. The retelling of that origin, in the Justice League series recently on television, features a threat from Mars. And this movie also features an otherworldly menace, although it takes a while to build to that threat.

I loved seeing so many of the lesser known heroes of the DC universe in action: the Challengers of the Unknown, the Blackhawks, the Metal Men, Adam Strange, and others. When Darwyn Cooke wrote the original comics, I knew that he loved the characters and was paying homage to so much of their roots. That same kind of care and consideration is evident in this DVD production.

The Blu-ray video was fantastic. The colors were bright and varied. King Faraday’s gray eyes were arctic and really distinguished him. The audio was just as impressive.

As for special features, the disc comes fully loaded. There are two different commentaries and several features regarding the making of the film. One of the best pieces was the preview of Batman: Gotham Knight that’s supposed to come out in July. The anime style artwork looks breathtaking. There are also three of director Bruce W. Timm’s favorite Justice League Unlimited episodes on the disc.

Although Justice League: The New Frontier is a cartoon and is about characters familiar to kids, parents need to know that the violence is at times very graphic and the language can be occasionally coarse. All in all, though, this is a great movie to own, especially in the high-def versions.

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