Sunday, March 9, 2008

I call a moratorium on Superman-Batman fights

Okay. That's it. No more. I just read Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier one-shot tie-in for the animated adaptation of his mini-series, and I have to call shenanigans. I've had enough: it has become a cliche to have Superman fight Batman and have Batman meticulously plot it out and beat Superman. It's a cliche. Here's why: I've seen it before. More than once. I love Darwyn Cooke's art - it's beautiful and stylized, so I'm almost willing to give him a free pass here. Almost. This is certainly the best drawn Supes-Bats fight, but that doesn't excuse the fact that I've seen this before.

So the New Frontier special is three stories scripted by Cooke, only the first drawn by Cooke. The first chapter is the aforementioned fight that is supposed to be a missing chapter from the original mini-series. It's a terrifically drawn story that has the President giving a direct order to Kal to bring in that masked vigilante called The Batman (as he's commonly called in The New Frontier). Kal struggles with the decision and consults with Wonder Woman. If Batman is fighting for the good of Gotham, isn't he working for the greater good? What is the true greater good in this case? Is it following the President's orders (the Prez's definition of the greater good) or is it allowing The Batman to fight for his city and for good? This boils down to a main theme from the original series, and the philosophical struggle Superman has represented for in The New Frontier: does Kal fight for justice or does he fight for the law?

Cooke's skills as a scripter are often forgotten when speaking of his work, but the missing chapter encapsulates, very briefly, the grand drama playing out in Superman, in Wonder Woman, and in The Batman. It doesn't take long for Cooke to lay this out, and it's a compliment to his talents that he does so very efficiently.

The second story isn't drawn by Cooke, but it's in the same cartoony style. It's a team-up between Robin and Kid Flash as they investigate something or other. The story is really besides the point; the interaction of the two characters sold the story so well. It ends with JFK dubbing the two of them the teen titans, which Robin finds corny. *Lol*. That's sarcasm, by the way.

Finally, we have a Black Canary-Wonder Woman team up that is drawn so painfully that I couldn't even finish it. WW looks like she's 300 pounds - a very remarkable difference than Cooke's beautiful muscular lithe Diana. The story was also tedious: something about Playboy bunnies or something. It was terrible.

All in all, I was pretty disappointed. I love original New Frontier. Not even Cooke's terrific pencils could save the story from the terrible cliche. The first chapter doesn't present anything new that the original mini-series hasn't already expertly done. Oh well. Not everything is a winner.

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