RETRO REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER

With the recent passing of Darwyn Cooke, AFJ wished to supply its readers with an introduction or re-introduction to man's work. Many of us have seen his work, marveled at it briefly and moved on to the next pop culture item. We feel that his passing is a prime opportunity to look back at the man's legacy. In our opinion, JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER is an incredible place to begin. Many of us collect the DC Universe films. This very one could be sitting on your shelf. We ask that you take some time today and watch it. At the very least, share it with someone who may have never seen the film or read the comic. - Robert Trate, AFJ Columnist.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER
When Warner Brothers canceled “Justice League: Unlimited” I wondered how long it would take for the League to return.  It certainly didn’t take too long.  Based on Darwyn Cooke's award-winning graphic novel, ‘Justice League: The New Frontier’ is a re-imagined retro look at the origin of the Justice League. 

The film begins when the Earth was still a red ball of fire.  A visitor from another world, who will call itself “The Center” (Keith David), makes the Earth its home.  Watching the world as it evolves, “The Center” realizes that there is an infestation.  An infestation called man.  From its opening moments with comic book like pages turning and a brush changing those very pages, you can tell that ‘Justice League: The New Frontier’ is going to be different. 

There are several brief introductions and origins in the ‘Justice League the New Frontier’.  Two stand out above all the rest: Hal Jordan’s a.k.a the Green Lantern (David Boreanaz) and J'onn J'onzz’s a.k.a. the Martian Manhunter (Miguel Ferrer).  These two iconic characters take center stage in the story.  This delivers a refreshing change of pace from your typical Superman and Batman Justice League story.  Their personal stories help shape this retelling of Earth’s mightiest heroes’ first adventure.

Hal Jordan has been looking for an escape.  Haunted by his final moments of the Korean War, probably the most graphic moment in animated Justice League history, he looks to the stars for an escape.  Jordan is a test pilot who is hired by a private firm to be an astronaut for a journey to Mars.  The actual mission is kept from Jordan and its revelation reveals what we already know.  That he is a hero that will cherish all life and sacrifice everything for what is right.

J'onn J'onzz, a Martian, is trapped on Earth with no means of escape.  He is looking for a place to belong.  Trying to understand Earthlings he walks the Earth helping them by being one of them.  In case you didn’t know, one of J'onn J'onzz many abilities is to change shape.  Knowing that Earthlings are inherently good, J'onn J'onzz believes he can make a difference by fighting for what is right.  He really is the tragic hero in this story and much like in “Justice League: Unlimited” the Manhunter has more humanity than any other character in the Justice League.

Fear not. Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Superman (Kyle MacLachlan), Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) and the Flash (Neil Patrick Harris) all play important roles.  Besides the Flash, their roles are reduced in size compared to Darwyn Cooke's original story.  In all honesty, it was a great change of pace to have Batman be a side player and recapture some of his mystery.  Superman and Wonder Woman have a relationship where they are at odds with one another.  Two different perspectives of America are seen through their eyes.  Superman believes in the American dream, where Wonder Woman only sees the American reality.  Darwyn Cooke's perspective on American culture and these characters invigorate this story to a level and a place that the Justice League hasn’t gone before.

Even with its huge climatic battle between “The Center” and all of the newly formed Justice League the film is not heavy on action.  Not a lot of POW and BAM going on in ‘Justice League: The New Frontier’.  This is a character piece.  So much so I actually thought it was going to have a cliff hanger and another DVD would soon be in the works.  This is the complete story of ‘Justice League: The New Frontier’.  Albeit shortened for time constraints ‘Justice League: The New Frontier’ still delivers on the source materials iconic storytelling and magic.

What’s different from the Comic?

(Possible Spoilers)

Obviously, the complete work was transformed into a seventy-five-minute cartoon.  It does come extremely close to the comic.  However, there were a few things missing that stood out.  The opening of the comic and its story with the Dinosaur Island is only briefly mentioned in news broadcasts.  The McCarthy-type witch hunts of the superheroes are also briefly mentioned.  Gone is a lot of the public relation stunts with Superman and Wonder Woman.  Ace Morgan (John Heard) and Hal Jordan’s relationship is shortened but it still accomplishes the same end result.  As much as they focused on J'onn J'onzz they left out a lot of his detective work on the comic book about “The Center”.  Everything still works in the story, but that was my favorite part of Darwyn Cooke’s book.

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