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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier: Early Review

I'm not planning on doing too many reviews here, but since I got an early look at this direct-to-video movie, and enjoyed it, I want to encourage others to get excited about the upcoming release. There are some mild spoilers, as in any review, so stop reading if you want to remain unspoiled.

The New Frontier (available in 2 soft cover volumes and a deluxe Absolute edition) is a six-issue mini-series, written and drawn by Darwyn Coooke, which overlays the genesis of the classic DC Universe heroes (focusing on Hal Jordan / Green Lantern) on top of the McCarthy era of distrust in the 1950s. The best description (which has been used plenty of times) is the creation of the Justice League meets the Right Stuff.

The movie (slightly retitled to include Justice League) is the second in the series of animated adaptations of DC Comic stories, and is worlds more accurate than the first movie, Superman / Doomsday. Basically, like Sin City, comic panels served as the direct inspiration for many of the scenes, and it is easy to freeze frame the movie to match the comic.

Pre-credit scene from The New Frontier

The movie runs an hour and twelve minutes, which meant subplots were removed, but not forgotten. Because these excised events are mentioned in the story, whether on a newspaper clipping, or a tombstone, it felt as the events still occurred, only off screen. Sticking to the source material was a welcome change to Superman / Doomsday, where all but the basic story was altered to make it a more standalone story.

Superman versus the End of the World

Nothing about the story was toned down from the source, nothing was altered to make this more palatable for a wider audience. Characters kill, blood is spilled, and the PG-13 rating is justly earned. The movie assumes its audience understands the basics of the heroes, and does not weigh down the story with unnecessary exposition. While there were slight moments I did not like, these take nothing away from a masterful adaptation of one of the best pure superhero books in the last ten years.

The voice work was good, the cast matched the characters well enough that no voice was distracting. The animation fit the comic art, while I prefer a more fluid style, I cannot fault them for the choice. The nicest part of the art style were the background scene paintings, which reminded me of concept art paintings done for Disney theme parks. I have high hopes for the high definition version to look flawless.

Villains to come...

The biggest disappoint with this movie is how excellent it is, because once it ends, you'll want more. With only one more title announced (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract), it would be a shame if these did not sell well enough to continue faithful adaptations in the future. Justice League: The New Frontier will be released on February 26 in standard definition and on Blu-ray disc, with a HD-DVD release following three weeks later on March 18. What ever format you prefer, I recommend this title to anyone who loves a pure superhero story.

The Justice League in action.

(All images copyright their respective owners. All rights reserved.)

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