Darwyn Cooke is one of those guys that's constantly being recommended to me but for some reason he and I never seemed to cross paths on any book he was working on that I was reading.
However when I heard about New Frontier it sounded like something that I would love. When it comes to DC I like nothing better than when they play with their legacy characters. Stories that tap that rich vein of history that is so unique to the DC universe are 'must buys' for me.
From everything that I had read this was exactly what New Frontier was to be.
So imagine my dismay when I crack open #1 and I'm confronted by a war story!
Now don't get me wrong I'm not totally against war stories. I've read and loved 'The Unknown Soldier' and Kirby's Golden Age Captain America stuff - hell I'm even up for a bit of 'The Haunted Tank' every now and then. However when I'm all geared up to read classic super-hero stuff mixed with fur-collared flight jackets and bouffant hairdos, seeing a bunch of ordinary joes packing machine guns and camo-gear just isn't going to cut the mustard.
Two things stopped me from simply slinging the book across the room in a fit of childish, fanboy disappointment. The first thing was that these 'ordinary joes' were the Losers. They're a DC legacy I was familiar with and that got me a little interested to see how they would tie to the things I'd read about the series.
The second thing was that about three pages into the issue they blow a Tyrannosaurus Rex's arm off with a bazooka.
That my friends is simply good comic-booking.
From that moment I was hooked. I ate up every minute as each of the Losers was cut down by the grotesque pre-historic nasties that populated this remote island to which they'd been sent on a search and rescue mission.
It's pretty harrowing to watch these guys buy it one by one in a state of utter confusion as to what the hell their good old Uncle Sam had gotten them into. The loss of Sarge, the last Loser standing apart from the issues nominal hero Johnny Cloud, was the most gut wrenching of all.
Sarge's death also stands out as one my favorite sequences of the issue. I mean if you're a tough as nails, grizzled, eye-patch sporting marine and you have to go out? You want to do it still machine gunning a swooping Pterodactyl while your crippled body is hoisted up on the shoulder of your running comrade:
That moment gets you where you live. If I wasn't already totally on board from that previous moment of bazooka-dismemberment, this one would've sold me.
However, as so very good as both of those moments were, nothing tops the big finish. Darwyn Cooke has merely been setting us up so far, as you read the last bunch of pages you have no idea you're about to be knocked clean out of the park.
So with his squad dead, by pure luck and happenstance Johnny Cloud manages to complete their mission single-handed. He retrieves the lost officer (one Rick Flagg for all those with their DC Legacy characters score cards at the ready at home) and gets him to the beach. However instead of escaping the island with Flagg, Johnny deigns to stay and die with his fallen comrades.
Not just die - like curl up in a little sobbing ball and die - uh uh, he's going to die avenging the murder of his fellow Losers.
For those not keeping track, avenging the murder of his fellow Losers would entail....fighting a freaking T-Rex!
Sadly his plan for righteous, bloody vengeance goes a bit skeewiff when he trips a booby trap and blows himself to bloody ribbons. These losers are a hardy lot though. Undetered by that whole 'blowing himself up right under the nose the looming T-Rex he's come to kill' snafu - Johnny Cloud struggles to his feet, pops the tops of his last two hand grenades, takes a deep cleansing breath....and gets his revenge.
Wow. Just wow.
It doesn't get better than that.
I was so enthused and invigorated by this issue that I jumped on the old YouAreComic blog to pen this post before reading another page. So impressed by the quality of this opening issue am I that I'm advising all of my loyal readers out there to go out and get themselves a copy of this series. Hell plunk down $85 for the big, tasty Absolute edition!
On the strength of issue one alone I'm going to out on a limb and give the whole series YouAreComic's very highest seal of approval.
However I should point out that if you join me out here on my limb and it turns out the rest of the issues suck ass, well what can I tell ya?
Dude still blew up a dinosaur.