The Absolute best of 2006

So far, we’ve recounted lots of the good and the bad of 2006 in comics, from series to covers to issues to moments and so on. The following is something that didn’t quite fit into our “best of” rubric, so I offer it as a standalone thought. And that thought is, of every bit of comics from 2006 that I read, the thing I enjoyed more than any other was the release of Absolute New Frontier from DC.

This isn’t the first time New Frontier has been mentioned on the Legion of Doom. Earlier, Fin Fang Doom reviewed both of the TPB collections of Darwyn Cooke’s series (Vol. 1 here and Vol. 2 here). What I’ll try to focus on here are the additional features of the Absolute format and what takes it to a level so far above other comics.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe basics of the book is a big “end of the Golden Age” adventure that recrafts the origins of some characters, but more just tweaking some classic DC stories to incorporate the actual events of America’s so-called awakening into the turbulence of the 1960s. In the page shown here, we see Cooke’s distinctive art taking a new direction with Martian Manhunter, who figures prominently in the narrative as the innocuous observer of great changes both heroic and societal. All of the major heroes are present, which makes the book more accessible to me than James Robinson’s The Golden Age featuring JSA stalwarts. Cooke does mix in some lesser knowns, though, such as the Challengers of the Unknown and the Losers.

Perhaps the best reason to opt for the Absolute edition of any book (and DC has put out a pretty strong offering) is to see comic art presented as never before. The book is massive, heavy enough to put your legs to sleep if you set it on your lap too long and with pages tall and wide enough to feel as a movie screen. Cooke’s style plays into this perfectly as he consistently uses large splash pages and does well with them. While I spent plenty of time falling into the grandiose images, Cooke includes plenty of smaller details that catch the eye much easier on blown-up pages. For instance, I never noticed before in the scene in the Gotham police station that some criminal scrawled on the wall, “the DA is a two-faced…” Usually, I read my comics pretty fast and set them aside. In the case of Absolute New Frontier, I spent minutes looking over each page, resisting the urge to whip through the story.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe absolute highlight (man, I didn’t even mean to do that), are the dozens of pages in the back of the book filled with extra features. For instance, there’s the ending that Cooke originally intended to use, in which Superman washes up onto a beach, then has a long conversation with Aquaman about what the future holds. It’s a good ending, but is just too incredibly homoerotic to be taken seriously, which Cooke admits in his author notes. Can you believe, a comics creator who can laugh at himself?

He also allows readers inside his creative process with much more than the “script-version of the book” that so many writers now include in collections. Cooke goes through his work page by page and breaks down all the references and influences on his work, including specific issue numbers of little known comics that he read as a kid. Reading over those pages, it becomes even more clear just how much love Cooke has for these characters, and the story itself becomes even larger.