Hoopla Graphic Novel Review: ‘DC: The New Frontier’ by Darwyn Cooke

A blog entry from Josh, who is part of our circulation department.

Ever since Darwyn Cooke burst onto the scene in the early 1990s as a storyboard artist on ‘Batman: The Animated Series,’ he’s been been lauded for the unique blend of elegance and dynamo that he achieved in his artwork. What folks rarely seemed to mention, though, was how good of a writer he also was. It took Cooke making the seemingly backward career move from TV to comics (think: scion to serf) to finally right that wrong.

Essentially a re-telling of the Justice League’s formation, ‘DC: The New Frontier’ also covers 1950s race politics, the Red Scare and a dinosaur-populated monster island, blending it all into one epic, awe-inspiring superstory. Where most comics today tend to try to deconstruct the medium, Cooke seems more interested in re-constructing many of the ‘silver age’ elements that had been discarded over the years — space age science, pulp heroics, sweeping romance and an overall sense of wonder. Costume clad heroes both familiar and obscure pop up throughout. Some only appear briefly, in 10-20 page solo stories. Others weave in and out of the main mystery in an almost Altman-esque manner, finally converging en masse at the end of the book for a ‘We Are The World’-of-superfriends battle to save the planet. A few of the standout story lines are the Martian Manhunter’s arrival on Earth and his awkward assimilation of its culture, Hal Jordan’s transformation into the Green Lantern, and the Challengers of the Unknown’s beginning and (spoiler alert!) end.

Oh, and then there’s the art.

Ignore the word bubbles, and the book feels like a collection of long-lost pre-production art to some never-made superhero extravaganza from the glory days of the Hollywood studio system. Cooke’s biggest artistic influence is clearly Bruce Timm (the mastermind behind the aforementioned ‘Batman’ cartoon), but also evident in his work are the stylistic touches of Jack Kirby, Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino. In ‘DC: The New Frontier’, Cooke uses bits of all these classic cartoonists’ styles, blended with a bit of streamline moderne design and googie architecture, to perfectly capture the ‘anything is possible’ essence of the post-WWII United States. It’s gorgeous.

The ‘Deluxe Edition’ eBook format that DC has re-released the series in only adds to one’s appreciation of the art. Instead of the awkward-looking printing that sometimes ruins the enlargement of comic book pages, the simple grace of Cooke’s lines is actually enhanced by the digital blow up.

CLAMS cardholders can read DC: The New Frontier free on Hoopla!

Hoopla Music Review: Dizzy Gillespie ‘Jambo Caribe’ (1964)

You know how they always told you never to judge a book by its cover? Well, in this case, they’re wrong. Just look at that thing. Is it a child’s sugar-fueled scribblings, a Ralph Steadman/Hunter S. Thompson ‘Fantasia’ sequence, or Harry Belafonte’s worst experience on acid? It’s hella bizarre whatever it is, and it pretty much sums up the eclectic and eccentric music contained within.

Alternating between cool, catchy, Caribbean-influenced instrumentals like ‘Hello, Trinidad’ and ‘And Then She Stopped’ and the frenetic, infectious insanity of Dizzy’s vocals on songs like ‘Poor Joe’ and ‘Don’t Try To Keep Up With The Joneses’, this is one of the most exciting and unusual jazz/world albums you’re ever going to hear.
Future stars Kenny Barron (piano) and James Moody (flute) accompany throughout, but ‘Jambo Caribe’ is truly the personality and sound of just one man, bebop’s most famous extended cheeks, Mr John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie. It may be his experimental, unpredictable trumpet playing that has kept this album relevant with critics and jazzopiles over the years, but it’s his playful sense of humor and obvious affection for the calypso music of the West Indies that will keep you laughing, singing, and jumping around your house every time you play it.

Falmouth Public Library, West Falmouth and Woods Hole cardholders can stream the album FREE on Hoopla here. For information on how to get a Hoopla account, click here! (reviewed by Josh)

Hoopla Audioook Review : The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout, read by J. P. O’Shaughnessy

(reviewed by Josh)

An aging gunfighter rides into El Paso, looking to die quietly — and anonymously — from the cancer that has taken root in his prostate. Word of his condition spreads quickly, though, and soon the town is overrun by former foes looking to settle old scores, up-and-coming gumen hoping to make a name for themselves, and a few nosy fans who just want to shake his hand. Needless to say, this is neither quiet nor anonymous. It is violent. Very violent. Yet also very funny. There’s a rich, character-based vein of dark comedy that runs throughout The Shootist that makes it as fun to read as a novel by Elmore Leonard or Janet Evanovich. Blend that with the overarching theme of facing one’s own mortality, and you’ve got a story that’s perfect for these dark times.

Falmouth Public Library cardholders have free access to Hoopla, which offers an audiobook version of this book here.

Learn how to get Hoopla in this post!