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Comics Reviews: A ''New Frontier'' sequel

A look at Darwyn Cooke’s followup to his popular celebration of JFK and DC Comics’ silver age. Plus: ”Logan” adds to the Wolverine canon, and ”The EC Archives”

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JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER SPECIAL
Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, and David Bullock
(One-shot)
After five years, Cooke — with a little help from his friends — revisits the world of New Frontier, his beautifully rendered comic-book celebration of DC’s Silver Age and JFK’s ideals that has just been turned into a feature-length, straight-to-DVD cartoon. Which this, presumably, is cashing in on. FOR FANS OF… Harvey Kurtzman; Alex Toth; and of course; The New Frontier. DOES IT DELIVER? The centerpiece, Cooke’s Superman-fighting-Batman yarn, looks gorgeous but feels light after the dense plotting of the original miniseries — and also lacks the smart attention to period details. Thankfully, the Bone-illustrated story, about Wonder Woman and Black Canary in a pre-feminist gentlemen’s club, makes up for that: We get appearances from Charles Mingus, Jayne Mansfield, and Gloria Steinem. Still, the best feature of all is the one-page faux house ad that imagines John Henry as a ’60s-era comic book. It’s enough to make you forget you’re reading a cash-in. B — Sean Howe

LOGAN
Brian K. Vaughan and Eduardo Risso
(Monthly; issue No. 1 of 3 is on sale now)
In X-Men continuity, Wolverine — everyone’s favorite adamantium-clawed, mutton-chopped mutant — is well past his centennial. And it’s a wonder he’s not older, because it feels like Marvel’s been filling in his sizable backstory for twice that time. Logan is the umpteenth inclusion in the jam-packed ”Wolverine’s Secret Past!” genre, following 2001’s Wolverine: Origin and the current Wolverine: Origins ongoing series, not to mention next summer’s movie, titled (you guessed it!) X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Smartly, writer Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, TV’s Lost) has made Logan a stand-alone tale, one that requires a minimum of Wolvie literacy and eschews the current cluster of blockbuster crossovers in favor of crisp storytelling. The book finds our hero returning to modern-day Japan — depicted in dark, sensuous tones by penciler/inker Risso (100 Bullets) and colorist Dean White (Black Panther). He’s off to settle a 60-year-old score with a new villain, a so-far-nameless flaming skeleton who appears only in a gloriously colored splash page. But most of the issue is devoted to a flashback to Wolverine’s WWII days, when he was a Canadian soldier captured by the Japanese. After escaping with an American prisoner, he encounters Atsuko, a beautiful farmer’s daughter who lets him share her home…and her bed. FOR FANS OF… Wolverine origin books (naturally); 100 Bullets. DOES IT DELIVER? Do we really need another title about the past exploits of the old Canucklehead? Vaughan makes a compelling argument why, with this refreshing break from the otherwise convoluted X-verse. B+ — David Greenwald

THE EC ARCHIVES: CRIME SUSPENSTORIES
Bill Gaines, Al Feldstein, and various artists
(Hardcover)
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the inventively lurid tales that appeared in Gaines’ EC Comics caused enough of a stir that there would be a Congressional hearing about the ways in which they corrupted children. Although their horror titles (such as Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror) are most notorious, EC had a diverse portfolio, and the four-color noir of Crime Suspenstories specialized in escaped cons, murderous husbands, and unsatisfied wives. Also a common guest-star: soul-consuming avarice. FOR FANS OF… James M. Cain; Mad magazine; David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague; unhappy endings. DOES IT DELIVER? The most ghoulishly compelling CSS stories would come a few years later; these early issues are chockfull of recycled plots from other old short stories that would be recycled again for (and made more familiar by) Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. But that’s a forgivable crime when the murderer’s row of artistic talent includes Graham Ingels, Wally Wood, and Johnny Craig, whose breathtaking splash pages are nearly on the level of Will Eisner’s contemporaneous Spirit tableaus. B+ — Sean Howe