I’m an old man. I make no secret about this. At 42 there are a lot of people older than me who would tell me I am still a kid, but between doctor visits and not bouncing back like I used to from workouts and exertion, I can already begin to feel age starting to wear me down.
This realization has caused me to reflect on a lot of things in my life. Have I accomplished what I wanted to? Is there more left undone? Am I truly helping to make the world a better place, or have I simply put myself into a holding pattern, waiting for the end?
This kind of quiet self reflection is rarely seen in comic books, especially from the major publishers. Comics need to be fast paced and action packed, so long moments of conversation and reflection upon mortality don’t normally have a place, which is why I really, truly loved the book I am reviewing this week, Frontiersman #1 from Image. It’s a book that balances goofy superheroics with real moments of thoughtfulness and quiet reflection, and older readers like myself might just find it’s exactly the kind of book we’ve been looking for.
Here’s the blurb:
PATRICK KINDLON & MARCO FERRARI return with an all-new ONGOING SERIES!
Classic Green Arrow-style adventure blends with the thoughtfulness of Concrete in a superhero odyssey for mature but uncynical readers! Frontiersman is coaxed out of retirement by an environmentalist group, only to find that being a spokesperson makes him a target for old and new enemies alike! For the superhero reader looking for more.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: There are a lot of comic book clichés going on in Frontiersman. The idea of the hero-in-retirement coming out of retirement to fight a new generation of villains was old hat before Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns, and the reluctant hero called to action will be very familiar to all of you Joseph Campbell fans.
That being said, The Dark Knight Returns leaned heavily into that trope and ended up producing one of the most important comics of the 20th century, so just because an idea has been done before, doesn’t mean that there isn’t still value in using the idea.
Speaking of books Frontiersman reminds me of, I had to double check to see that this was coming out from Image because this book really felt like it belonged in the Black Hammer Universe from Dark Horse. If you haven’t read any of the Black Hammer books, you need to, like, right now. Some of the best meditations on superheroes ever written, and Frontiersman would be right at home in that series.
Alright, so now that I’ve compared Frontiersman to two other classics I love, let’s talk about how this book is unique and carves its own path.
To begin, the art is fantastic. Ferrari has a mastery of action art, and his characters are beautiful and distinct. If you have not read Patience! Conviction! Revenge! you should go pick up a copy to get a feel for just what Ferrari can do with his art.
And like I said, the idea of a retired superhero coming back for one more shot at glory is a tried and true format, but while there are many nods to that kind of tale in Frontiersman, issue one actually takes a very different, and very refreshing approach to it.
See, Batman will never stop being Batman, and not just because Warner Brothers would collapse in a weekend. Batman, Abraham Slam, Wildcat, older heroes can’t stop being heroes because they have this constant push towards justice and glory that defines them as heroes. But Frontiersman, well, he’s cut from a different cloth.
Our hero is retired, not because of a traumatic loss, or because he turned his back on his cause. He’s just gotten older, and decided that he has done his time as a hero, and now wants to enjoy his retirement in nature. He’s an environmentalist, but more in the way that Teddy Roosevelt was. He’s not a vegan or a hermit or a doomsday prepper, he’s just a man who has always loved nature and is proud of the work that he has done, and is now ready to enjoy the peace and quiet of his last days. He’s not preachy and the book works hard to not take sides politically, even when dealing with some topics that, in today’s world, are pretty politically charged. Frontiersman still has friends and even a cell phone, but he’s also perfectly happy with the choices he has made in the end.
That is, until a college student shows up at his place asking for what essentially amounts to a celebrity endorsement, and Frontiersman has to decide if he still wants to get involved. Has he done his time or is there more he can still do? It’s an important question, and one that many of us working our way towards retirement have to think about as well. When do you stop? What is the end? And have you made a difference along the way.
And, of course, the book is full of action, heroics, and a wry sense of humor that is all too often lacking from other books that attempt to be satirical. Kindlon is a genuinely talented and funny author, and the fact that I don’t see his work on more books is criminal.
Frontiersman is a fun and introspective book that is both full of exciting super heroics and genuine meditations on aging and moving forward with one’s life. It’s a rare mix that deserves attention. Ask your LCS to order this book, and add it to your pull!
Until next time, stay safe.