Words by: Patrick Kindlon
Art by: Marco Ferrari
Letters by: Jim Campbell
Edited by: James Hepplewhite
Published by: Image Comics
As a comic, Frontiersman clearly sets itself up as a superhero story for the modern age, aligning our retired hero with a forever relevant cause, protecting the environment.
Returning home to find a stranger inside his secluded cabin in the woods, retired hero the Frontiersman finds himself invited to be a part of a protest to protect Pacific Redwood trees. Not all strangers who break into your house are bad, some of them are university students with a noble cause.
There’s a detail in this issue when Frontiersman speaks with both his old crime fighting partner Professor Umar and his friend Claire before making his decision. It’s interesting to me that we see a superhero character hear Deonte, Claire and Professor Umar’s thoughts on the matter and actually spend time considering what he’s going to do. It’s something we just don’t really see in superhero stories. There’s a certain headstrong character trait we come to expect, and more often than not it feels like characters are looking for justification to do what they want to do; but here it feels really different, this is a hero deciding if he wants to do something good for the planet, not fighting an old supervillain or coming to save an old friend, and this makes our protagonist feel more human.
Retired heroes being encouraged to rejoin the fight isn’t something new in comics, but the motives behind Deonte’s attempt to recruit The Frontiersman differ from the kind of thing we usually see, and it’s a welcomed change. The backmatter in this first issue of Frontiersman begins with writer Patrick Kindlon talking about superhero comics and some of the burdens they often face. He also talks about a handful of superhero stories that are not from “the big two” and how they were always more interesting than their mainstream counterparts. At that point I felt like Patrick Kindlon and Bigger Than Capes were very much aligned in our opinions on such things. This feels like a comic book being written by someone who’s entirely aware of superhero stories gone by and wants to make something new and sincere.
This issue feels like the start of something positive, introducing us to a small cast of characters containing some retired heroes, a couple of their supporting characters and the man who will undoubtedly be our initial villain. It’s a well contained narrative and while flashbacks and conversations between characters allude to a wider universe and a rich history, they feel like a pleasant addition rather than baggage.
Marco Ferrari isn’t an artist I’m familiar with, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of his work. Throughout this issue he demonstrates a great variety within his art. There’s a tremendous sense of movement in the more action orientated scenes and flashbacks, but also plenty of scene setting in the establishing panels of the woods and a use of facial expressions that manages to tell full stories by themselves. Ferrari’s art creates the aesthetic of a superhero story, but manages to feel more rural and down to earth when it needs to. Speaking of aesthetics, Ferrari’s character designs manage to feel unique whilst drawing on classic superhero design ideas. Besides, Frontiersman feels and looks like Nick Offerman as a superhero and I can’t really find fault with that. Oh, there’s also a panel that shows someone wearing a pair of checkerboard Vans, and I really appreciate the attention to detail there.
Jim Campbell’s lettering is great throughout, forever consistent and with just the right amount of emphasis when needed. I also really liked that the dialogue is grey when characters are talking to themselves.
Kindlon talks in his afterword about comics like Black Hammer and Astro City and both those series came to mind whilst reading this issue, the Frontiersman feels like he could’ve stepped out of either of those world’s and I’m interested to see if the team behind this series can create a book as rich and intriguing as those.