The New FrontierIn an animated adventure film with a bevy of world-class superheroes, how do you let the score pay homage to them all without feeling crowded or overdone? Composer Kevin Manthei, who’s worked extensively as a composer in the video game arena (especially for the Nancy Drew game series) and the television world (Invader Zim and Xiaolin Showdown) over the years makes no bones about how difficult such a task was, declaring that “The biggest challenge of the score was keeping a cohesive feel while still addressing all the different characters and thematic elements.” While it is indeed a challenge, Manthei rose to the occasion and composed music worthy of an epic adventure.

And Justice League: The New Frontier is no run-of-the-mill animated actioner. Based on the graphic novel by Darwyn Cook, The New Frontier recounts the founding of the Justice League in the late ’50s and early ’60s. As such, Manthei makes bold usage of jazz themes and time period elements throughout, allowing for a dark noirish vibe to underlie even the most adrenaline-laced action pieces. And there are adrenaline-laced action pieces to be had.

As supervising producer Michael Goguen puts it: “In the case of the film’s third act, which is really one extended action extravaganza, we had to ask Kevin to continually build the excitement in plateaus, each one bigger and more exhilarating than the last. I wondered how he would pull that off, frankly…” But with flourishes of trumpets, french horns, and woodwinds, Manthei has managed.

Opening with the expositionarily exciting “Main Titles,” Manthei makes it clear that this will not be a typical animated score, setting up listeners for the rising action to come by repeatedly building dramatic flair before abruptly ceasing action and fading into the darkly ominous “The Centre / Hal Shot Down” which provides The Centre’s bass clarinet theme.

The quick and jazzy “Carol & Hall Banter” gives the most edge to the score, though it’s only 23 seconds long. After the relative calm of the first two acts of the score, broken up by occasional jolts of action, a frenetic pace sets in, with bells, a chanting chorus, and even a finale-worthy gong at one point. Manthei again uses his skill to deliver repeatedly rising action that manages to collapse on itself before rebuilding ever higher. While “Mars Mission Mess,” “Island Revealed,” and “Thick of Battle” provide the best adventure music, the score as a whole is impressively exciting and sure to keep listeners on the edge of their seats

Zach’s Rating: A-
Perfect For: A backdrop to comic book reading
Stay Away if: Repeatedly rising action raises your blood pressure
Buy this on Itunes: “Island Revealed”

To purchase the soundtrack from Justice League: The New Frontier, visit Amazon

For more scores from La La Land Records, visit their homepage

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