Somewhere, Alan Moore is crying in his scary wizard beard because the idea men over at Dc Comics dared to go through with their plans to create prequels to his ridiculously popular and grim graphic novel masterpiece Watchmen, and comic shop owners world wide are counting the money and laughing evil supervillain laughs. Or, are they? Does anyone really care about the Watchmen anymore or did Dr. Manhattan’s giant blue wang scare everyone away? (I saw the 2009 six times and I just have to say Bravo, Mr. Crudup.) I picked one up at my local comic shop, almost specifically because Alan Moore can suck it. But let’s see if I spent my $3 wisely, or if I wasted my money on a pointless and petty gesture.
First off, this book is pretty to look at, but that’s to be expected when the writer is also the artist. There have been times when I read a book and looking at the art it is literally like the writer said, “See if you can draw this, Mr. Oh-So-Special-Artist.” Or maybe, that’s just my experience as a writer. Anywho, I digress, and why, do I get off topic so easily? Well, because quite frankly, there’s not much going on in this book. Narrated by the Original Nite Owl (Hollis Mason, the old guy who is murdered by the young thugs in both the graphic novel and the movie) this first book is really just a role call of the original group of superheroes to appear in the late 1930s.
This is the first incarnation of the group that we’re familiar with, and let’s be honest, you can’t really call yourself a comic reader if you haven’t read Watchmen. One by one, Hollis, at this time a police officer who moonlights as a ‘masked adventurer’ introduces us to the people we only saw dead or very very old in the original story.
Hooded Justice, the masked vigilante who, when presented with the ‘dead or alive’ option, has no problem with choosing the former. Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre, a media darling fighting staged acts of crime for publicity. Here we see sixteen year old Edward Blake, a troubled young thug who would grow up to be the immoral Comedian. Mothman, Bryon Lewis, just at the beginning of his descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. Dollar Bill Brady, another publicity creation, and The Silhouette, a victim of Nazi cruelty, and shockingly, a lesbian, which will have more significance later, I’m certain. Lastly, we meet Captain Metropolis who brings together the group with the idea of uniting these people, from the well meaning to the power hungry in an attempt to create a team who will change the world. But, it’s the last player in this game who will really do the changing, though he is only hinted at in the beginning of this story. Dr. Manhattan is the missing piece, and when he clicks into place, the whole picture will be revealed.
Or so we’re promised.
Right now, we’re just given a primer, and frankly, I’m a little disappointed. While it does make sense to do it this way, this doesn’t really give me hope that there will be excitement here. The original graphic novel opens with death and handles the intros in flashbacks or in exciting moments. Cooke attempts the latter by showing these masked adventurers in action, but honestly, it’s just too little development and too much learning by lecture. Comics is a medium where the picture is just as much, if not more, important as the words, and Cooke’s simplistic and blocky style isn’t enough to bring me back on its on merits. I’m going to admit, I’m probably going to keep reading this, mostly because I dislike Alan Moore as a person, and as I said, I’m petty, but also because Watchmen was an important comic, and yes, naysayers, there is such a thing. It might mean nothing, but then again this Before Watchmen stunt might actually add something to the already very rich tapestry woven so well…
Or it could end up like the Star Wars prequels. Let’s just hope Nite Owl doesn’t turn out to be another Jar Jar.
Included, as a clear homage to the pirate story “Tales of the Black Freighter,” Minutemen includes it’s own pirate tale “The Curse of Crimson Corsair: The Devil in Deep” by Len Wein with art by John Higgins, which I care about as much as I cared about in the original… In other words, I’ll skip it. It probably means something, but I’m just not that bright.
In the end, it’s six issues, the other five hopefully having some more action. If not though, hell, $18 is well spent to annoy that furry curmudgeon who can bastardize the creations of others but still thinks his words are sacrosanct.
Before Watchmen #1 The Minutemen was written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.