First Impressions: Before Watchmen: Minutemen
- June 7th, 2012
- Posted in Comics You Should Be Reading . First Impressions . Reviews
- By Rob
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By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
*sigh* Alright, this is happening. Let’s all just be brave here…
As a Watchmen fan, Minutemen wouldn’t have necessarily been my first choice to kick off DC’s big Before Watchmen line. But I can see why they made the choice. Telling the story of the Minutemen helps to set up the world of Watchmen, and helps give the rest of the books a bit of context. But with Darwyn Cooke on this first title, everybody else now has an extremely tough act to follow.
In Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen graphic novel, the Minutemen were America’s original team of superheroes from the ’40s. In this issue we meet them all. Our narrator is Hollis Mason, a.k.a. the original Nite Owl. Through his eyes we meet Hooded Justice, Sally Jupiter, Captain Metropolis, the Silhouette, Dollar Bill, Mothman, and of course our old friend the Comedian. Mason’s words run parallel to some extremely effective looks at who these characters are, and how their personalities work. For instance, we see Sally Jupiter smiling for the cameras after busting up a robbery, the Comedian beating up a bartender for no apparent reason, etc. The real meat of the story hasn’t begun yet, but by the end of the issue we have a strong feel for all the players, and Captain Metropolis has the gears in motion for the first meeting of the Minutemen.
Initially this book frustrated me. When I originally closed this book I wanted more of an idea of what the actual story was going to be, much like what you’d get with a typical first issue. But Watchmen wasn’t a typical story, was it? Plus, it’s hard to be mad at Darwyn Cooke. He’s a natural fit for this book. His style is so well suited to retro era stories like this, as illustrated by his work on books like DC: The New Frontier and Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter. What he does with the first two pages is really clever, using a semi-circle in the center of all his panels to help illustrate how Mason’s view of the world has progressed overtime. First the half-circle takes the form of a baby carriage, then a view of a city through a tunnel, then a look at the solar system, then Dr. Manhattan’s forehead and insignia. Finally we pull out and see a ticking clock, an allusion to an image Watchmen fans are more than used to seeing. It makes for a hell of a sequence. I thought the introduction of Hooded Justice was particularly strong. Cooke shows us just how brutal he can be as he tosses a gangster out a window. The Silhouette also has a heck of a scene, pulling in more page time in this single issue than she got in the 12 that made up Watchmen.
We also get the first installment of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair by Len Wein and John Higgins. Curse will be the continuing backup story going through all the Before Watchmen issues. Not much to go on with this one yet. In the English navy circa 1771, we see a shipman keelhauled for stealing a ration of rum. Obviously, grim things lay ahead. Perhaps the most notable element of Curse is the fact that John Higgins, the colorist for Watchmen, handles the art here.
Obviously, fanboys have made a lot of negative noise over Before Watchmen. God knows Alan Moore isn’t happy about it. But this issue gives me a little hope that, even though the project is somewhat blasphemous, at least it can be well executed, nice looking blasphemy.
Front page/interior image from comicvine.com.