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Thursday, June 7, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #1


After twenty-five long and controversial years, we have brand-new comic stories set in the Watchmen universe created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and yes, this first one is definitely worth your valuable time and money.

The past few months have seen comics fans pretty evenly divided over DC Comics' decision to finally give up on getting writer Alan Moore's official okey-dokey to publish several Watchmen mini-series prequels.  Those opposed to the Before Watchmen prequels raced to message boards all over the Interwebz, insulted and angered that DC would blaspheme the Holy Book of Alan by acting like a business and making the most of a potential financial and creative opportunity.  Others, meanwhile, countered with arguments that Moore had no problem writing for characters he didn't create or own, such as Superman and Swamp Thing, and seemed perfectly cool with writing "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", which closed the door on the Superman saga before DC relaunched the character in a brand-new continuity.

Hurm.

Personally, I don't begrudge anyone that chooses to not support Before Watchmen on the grounds of respecting the creators.  That's a decision fans are well within their rights to make, although I would hope they would in turn respect others who disagree and just want to revisit the creative playground that Alan and Dave built.  So with all this fanboy drama hopefully set aside, how did the first Before Watchmen comic turn out?

Actually, pretty damn good...Imagine that.  After crafting the retro classic Justice League: The New Frontier, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke was a natural choice for the Minutemen characters that essentially serve as Watchmen's version of the Justice Society of America.  Using Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl, as the narrator, Cooke reintroduces us to the various Minutemen characters in 1939 just before Captain Metropolis brings them together.  The expected details of Hollis' life are here, including his novel Under the Hood and the golden miniature statue of himself as Nite Owl that ends up being the object of his demise.

Overall, this first issue is mostly setup that gives us Hollis' initial takes on Hooded Justice, the first Silk Spectre, the Comedian, Mothman, Dollar Bill, the Silhouette and Captain Metropolis.  Each character is more than faithful to Moore's depictions and Cooke's clean animated style helps give the visuals the needed Golden Age feel.  And wisely, he abandons Dave Gibbons' nine-panel grid, adhering to his own artistic whims instead of trying to directly mimic what's already been done. 

All in all, this isn't a mere rehash of Moore and Gibbons, it's a tribute.  If you loved Watchmen and were on the fence about picking up some Before Watchmen comics, go ahead and try them for yourself.  If you don't worry so much about what self-important fanboys believe, or what you think Alan Moore wants you to do, you could end up enjoying some great comics by some of the top talents in the industry.  As Moore himself wrote in the final panel of Watchmen, I leave it entirely in your hands.

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