Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Minutemen 3, originally released August 29th, 2012. Minutemen is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).
Shelby: Hollis Mason is a good man. He believes in the quaint and simplistic ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, as laid out in the Golden Era-esque comic books of his childhood: the heroes are upright and moral and the bad guys always get caught. You know: truth, justice, the American way, etc. The truth is especially important to Hollis. He writes his book in order to make the truth known. His time in the Minutemen taught him a hard lesson about the difference between his perceptions (and the perceptions of the rest of the world) of the caped life, and the realities. He is going to share that truth of the reality of the Minutemen no matter the cost.
The team is coming apart at the seams. The men of the group vote to give the Comedian the boot after he attacked Sally; he gets mad, kicks the shit out of Hooded Justice, and calls the whole lot of them “fags” on his way out the door. Sally and Silhouette are at each others’ throats at a bombshell pinup photo shoot. Mothman is increasingly unreliable, and Dollar Bill has some pretty negative things to say about what Metropolis and Justice are up to behind closed doors. Through all of this, Nite Owl and Silhouette are still trying to do good, except Mason is following his naive and simplistic ideals of right and wrong while Ursula has a darker, more vengeful drive. Also, poor dumb Hollis is in love with his lesbian lady friend. When Silhouette is badly wounded trying to rescue a little girl from a “gentleman’s club,” she calls the police box number Hollis gave her and he rushes to her rescue. At her insistence, he takes her to the home of a lady “doctor” instead of a hospital. This look into the past was prompted by retired Hollis getting a visit from a “friend” of Metropolis, who insisted he not publish his book of garbage and lies. Sorry for all the quotes, I’m just trying to convey the thinly veiled goings-on in this title.
Darwin Cooke is tackling a lot of heady, interesting, and complicated ideas in this title. I am especially intrigued by his exploration of the concept of “the good” in this issue, specifically the juxtaposition of the perception of the Minutemen as representing what is good about America with the realities of these regular, incredibly flawed individuals. Cooke illustrates this idea beautifully with the introduction of the ultra meta Minutemen comic book… found within the pages of Minutemen 3 (I shall refer to this nesting comic as “Meta-men” to avoid confusion). The jarring differences between the outward perception and inward realities of the Minutemen are shown with inset panels from Meta-men: a Meta-men panel describing Minutemen H.Q. as a “shining example of virtue and justice” is at the center of the Minutemen discussion of whether or not Eddie should be kicked out for attempting to rape Sally. A somewhat more chilling example is Silhouette and Sally swooning over Comedian, billed as the perfect “red blooded He Man to defend [their] virtue.” Not only do we have the attempted rape to try to fit into that scenario, the next page shows the two ladies posing for a photo shoot in a porn studio.
The focus on sexuality in this series is really interesting to me as well. I really like the various levels of taboo at play. There’s the obvious, with the relationship between Nelson and H.J. Considering how narrow-minded people can be now about homosexuality, it’s not surprising at all the negativity those two garnish. Their actions are those that everyone knows about, but no one acknowledges. Ursula is a different story; her sexual preferences seem more mysterious. She’s further under the radar than the boys, which is highlighted by poor dumb Hollis and his big ol’ crush. There’s almost an undercurrent of danger to her lifestyle; Nelson and H.J represent the evil we can see, Ursula and her ilk are a secret danger no one wants to talk about. Silk Spectre obviously represents the unhealthy attitude straight men and women adopted about their sexual roles towards each other. She is a sex symbol. The end – that is all she is. She fully recognizes it, and runs with it because she’s good at it. This is a dangerous position for her to be in, because it’s so easy to cross the boundary between being the vulnerable and helpless victim to the tart who secretly wants it. As the guys are discussing Eddie’s fate to the team, Dollar Bill makes the point that it wasn’t that big of a deal, because look how she dresses. Did no one in the 40s have a healthy and respectful attitude towards the sexuality and preferences of others?
I am so impressed with what Cooke is doing with this title. I thought I knew everything I needed to about these characters, but he is proving me wrong. Cooke fills them out in ways I should have seen coming, but didn’t. Minutemen deals with complex issues of morality, truth, sexuality, perception, and the dangers of idealism. This title just gets better and better; every issue astounds me more than the last. Peter, what do you think? There’s a whole slew of heavy ideas I didn’t even begin to touch on in this, I’m dying to hear what you have to say.
Peter: It’s no secret that I love Darwin Cooke’s work. I made a comment the other night about how, with few exceptions, Before Watchmen is letting me down. This is one of those exceptions. Cooke has taken characters that we didn’t really know that well before — people like Dollar Bill, Hooded Justice and Silhouette — and breathed new life into them. Hell, it’s not so much new life, as it is just life.
The team dynamic of The Minutemen is interesting. Some of them really care about the team, and the image and the money. Others are in it to ogle the the Silk Specter, or to find that special someone. And then there is Hollis. He seems to be the only one that actually likes being a hero. My favorite shot of this book is not one of the emotional action-packed sequences, but this:
This one panel basically defines Hollis. The others are have a very serious discussion, and he’s reading a comic book. He likes being a hero. Yeah, he clearly enjoys some of the perks, like being written into a comic book. But he knows right from wrong, so for Hollis, there is no debating Comedian’s continued membership. This whole sequence draws out the generation gap between the members, and the different philosophies that come with age. I am, however, not discounting what the Comedian did. I’m beginning to see why the Minutemen fell apart.
These comic book panels embedded in the story of this book are really fantastic. They develop the contrast between what the public thinks of the Minutemen, and what they actually are. The idealized version of the super hero team is portrayed, and The Minutemen are nothing like that. It is very interesting to think about.
I feel bad for Hollis Mason, I really do. He’s trying to write a book, but nobody but him seems to think that it’s a good idea. He’s also got a crush on a girl who doesn’t like men, which sucks. He also clearly believes in the fundamental right and wrong, while his teammates don’t. They just hate each other. As I was reading along, I had to keep reminding myself that this is being told from Hollis’ point of view. He’s telling these stories from his own perspective. So, in true Dr. Manhattan fashion, is this actually how everything happened? Regardless, I will continue to read this book with intense earnest. For my money this is the premier book of the Before Watchmen run (so far anyway). It does exactly what I wanted Before Watchmen to do; tell compelling stories about things from Watchmen proper that nobody really knew before, and doing a damn fine job of it. Plus, you know, Darwin Cooke.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?