Before Watchmen – Minutemen 6

minutemen 6 B4W

Today, Shelby and Michael are discussing Minutemen 6, originally released January 23rd, 2013. Minutemen is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Shelby: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. When it comes to delicious, delicious cake, you can either have it in your hands or eat it so it’s gone forever. Sometimes, your only options are mutually exclusive of each other, and you just have to decide which option you value more. Unless you are Darwyn Cooke: then you will manage to find a way to satisfactorily appease every concern I have regarding the conclusion of Minutemen, even when the answers I want seem to contradict each other.

Nite Owl is being honored for rescuing that kid last issue. There’s a big ceremony, he get’s the key to the city, but all he can think about is Hooded Justice and Flight of the Valkyries. He decides it has to stop, so he and Byron pay a little visit to Nelson to see if he has an idea where HJ might be hiding. Nelson claims to not know very much about HJ at all, and the only home he ever knew was the tower, the Minutemen’s HQ. Hollis and Byron get there, and sure enough, HJ is home and not happy to see them. Hollis finally loses it, and does what we’ve all feared he would; he snaps HJ’s neck, killing him instantly.

hollis kills HJ

He feels no remorse about it, secure in the knowledge that he has Done The Right Thing. Finally, one night, Hollis wakes up to find none other than Eddie Blake in his living room. Eddie has a funny little story to tell. Apparently, he had also been investigating the disappearance of Hooded Justice, and had stumbled upon Ursula’s tapes. He found the doctor she mentioned, a strong man at the circus by the name of Mueller, and killed him. Figuring the 60-year-old wasn’t HJ, Eddie kidnapped the kid and dressed up as HJ to lure Hollis into finding HJ for him. Hooded Justice wasn’t a Nazi child murderer. He was a messed up man who probably suffered immensely at the hands of Mueller as a child, and Hollis killed him in cold blood. Eddie, of course, thinks that’s hilarious, and advises Hollis he’d be better off lightening up his memoirs a bit, if he didn’t want the people he loved to be hurt. Hollis makes the cuts, finally understanding the hurtful power of the unvarnished truth, and the issue ends with a contented Hollis fixing up an old car.

Coming into this issue, there were three things I wanted to know:

1. Who is Hooded Justice? Interestingly enough, I wasn’t so interested in his secret identity as much as I just wanted to know who he was. HJ has always been such an enigma, from Watchmen proper and into Minutemen. I had a burning desire to know who he was without ever actually knowing who he was, and Cooke somehow managed to make that happen for me.

2. Did Hooded Justice kidnap and kill all those children? Happily the answer is no, but what is most interesting to me is that Cooke made me think that maybe he did. I didn’t want to believe it, I hoped it wasn’t the case, but Cooke put that maybe in my brain for a character I’ve always regarded pretty highly.

3. Did Hollis kill Hooded Justice? This question is, in my opinion, what makes Cooke so successful with this title. Before reading Minutemen, it never would have crossed my mind that Hollis Mason had ever killed a man, let alone killed Hooded Justice. If you had asked me, I would have scoffed at the question, called it extremely out of character. But Cooke so well-crafted this world, this team, these characters, that not only were Hollis’ actions believable, they were the outcome I was most hoping for. Having Hollis kill HJ is such a satisfactory way to end this story. The horrible cherry on top, the sad little detail that firmly sets this in the Watchmen universe of no happy endings is that Hooded Justice was innocent all along. In fact, he was a victim; isn’t that him as a child in the photo with Mueller?

young hooded justice

This title has been about the team, but it really has been Hollis’ story from the start. The transformation the character has gone through has been incredible. Hollis has always been the conscience of the team, the little Jiminy Cricket sitting on their shoulders telling them right from wrong. Or at least, ready to tell them why what they did was wrong back when they did it. But even before the visit from Eddie, Hollis had begun to rethink his hardline devotion to the truth because of his love for Laurie. He had finally begun to see the potential damage the truth can cause, and was willing to sacrifice the truth for the people closest to him.

I was a little bummed at the end of Silk Spectre; I wanted to read the Adventures of Young Laurie for ever and ever, and was disappointed I couldn’t. I actually don’t feel that way about this title at all. Minutemen ended so satisfactorily, I never want there to be another one. Cooke perfectly captured the essence of the Minutemen glimpsed in Watchmen, and he made it his own. He developed the characters in ways I never would have predicted, and gave me every answer I wanted exactly as I wanted it. I have my cake and have eaten it as well, and I feel completely satisfied.

Michael: Shelby, I agree with you that this issue gives some sound resolutions to Hollis and Hooded Justice’s arcs. For me as well, the story meets most of my criteria for a satisfying ending without leaving me searching for answers. However, the reason I’m not left with burning questions has more to do with the inelegant way we get the answers. It’s difficult to relate dissatisfaction with finesse when on board with most of the content, but damn it, I’ll try.

It starts with a bath-robed Nelson giving a long maudlin answer to the question: where can we find Hooded Justice? I suppose the visit with Nelson seems relevant since he later witnesses Hollis killing HJ, then burns down the tower. However, those two events occur within a few panels, whereas here Nelson gets a two page spread to swing his drink around and give a little background. At one point Hollis recalls, “We didn’t have time for this”, which strikes me as a funny thing for a narrator to say. Special credit should be given to the three panels that show a lonely man remembering a helpful piece of information seemingly by accident.

Nelson surprise

Generally, I love whenever Blake shows up to rain on everybody’s parade. Breaking into peoples homes and giving them mind-blowing information is a great signature move. It makes perfect sense that Blake would have the goods on Hollis that finally make him redact chapters of his memoir, but this time it felt like the Comedian was being used by Cooke with a to sell a difficult macabre twist: essentially that Blake used Hollis to find HJ by dressing up as HJ and beating up Hollis. Blake claims to have been piggybacking off of Hollis’s obsession, perpetuating a lie so Hollis would track down HJ. Apparently Blake still has a vendetta against HJ, but only enough to set wheels in motion and ride the momentum, not enough to find HJ himself.

Regardless, the bomb has been dropped. Hollis is a murderer, a pawn, and an inept vigilante. How does one find a place for that kind of horrible realization. Well, if you’re Hollis, you just do exactly as Blake tells you and then guess what, kids? Ya live a pretty darn good life, that’s what.

Content Hollis

It’s Hollis’ character wrap-up that throws me in particular. I’m very open to the idea that I’ve misread Hollis’ character as someone who isn’t likely to admit philosophical defeat nor as someone who could move on so contently in the wake of devastating realizations.

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?


10 comments on “Before Watchmen – Minutemen 6

  1. Hollis has already admitted he knows now he’s going to Hell; I suppose he could be just resigning himself enjoying himself now? I think the real power of the ending of Minutemen comes when you consider Hollis’ end in Watchmen proper. He killed a man over a misunderstanding, a case of mistaken identity, and was later killed in those same circumstances. Without knowing that, I probably would have felt more disappointed in this ending than I did.

  2. Michael, I really respect fighting your emotional reaction to a story to talk about the not-totally-elegant way it was expressed. THAT’S CONTROL. There are sorta two story-telling no-nos here: 1) Comedian revealing the whole game by talking about it, rather than the character’s actions playing it out and 2) the kind of disjointed way Hollis and Byron make their way to the Tower (seemingly by accident as you mention). But I think both of those flaws are thematically on-point. You mention that Eddie showing up and BLOWING YOUR MIND might as well be his super power, but the other problem also seems to part of this series’ DNA. History is messy, and the only truth that matters is the emotional truth.

    • The Comedian showing up and dropping history bombs is great, but I feel like they try to pull this off as an “of course! It all makes sense” kind of moment, but what Blake actually did is so weirdly convoluted that the news didn’t floor me.

  3. I love this series and this issue so much that I don’t even have the words. It’s seems improbable that something that has such horrible, sad moments in it could be such a fulfulling and beautiful comic work that I can imagine wanting to read over and over again ad naseum. I have to go now, I’ll be sending Darwyn Cooke a magnificent boquet of flowers

  4. The Comedian kills Muller who sexually molested and tortured young Joseph for years. He was a fellow orphan of Silhouette. She was looking for Muller when it was Joseph who grew up and became Hooded Justice. He helped people but also kidnapped and tortured kids. Metropolis suspected it. Night Owl did kill Hooded Justice in a fit of rage. But I think H.J. let him do it. Remember that H.J. knocked out Night Owl and let him live. Night Owl said he killed the wrong guy because he was refering to Joseph as the victim of Muller. It was Muller that Night Owl wanted to kill for turning Joseph into a monster. Comedian wanted to kill H.J. The whole part of comedian helping lead Night Owl to H.J. was confusing. But it did give Comedian the dirt on Night Owl so he could force N.O. to not publish all the dirt in that book.

  5. Pingback: Daredevil 27 | Retcon Punch

  6. I bought the collected edition in hardback, read the whole thing in one sitting. Its a beautiful book. The Before Watchmen project may have been rather hit and miss but at least it gave us this.

    • I really like this collection – I thought Silk Spectre was also super strong, and I love the way it recontextualizes the meaning of the bloody smiley face (instead of being about Comedian, it’s about his relationship with Laurie. Like it make that largely grotesque image kind of sweet. All and all, I’m with you that it’s been a crap shoot, but I’m glad it exists.

  7. Loved the series but still can’t quite get my head around the HJ time/storyline. I *think* I do but it’s a little disappointing. Mueller kidnaps the blonde kid (as seen at the end of issue 4), the blonde kid grows up to be HJ – and is HJ the one killing kids, or is Mueller doing it? Then in the final two issues Comedian poses as HJ to trick Nite Owl into finding HJ, Nite Owl finds and kills HJ. Had HJ done anything or was it all just a set up by Comedian to disgrace him?
    I really liked the series but I’m having a complete mental block getting my head around this.

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