Drew:Before Watchmen: Minutemen was good. It helped that it was one of the least explicitly fleshed-out corners of the Wathcmen universe, but much credit belongs to the unblinking moral greyness Darwyne Cooke imparted to the series. His warts-and-all approach stayed true to the spirit of the original series, but blended it with the sheen of reverence we hold for our golden-age heroes. He gave us compelling takes on many of the Minutemen, most notably Nite Owl, Mothman, and the Silhouette, creating fully-formed characters from the brief snapshots we see in Watchmen. Minutemen didn’t bother much to explore much of Dollar Bill’s back-story, which is unfortunately the only similarity Dollar Bill has to that series. Continue reading →
Patrick: In a sequence that perfectly epitomizes how I feel about the Ozymandias mini-series, Adrian Veidt holds a press conference as his alter ego. He removes the mask and the costume, revealing to the assembled reporters that Ozymandias and Adrian Veidt are one and the same. He says that all non-Doctor-Manhattan heroes have effectively become irrelevant — a sentiment echoed at one point or another by just about everyone in the Watchmen universe. Vedit can accomplish more good as the head of Vedit Industries, which prompts one reporter to ask “So, this is all about the money?” Never mind that this isn’t at all what Vedit was saying, he addresses the question head-on, bluntly saying “In this end… isn’t everything?” That reads as a rather cynical explanation for Before Watchmen, but interestingly, Veidt can’t keep his word about staying out of costume, donning the cape again to fight petty crime during the police strike. The message? It’s all about money… except when superheroes are involved: then it’s about something else.
Michael: One of the themes of almost any time travel story is exponential chaos. Messing with the space time continuum can get out of control fast. The time-travel narrative can get similarly disordered as alternate worlds open and paradoxes proliferate. When the protagonist can exist in and explore these permutations, like Dr. Manhattan, drama gets complicated and the context needed to recognize a satisfactory ending gets fuzzy. In this issue, “Ego Sum”, J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes try to gracefully execute a clunky, inelegant story solution to the reckless splitting of worlds that results in a nuclear holocaust. Continue reading →
Patrick: For all of its virtues, I don’t ever feel good after reading Watchmen. There’s beauty to be found in the way Moore and Gibbons express the fully realized psychology of their characters, but the world is undeniably grim. There’s not a single triumphant moment that isn’t heralded by some deeply disturbing underlying darkness. But in expressing this darkness, the original creative team is only exposing uncomfortable truths. It’s a rotten feeling that settles in your gut as you put the volume down and take it all in. Not many works even strive for this particular brand of profundity, but Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen achieves this frequently. In issue 5, the gut-punch is so severe as to send me back through previous issues and previous write-ups, muttering impotently to myself “say it ain’t so.” Continue reading →
Shelby: Silk Spectre has undoubtedly been one of the shining stars of the Before Watchmen event, and is hands down my favorite title of them all so far. I would even go so far as to call it one my favorite titles, period, and am supremely disappointed that it is already over. The art is clean and clever, the writing smart and natural. Amanda Conner and Darwin Cooke do not disappoint as they conclude Laurie’s story in San Francisco and seamlessly segue to the Watchmen Laurie we all know. Continue reading →
Drew: Is it fair to assume we’re all nerds here? Do you remember that feeling when C-3PO first shows up in Phantom Menace? That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realized this prequel was going to cash in on every moment of cheap recognition it possibly could? Not only did I not care where C-3PO came from, the explanation shown in Menace doesn’t make any fucking sense. The negative response to 3PO’s inclusion probably curbed Lucas’ origin obsession a bit, but he still managed to cram in Luke and Leia’s birth AND the building of the first Death Star, turning the whole prequel trilogy into a sad game of “spot the thing you used to love.” As the world’s most ubiquitous prequel, those movies effectively set my expectations for what a prequel should be, which may explain why I was so resistant to the notion of Before Watchmen in the first place; I was terrified of the prospect of stories focusing on petty details like where Ozymandias got the idea for his TV wall, or spending four issues explaining where that one headshot in Dan Dreiberg’s apartment came from. We’ve certainly gotten some of that, but titles like Comedian and Silk Spectre have turned those expectations on their heads by largely avoiding any such references. With Minutemen, Darwyn Cooke has embraced the third option — addressing the known history head-on with such deftness to make it seem inevitable.
Shelby: It’s hard being a teen-aged girl. You always fight with your mom, you can’t do what you want, there’s always some sort of boy trouble. Usually, though, you aren’t fighting with your mom because she’s forcing you to be a caped superhero and the boy trouble is not from your secret dad forcing your boyfriend to break up with you or be killed. Amanda Conner and Darwin Cooke have somehow managed to balance the two very distinct voices of the average teenager with Alan Moore’s Silk Spectre in such a way that I am immensely disappointed there is only one more issue to go of this mini-series. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Drew: This Before Watchmen thing must have been a hard sell to creators. Sure, they’d have the opportunity to work with some of comicdom’s most interesting characters, but they’d also be competing with some incredibly beloved source material, written by one of the greatest comic writers of all time. Hoping to improve on Watchmen would be beyond unreasonable, so the best anyone could really hope for is a competent expansion of that universe. That’s not exactly the world’s most rewarding job. Writer Darwyn Cooke and artist Amanda Conner have the additionally arduous task of being saddled with everybody’s least favorite character from Watchmen, which they handled dazzlingly in last month’s debut, managing to take Silk Spectre in a totally unexpected direction. This month’s issue subverts our expectations yet again, taking a step that can’t so much be described as forward or backwards, but sideways. Continue reading →
Patrick: Darwyn Cooke is going to make the absolute most out of his Minutemen mini-series. The first issue served as an effective mission statement, nodding politely to the series’ legendary origins but striking out boldly with its own voice. But now with all that business out of the way, Minutemen2 is able to start telling stories. STORIES! Can you believe it?