From the moment ‘Before Watchmen’ was announced, DC faced an uphill battle. Purists of the original ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel have been extremely vocal in their disdain for the decision to prequelize the legendary story, many calling it a disgusting bastardization and money grab for the publisher. These are the same people who are still trying to get over Zach Snyder’s movie adaptation.
I feel pretty alone as I flip through the pages of Darwyn Cookes ‘Minutemen’, the first of the seven ‘Before Watchmen’ story lines DC is releasing this summer. I, like most readers, feel ‘Watchmen’ is a seminal piece of literature that goes beyond comics. However, I also feel like Zach Snyder’s film is about as good as it gets when it comes to big screen adaptations of comic books. I’m a firm believer that they can both exist and one does not weaken the other whether you disagree with it or not. Example: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, while tragically misguided, is incapable of ruining the Spider-Man 2 for me. Do I wish the third film didn’t exist? Sure I do, but I’m not about to let that disaster effect how I enjoy the one that came before. I simply choose not to watch it because I know exactly how it makes me feel. What I’m seeing online is a lot of hatred for something people assume they won’t like. Sure, they disagree with the publishers decision to bring back a classic but they’re approach is all wrong. I haven’t seen a single negative tweet on FB or Twitter from anyone who has actually read the book. The consensus is; you’re ruining the original by whoring out the characters so fuck you and boycott! Mature, real mature!
So, as someone who adores Alan Moore’s original, I give you my review for ‘Before Watchmen: Minutemen’ #1
The first thing that strikes me, as a great and inspired decision, is the hiring of Darwyn Cooke to helm the story of the original masks. He takes on both writing and art duties here and it looks and feels classy. This first issue is a nice reintroduction to the Minutemen as told from the point of view of the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. He is in the process of finishing his famed tell-all ‘Under the Hood’ as he takes a moment to remember how the team came together. We are familiar with these characters from the first book but only slightly. In Zach Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’ the stellar opening credits tells a similar story of the rise and fall of the Minutemen. We know their fates but it’s their origins that remain a mystery
Hooded Justice, Dollar Bill, Nite Owl, The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Captain Metropolis, Silhouette and Mothman are all here and share a perfect balance of panel time in this first issue to not only get us reacquainted but also to educate us. Cooke is able to flesh out a great deal of back story in just a few pages where others might take entire issues. However, it’s the Eisner Award-winners artistic style that seals the deal for me. Cooke has an old-school style that lends itself perfectly for this story. Much like Justice League: New Frontier, which tells the story of Golden Age superheros during the Cold War, Minutemen is a period piece that reaches all the way back to the late 1930’s and works its way forward to a similar time period. This is a wonderful tip of the surface introduction to this new storyline. Cooke brings his A-game as both writer and artist, but I feel like it can only get better and I am excited to read more.
The bottom line is that Minutemen a great first issue into a larger arc of characters and situations I very much look forward to delving into. I am just happy that some of the greatest characters in comics history are once again gracing the covers and pages with fresh new ink and stories.
Look out for more reviews from the “Before Watchmen” series as they are released.