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Before Watchmen – The Minutemen
It’s magic – and that magic’s name is Darwyn Cooke
Cooke has taken characters I thought I knew from rereading Watching a billion times since ’86 and breathed new life into them without taking away a single iota from Moore’s work. Well, that’s not completely the truth because as the issues open and close they do not unfold the way they do in the “Under the Hood” text pieces from the supplemental in Watchmen #2. Spoiler - this discrepancy does get resolved in BW: The Minutemen #6.
As I read these new issues, seeing these characters again, I couldn't help thinking how they all die or end. I knew Dollar Bill dies stupidly. I knew Silhouette is murdered. I knew Hooded Justice is killed by the Comedian, etc.. And that information that I've had for 15 + years is what Cooke was counting on. Because the most shocking revelation of the series threw me for a loop and then the reveal behind that revelation threw me for another.
Everything gets wrapped up nicely with the final pages and what a joy those pages are. Cooke’s art is a spectacular. He even echoes Gibbon with both symbolism and transition from page to page in places.
If you dismissed this series (or the others) because of the “how dare they” mentality, you’re an idiot.
Before Watchmen – Silk Spectre
As mentioned above, Cooke is magic with story, words and art. And as much fun as it is to look at Cooke’s art, equally so is looking at Amanda Conners.
The story isn't up to the same level as Minutemen, but the setting is wonderful; San Francisco during the summer of love – and Amada’s drawing style is simply perfection for this. The clothes, the hair, the backgrounds, it just screams the sixties (but drawn for 2012/13).
This is an origin story for Laurie as we observe her over the course of a year or so. If you've never read Watchmen it wouldn't matter, everything here is complete. Cameos by (not the) Beatles, (not the) Doors and (not) Frank Sinatra add to the fun along the way.
As someone who appreciates never having enough Dixie Cups, this mini is way groovy.
Before Watchmen – Moloch
As I’m reading these books a sitting at a time, I found myself limited for time and tabled Nite Owl for the two issue Moloch.
I’m not a JMS fan but I have always liked Eduardo Risso so it was 50/50 going in. Thankfully it was Brave & the Bold JMS and not Fantastic Four JMS that showed up.
Everything you didn’t think you wanted to know about Moloch is revealed and it works. During the original Watchmen I always wondered how a magician could go up against the Comedian or Dr. Manhattan (Dollar Bill, Captain Metropolis or Mothman sure, but not those two). Now it makes sense, he really was a criminal mastermind – one that makes you think he could really have existed on our own Earth during the Dillinger & Barrow Gang days.
Issue #2 is about life after jail and… enter Ozymandias. Now, we already knew what a dick and genius Oz is, but to see the manipulation he employs just makes him even more of a bastard than I ever believed before. Irradiating Moloch’s desk while Moloch is unknowingly delivering the very goods that will give Janey Slater cancer – is just mean!
Risso is great and fits the story to a tee (which reminds me I need to catch up on Spaceman).
Before Watchmen – Dollar Bill
So I had more time than I thought, so I picked up the one issue Dollar Bill knowing full well I was going to love it (which I did). I have primarily always been an author over artist kind of reader, but I have a few weaknesses with this thought process and Steve Rude is one of em.
This is the fourth Before Watchmen title in my reviewing agenda and the art is just spectacular in all of them. But what about the story? Len Wein hasn’t ‘had’ it for a while and he may still not ‘have it’. It's hard to tell because Rude can make a Liefeld or Austin script look like gold.
The story is a little reminiscent of the recent Captain America movie however as Bill’s origin story is told, but there’s enough non Cap stuff that keeps it moving. And when we get to the expected ending (he dies) it’s not played for the laughter I thought it would. I found out I liked Bill and that he wasn’t the joke character I always thought him to be (doesn't however make him any less dead than he was when first introduced in 1986).
Plenty more to read after more shoveling...