Thursday, June 7, 2012

Before Watchmen: Issue #1

Yesterday saw the release of DC's first Watchmen prequel "Before Watchmen: Minutemen." Well, since we are still here today, it's safe to say that the world didn't explode, the rapture never took place, and life as we know it didn't cease to exist. Despite all the doom and gloom that was predicted by the people who swore that this comic was the worst idea ever and it would no doubt lead to the collapse of the comic book industry itself, only one really notable think happened yesterday: DC put out a pretty god damned great comic book.

Turns out "Before Watchmen," or at least this premiere issue, is brilliant.

And I like to think that "brilliant" isn't a word I throw around casually, but in this case, I think it fits. It was just a damn good comic with exceptional art and an entertaining story, but what elevated it to the level of brilliance was how it fit so perfectly into the Watchmen universe and added something worthwhile and thoughtful. I know people put Watchmen on a pedestal and think it's the most sacred, holy thing ever writ by the hand of man, and even if it is, every great story ultimately ends up as a jumping off point for even more stories to come. Those stories shouldn't always come, of course, since I read the novel Casablanca 2 and it was terrible, but a truly brilliant, unique story or mythology stays with you after you finish reading the last page, keeping the characters and concepts and ideas in your brain for years to come.

All that is my long-winded way of saying that I never opposed the idea of the Watchmen prequels. In theory I opposed it at first, I guess, but after DC publicized its plan and the list of creators, I got excited because they put together a group of people whose work I love to work on some characters whose previous story I enjoyed. Original Watchmen writer Alan Moore wasn't happy, of course, but I'm not sure if he ever is. He talks endlessly about how DC and other companies crap on his ideas and characters even while he writes his own stories where he turns the Charlton Comics characters into rapists, The Inivisble Man into a pedophile, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz into a sex-crazed slut. I love all of those stories, of course, I'm just pointing out that his ideas on creators' rights is a bit suspect.

But, anyway, at the end of the day all that matters is this: Darwyne Cooke's first issue is fantastic. Cooke is a comic creator who has always been great at faithful adaptations of characters from days of yore. He wrote the only great Spirit comics since the passing of Will Eisner, and his New Frontier series reinvigorated the Justice League. And now he's writing about the Minutemen, the original vigilante team from Watchmen. This wasn't so much a story as an attempt to set the scene for the rest of the series. We were reintroduced into the world of the Watchmen and given a fresh look at some of the characters, as told from the point of view of the original Night Owl. Then entire issue was written as an excerpt from his autobiography, which saves it from having to match the voice and style of Alan Moore. Frankly, Cooke writes a better Night Owl than Moore did anyway.

Does it feel like Watchmen? Sure, but not completely... but that's not a bad thing. This comic was a story about building up various characters, while the original Watchmen was an attempt to deconstruct various character archetypes. I'm not going to say which was better (we'll give the win to Watchmen, of course), but I certainly enjoyed both for similar and yet different reasons. Anyway, long story short: Go buy this comic. But it and read it if you liked the original Watchmen or even if you hated it. This was just a darn good story with some great comic book art. Check it out.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Oh, neat. I'm going to have to remember to try to read these when they come out in TPB.