When a crime is committed, the courts attempt to find a jury comprised of impartial citizens with no knowledge of the people and the events involved to guaranteed a fair, unbiased trial. To review Before Watchmen Minutemen #1 with full impartiality, one would be required to find someone who hasn’t read a comic book in roughly 30 years.
The title alone illustrates why. As an unasked and controversial prequel to Watchmen, the 1987 graphic novel which redefined comic books, Before Watchmen cannot escape the magnitude of its source material.
Since its debut, Watchmen has never been matched for complexity, nuance, nor story; though not for lack of trying. It is hard to repeat true innovation.
No comparison between Before Watchmen and Watchmen could be made. That would be like swatting a fly with a nuke.
Darwyn Cooke, the talented writer/artist of Before Watchmen Minutemen, rose to prominence thanks to New Frontier, a spiffy DC graphic novel which mined the fifties and forties for retro super hero fun. Darwyn has since become to “Go-to” guy for a modern take on past flavors, and has become a fan favorite with his brisk, “Simple made complex” approach to storytelling. He seems a natural fit for a look back on Watchmen’s characters.
But again, we bring to our review of this title our love and understanding of Darwyn’s past body of work. Is it fair to compare Before Watchmen to New Frontier?
Fair or not, it doesn’t relect well. Next to Darwyn’s other titles, Before Watchmen fills you with the disappointment of a good creator treading thin water, repeating himself with every shallow stroke.
DC recently made vast headlines by rebooting their entire universe and starting over all titles with shiny new #1s. How does Before Watchmen Minutemen #1 contrast with DC’s other #1s? Does it inspire the reader to pick up another issue? Are we left with a desire to follow the story?
What is the story?
In brief, Minutemen sets up a fictional 1939 where ordinary people dress up in costumes to fight criminals and illustrates how several of these individuals come together to form a team of “Super Heroes.”
You can see the problem, can’t you? In lieu of innovation, the book is going to try and reinvent the wheel. The comic itself feels a need to explain to you what Super Heroes are, which is only compelling if you have never read another super hero comic book in your life…an especially strange notion for a prequel.
WE THE JURY
Before Watchmen is, frankly, a self-indulgent mess that insults while it fumbles for relevance. Nobody unfamiliar with this project would feel the slightest compulsion to look at it, buy it or read it, and anybody tangentially familiar with Watchmen will only be reminded of the former’s brilliance.
I can see an appeal for Before Watchmen Minutemen #1 on two levels, the first being this is the only the first chapter; maybe the book needs to pick up steam; and the second being the complete lack of impartiality of the reviewer, any reviewer, to see it for its own merits.
More musings from Unkiedev, Earth’s own sidekick, can be read at unkiedev.blogspot.com