Filed under: Comic Reviews, DC Comics | Tags: Before Watchmen, DarwynCooke, dc, PhilNoto
So here’s a difficult one – how do you write a review of a Before Watchmen comic without treading the same ground as everyone else on the internet? Reading the comic, let alone writing about it, appears to be sacrilege in some peoples eyes, so taking sides on the argument for having these books released is going to upset someone somewhere. At the end of the day, I just want to look at this as a comic – one single issue, outside everything else. So kicking things off, this week saw the release of Minuteman #1, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.
My first impressions reading through this first issue were “This is a good looking book”. I’m not really familiar with Cooke outside of his DC New Frontier comics which, if anything, gives him some pretty good credentials working on a title about the coming together of the first masked heroes group, but following this issue I’d be interested in seeking out more of his artist work. His style is quite Saturday morning cartoonish, causing me to fall into the mindset that this book would turn out a little bit like “Watchmen for kids” – but I was pleasantly surprised to see these cartoon characters get shot in the head, thrown out of windows and beaten with baseball bats, all deserving it’s M for Mature rating on the front.
Although there were a few panels and framing that paid homage to (not ripped off) the original book, there’s quite a lot of originality in some of the artwork here which really stood out for me. My favourite section being our first introduction to the Hooded Justice – we are so used to only seeing these characters as black and white photos, it was surprising to see the character sporting a bright red cape. Throughout the scene its bold blood toned colour is splattered amongst the surrounding panels between the greys and browns of the factory backdrop, making it a real stand out section of the book. I’m sure Phil Noto probably had a lot to do with this – in fact the colouring throughout the book is excellent, capturing an excellent mix of classic comic books and that feeling of looking back in time through old photographs.
The book starts well, but I was slightly disappointed in the repetitive structure of the story after the introduction of the first 3 characters. All told from the point of view of original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, as he’s writing his Under the Hood biography, things start off exciting with short tales of the origins of Hooded Justice, the Silk Spector and his own Nite Owl, but starts to get a little boring with page after page of introductions to every other member of the Minutemen. I know it’s difficult to avoid the introduction of each character one by one when starting a group based book and it’s usually pretty necessary to get these things out of the way in the first issue, but I had hoped that with so much resting on it, we wouldn’t be subjected to the kind of storytelling we’re so used to.
Story and artwork aside, one thing I thoroughly enjoyed was the lack of adverts through the book – with the exception of one ad inserted within the pages of the story (which I’m guessing was put there to let the subsequent pages flow correctly) everything else was handled at the front and back of the book. I know this isn’t anything new, the likes of Image and Millarworld have been doing it for ages, but it was refreshing for a DC comic not to be littered with adverts, pulling you out of the story with each page. Add to this the glossy cover and 8 extra pages, it was worth the extra dollar. DC – if you learn nothing else from this exercise, please do something similar with your other books.
So there we go, we got there – it wasn’t that painful was it? The earth hasn’t exploded because of it. Like most other comics, it has good parts and bad parts, it’s not revolutionised the medium in anyway, and in my opinion it’s not made it any worse either. If you like reading comics, and let’s face it, you ARE reading a comic review website just now, then give it a shot.
Craig – @hastiecraig
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