The second to last Before Watchmen title is released. With the event’s quality being sporadic as hell, I tried to keep my expectations in check for Dr. Manhattan. Some of my hopes were filled, but most of them were not. But it’s not as bad some of the other series.
J. Michael Staczynski writes the narration parts rather well. Manhattan doesn’t perceive time the same way we do, and adapting that wrongly could have ruined the series. It helps the reader get into the head of Manhattan, a big check in the win column. But as with past Before Watchmen books, it retreads a lot of points. In fact, this might the worst perpetrator of this. The entire book is going over how Dr. Manhattan became who he is, all the while showing how his powers work. Some might find the explanation of his powers a little high concept and have trouble wrapping their head around the concept. JMS effectively shows the effect that Dr. Manhattan has on the super hero world around him. Most of this is old plot points, but there are a few new ones. The way Manhattan perceives time gives JMS an opportunity to do it in rapid fire fashion, which is a lot better than taking up more panel space.
The ending is one of the only redeeming parts of the script. It’s very high concept and perfect for a book like this. JMS seems to have retread past plot points so that he can focus on this plot in future issues. The ending brings up quite a few philosophical questions that really make the reader think by the end. Not too much, as the series has only just begun. What worries me is JMS’ ability to convey philosophical points without it becoming preachy. Many will remember JMS’ run on Superman and how it got so preachy up it’s own asshole. Somewhere in between writing Amazing Spider-Man and Superman, he lost his ability to write ethical/philosophical points correctly. I wonder if JMS should take a break from comics for a while. He seems to be having trouble writing a story well anymore. Go back to TV, work the kinks out, then come back to comics.
Adam Hughes is going to battle with Darwyn Cooke for bets pencils on Before Watchmen. We will get this out-of-the-way: yes, the women have huge boobs. And there is also blue penis. Hughes’ facial work is nothing short of brilliant, conveying an insurmountable amount of personality in each panel. There isn’t a distinct panel pattern, but that suits Hughes pencils. The deterioration of the white borders was a great, subtle thing to do. I didn’t notice it was happening until the issue was almost done. Then I went back and reread the issue to see the changes. But what stunned me was how Dr. Manhattan used his powers. There is one page in particular that just blows away anything I have seen in comics in some time. It’s beautiful and worthy of being framed. The story may only be ok, but Adam Hughes art is worth the $3.99.
Before Watchmen Dr. Manhattan #1 gets 3/5.
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