Before Watchmen Minutemen #1 Review

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Before Watchmen has been discussed to death.  Should it be done?  Why does DC need to touch on one of the seminal comic book stories of all time?  But the one questions that no one has answered yet is this: is it any good?  Well, if Minutemen #1 is any indication, it’s going to be great.  It may not win over anyone who has sworn off the entire event, but those people weren’t going to be won over anyways.

Darwyn Cook’s story sucks in the reader in the way Watchmen does.  Cook’s dialogue can be a little wordy at some points, but it’s written so well, it’s hard to complain.  Cook spends this first issue describing all the members of the Minutemen and how they came together.  Some do get more than others, with Dollar Bill only getting one page.  But the reader obtains a firm grasp on each character by the end of the issue.  These people are all slightly insane, but they have good intentions.  Except for the Comedian.  The framing device of Hollis Mason writing his own autobiography should suck in the old fans while helping fans understand Nite Owl a little easier.  Cooke never goes into retelling things fans of the book already know.  Retelling classic bits from Watchmen would only harden the opinion of people who said that this event didn’t need to happen.  What Cooke gives is basic enough for new fans to know, but also deep enough into character development that long time fans will still enjoy it.  Knowing how everything turns out adds a bit of despair to a book that feels classic Sliver Age happiness.  By the end of this issue, I already wanted to read #2.

The one thing that this book does perfectly is show that these stories CAN be good.  It’s clear Cooke wanted to write this story, and it wasn’t editorially mandated on him.  It shows respect of the old story, while going deeper into parts that Alan Moore only slightly described.  The best example in this issue is Mothman.  We knew the guy had problems, but we never understood what he was feeling when he was flying, and exactly what others thought of him the entire time.  Most of these characters, although given a basic background in Watchmen, haven’t had the deep character development that they deserve.

Cooke’s artwork is nothing short of beautiful.  Much like the script, his artwork has a Silver Age atmosphere to it, with the characters being simpler in design.  But they are so expressive, and ooze personality, it’s hard to look away.  Cooke even gives a few pages the classic Watchmen nine panel format.  The first few pages are what really draw in the reader though.  The use of circles, with the script describing h0w Mason felt when Dr. Manhattan appeared, entrances the reader.  I’m not to familiar with Cooke’s art, but he’s off to a great start with this book.  I’m not use to seeing Phil Noto only color a book, but he does a great job here.  He fits the mood great, giving some of the police scenes a noir feel.  Turning up the colors or turning them down at the right down helped set the scene of the supposed “good old days,” when the were really a rather dark time for these heroes.

The Crimson Corsair back up looks good.  It’s hard to only read two pages though.  No doubt it will be released in trade form after everything is said in done, and that is most likely going to be the best way to read it.  Having all these issues, reading two pages, then picking up the next, is not ideal for reading.  But it remains to see how the story is going to be, so I’ll comment on that in future reviews.

While I was curious about this book, even the whole event, some of my weariness has subsided.  If DC had editorially mandated all these stories onto the writers/artists, the quality would be quite apparent right away.  But Minutemen #1 has made me rather optimistic about the event.  It’s way to early to tell if this is going to be an artistic success.  If you were thinking of reading these books, at least give Minutemen #1 a chance.

Before Watchmen Minutemen #1 gets 4.5/5.

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