Tim Janson, Columnist and Critic
In the Watchmen film, my least favorite parts were those featuring Dr. Manhattan, particularly those that had the character proving the narrative, jumping forwards and backwards in time to specific dates. I didn’t think these parts fit well into the context of the movie. I realize why it was done but in a shorter film vs. a 12 issue comic series, it tended to slow the pace.
So what does of Dr. Manhattan #1 consist of most? The character jumping forwards and backwards in time to specific dates and providing the narrative. We see Jon Osterman as a young boy who becomes obsessed with fixing clocks. But the “action” leaps around all over the map covering Osterman’s accident that turned him into the God-like Dr. Manhattan, the first meeting of the Minutemen, and Manhattan’s manipulation of the team assignments that paired him with Silk Spectre because, “In this quantum reality I was always paired up with her…”
An yeah it goes on and on about quantum physics, arguably the most abstract and difficult to grasp branch of physics. Manhattan perceives time differently than other people has events of the past, present, and future happening concurrently as opposed to in a linear straight line. If I wanted a physics lesson I’d call uo Alex Filipenko. J. Michael Straczynski’s story had one major plot element going for it and that was Manhattan’s going back to the moment of his accident and yet seeing how somehow he was not caught within the Intrinsic Field Subtractor which should be impossible past events are supposed to be predetermined and thus unchangeable. For this reason, along with the art of Adam Hughes I’ll give the book a passing grade…barely.
Joel Rickenbach, Columnist and Critic
Dr. Manhattan #1 technically gets everything right. Jon Osterman’s fragmented, yet chronologically connected narrative is cold and searching, as it should be. His reality slips from the present, to the past, to the future, to the past… It’s the past that really begins to haunt him; the giant question- Why? A man as smart as he would never miscalculate the amount of time he had to grab his coat, and exit the lab before objects start getting separated from their intrinsic fields. So, why did it happen? Was it fate that turned him into Dr. Manhattan? Or somewhere in his subconscious did he want it to happen? His trajectory as a being is always in flux, his mind always ten steps ahead and behind. What is it about women, in this case Silk Spectre, that cause him to alter his trajectory, and play with fate? What if he was partnered with Rorschach instead? What if he retrieved his lab coat in time? What would the world be like?
These are very cool and interesting ideas put forth by J. Michael Straczynski. Enough to bring be back for another issue, but to tell the truth- Dr. Manhattan #1 is a bit of a slog on the whole. We tread on some very familiar ground for a very long time until the twists start to emerge. Dr. Manhattan, as our window into the world, is a very cold companion. We slip from moment to moment with him, almost finding ourselves in a trance, never truly grabbing hold of something to run with it. I am a fan of Adam Hughes’ art, but it’s fairly unspectacular here, save for a page or two. Much like the Doctor himself, it never screams “look at me!” instead it just keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future…
Jarrett Kruse, Critic
The BEFORE WATCHMEN series this summer has been hit or miss for me and this week, the Dr. Manhattan chapter hit stands. Admittedly, I always felt that Dr. Manhattan was more of a symbol for the Watchmen and the Cold War era; a figurehead for the prospect of 80’s world peace more than a crime-fighting superhero. Writer JMS and artist Adam Hughes team up for what feels like a rehashed episode of everything we already know about Jon Osterman. I was hoping for more insight into what made the good doctor into such a cold fish but it turns out that that is pretty much the guy he always was. A man obsessed with symmetry and order rather than feelings and emotion. His eventual accidental transformation into Dr. Manhattan seemed an appropriate change for Jon that continued to detach him from the human spirit.
The obsessive rhetoric and constant questioning of the mysteries of the universe becomes tiresome fast in this issue. Jon’s continued examination of the gears of his life, both past and present feels withdrawn and distant. It reads as more of a personal story with continued internal dialogue and questions for the universe. Making sense of the world’s greatest mysteries is far more important to Jon than the formation of any crime-busting team that poises to take on the baddies that go bump in the night. In his world, the only concern is what gear is shifting next. After all, the Watchmen are just people and people are something that Jon can no longer relate to. I understand what JMS was going for in his narrative but it is not executed with the precision of the Swiss watch gears that make up Dr. Manhattan.
Chuck Francisco, Columnist and Critic
This first of a four part series focusing on the only super powered being in the Watchmen universe, Dr. Manhattan, clearly sets the expectations table. If you're looking for a book which expends it's panels exploring the nature of the universe by way of quantum mechanics, then surely this is going to be the miniseries for you. If you found the loose science behind the Jet Li flick, The One, fascinating, then you are in for a similar style traversing here. If, however, you find science boring, or could care less about the many worlds theory, this might not be the comic that you're looking for.
The art here works and is consistently gorgeous, but it never partially punches the gut with a "wow" moment. This book is densely packed with introspective monologues, offering what seems like a much longer experience than thirty pages would usually contain, but there's no action of the combat variety here. If you aren't sure whether or not to pick this up, flip to page two and read it. If the ideas presented there stir a fascinated desire to know mor, then you're golden. If not, you should probably skip this one.