Minutemen #1 Comic Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 08, 2012
When DC Comics announced that they were going to produce more Watchmen stories without Alan Moore, it created a huge controversy. Issues such as creator’s rights and touching the holy bible of comics being the two biggest. We decided to not just give you one opinion on the first issue, but several. With a subject as broad and diverse as the comic, its characters, and the controversy behind it, we thought this was only fair.
Review: In this week's Comicscape! column I detail my feelings about the whole Before Watchmen dog and pony show. To make a long story short- I am not in favor of this project existing. However, when asked to review Minutemen #1, I promised myself I would review the work as it stands, regardless of my feelings about its creation. Is a good story being told? DC must have found my lack of faith disturbing, because they stacked the deck with my absolute favorite comic creator working in the business today- Darwyn Cooke.
Minutemen #1 is everything I love about Darwyn Cooke on full display. His ability to weave stories that encompass an entire era, to capture a palpable feeling, is mind boggling. He's done this before with New Frontier, and to see this style applied to the Watchmen universe is fascinating to say the least. The whole issue is a giant montage, giving us glimpses of the original Minutemen in action, and the beginnings of their formation as a team. It jumps between each hero's world of crime fighting, from the darkness, and almost horror, of Hooded Justice, to the Hollywood glitz of Dollar Bill. Before we get too comfortable with one character's world, Cooke is shifting focus to another hero's tune, and the whole thing is like Cooke interpreting Jazz as a comic. I can't help being reminded of Curtis Hanson's work on L.A. Confidential, I can just hear Kay Starr singing "While the wheel is turning, turning/ I'll be yearning, yearning..." This is all the more apparent when you take in Cooke's incredible art. His panel work and visual storytelling are the best they've ever been. His images slink from one to the other with the confidence of a master.
What Cooke doesn't try to do is be Alan Moore, and that is decidedly for the best. I've lamented in the past that the biggest problem facing Before Watchmen, creatively, is that the tone of the world when Moore wrote Watchmen in 1985, is completely different than the one we live in today. I still doubt that the creators can capture the lightning in a bottle that Moore did, but Cooke has the advantage of coloring in a golden age we only got glimpses of in Watchmen. Cooke's style works perfectly in this context, and I could honestly read a book like this every week.
Review: When DC Comics announced last year that it was going to do a prequel to The Watchmen comic fans reacted with a collective hand wringing, teeth-gnashing outcry. “How dare DC trample on the beloved works of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Sigh…If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly forty years as a comic book fan it’s that there are NO sacred cows. If a comic book company thinks it can make a buck taking a character and killing, marrying, re-booting, or changing their costume, and taking it all and poly-bagging it with four different die-cut, prismatic, holographic covers, they are going to do it. Heck DC just re-launched their entire line, effectively erasing, or at least archiving, decades of history. Compared to that, a Watchmen prequel is hardly anything to get up in arms about.
I am betting that most people read Watchmen after it had been collected into trade paperback. The importance of the trade paperback format was that it was now carried in the major book retailers like Barnes and Noble and Borders and was considered a “Graphic Novel” and not a comic book. This is what largely led to the book’s enduring popularity. I read Watchmen when it came out in comic format in 1986-1987. That’s not the ideal way to read the story. It’s a complex story with a lot of characters and a heavy narrative. Reading it over the course of over a year takes away some of the impact of the story, I think.
Back in 1986 there wasn’t an Internet. There wasn’t a Wizard magazine. There were a few magazines dedicated to comics but most of the buzz about Watchmen came from word of mouth at the comic stores. While there was certainly a great deal of interest at that time because it was so different than anything else, my recollection is that it didn’t generate nearly the kind of excitement that Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns did earlier in 1986. While I enjoyed Watchmen, especially upon a second read sometime in the 1990s, I’ve never considered it Moore’s best work. His run on Swamp Thing particularly issues 21 – 50 are the pinnacle of horror in comics. I’d also put Miracleman above Watchmen. With that said let’s take a look at the first Watchmen prequel, Minuteman #1.
Minuteman #1 is told through the voice of Nite Owl as an old man, reminiscing about his various teammates and how the Minutemen first came together. His recollections comprise a 2 – 3 pages for each character such as Hooded Justice, the original Silk Spectre, a young but already extremely violent Comedian, Mothman, Silhouette, Dollar Bill, and Captain Metropolis. So you’re maybe saying who? That’s not the Watchmen. Precisely, it’s the Minutemen, the Golden Age forerunners of the Watchmen. The prequels will largely focus on these predecessors and so in my book, doesn’t trample on what Moore and Gibbons did.
That said, the first issue is pedestrian at best. While giving us a glimpse at each character it’s just a tiny appetizer but hardly satisfies your craving. It does what it needs to do in establishing the time and setting but little else. The best thing about the issue is the art of Darwyn Cooke who is tailor-made to do a series based on Golden Age characters. All I can say is, read the stories before you judge.
Review: Somewhere Alan Moore is screaming into a pillow. Maybe he is pulling his hair out like the Joker in THE KILLING JOKE. Either way, there was no stopping the release of BEFORE WATCHMEN. The new prequel series from writer/artist Darwyn Cooke has finally been released to great fanfare. While Cooke’s artwork is stellar as usual and the beat of the WATCHMEN drum is banged in tribute, it is impossible not to be self-aware that you are reading something that feels and looks like something but just isn’t. I am sorry but not every beloved comic’s character or super-group needs a “Year One” story.
As a comic, BEFORE WATCHMEN reads well enough like an old pulp book featuring the Nite Owl in the throes of getting his famous biography “Under the Hood” published. It is beautifully drawn and inked with Cooke’s art style flourishing in this kind of period piece. But there is no luster. As readable a story as it may be, it is still a pretty mild “this is how they got together” storyline. And if you are you going to make a BEFORE WATCHMEN, it had better have the WOW factor that made the original such a unique & important work. BEFORE WATCHMEN has no choice but to stand on the shoulders of the giant of its predecessor. Standing alone will take more than just musings of how grand and dark times were when the good ol’ Minutemen formed.
Review: I'll be completely forthright: I went into this book not wanting to like it, though I really love the Minuteman concept (I'm of the opinion that the opening sequence detailing their exploits was the most interesting part of the film version of Watchmen). The first page, the very first page, sunk it's hooks in completely. I was a helpless fish, being reeled in expertly by Darwyn Cooke. He is a master and here he showcases a wonder of panel layout and creative segues (digital users be sure to turn off guided view).
This issue spends a healthy amount of real estate introducing us, in greater detail, to the Minutemen (precursors to the Watchmen) through the recollections of the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. There's some weighty meat here that I won't spoil or make light of. The art and writing here are top of the line, if you can put your nerd rage aside (if it's even an issue for you). This is an event not to be missed. Bottom line: I'm adding this mini series to my pull list. Hate me if you want, fine; but if you can put the shit storm aside, this is a great book.
Review: After reading Cooke’s short interlude to issue 1 of the Minutemen, it felt somehow wrong. It was as if I was driving my father’s car without permission. When I reached the title page and the picture of the Minutemen appeared I was suddenly reminded of Zack Snyder’s film. Wasn’t that, too, a reinterpretation of Alan Moore’s original work? I should probably get over the initial feelings. I pressed on and within the first moment reminding me that this wasn’t a “kids” comic (a crook wetting himself), I quickly checked the rating of the book (Mature). They did get that right. Perhaps it was also Cooke’s art work, but with each page the whole thing felt out of place and out of touch with the original Wathcmen graphic novel.
I thought then, would I be reading this book if it weren’t the Watchmen? All my criteria for comic book shopping suddenly came back to me. Yes, I would be. Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier is an incredible book and his art work always catches my eye. As for this story, Cooke entices you with a deeper explanation of the characters laid out by Moore. Yet none felt fresh, new, or even captivating. This is only the first issue so I have to give Cooke a chance as his actual story gets under way. So why is it that I am more excited for next the installment of The Curse of the Crimson Corsair than Minutemen #2?
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Mania Grade: B+
Issue #: 1
Rated: M (mature)
Writer: Darwyn Cooke, original characters created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Digital Download Price: $3.99