Thursday, August 17, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  BEFORE WATCHMEN - A MightyVille Roundtable Review

Minutemen Groupshot by Darwyn Cooke

 

Does DC's Before Watchmen series live up to the hype? Is it worth reading, or is it just a gimmick for DC to sell more of the original Watchmen comic? At the time of this article, four #1 issues of Before Watchmen have been released: Minutemen, Silk Spectre, Comedian, and Nite Owl. Three members of the MightyVille team - Joe Kach, Geoff Deen, and Sommer K – share their reactions to the new comics here. Warning: contains spoilers!

 

What was your reaction when you heard they were doing Before Watchmen? Good idea/bad idea?

Joe Kach (JK): I thought it was a good idea, but I questioned my enthusiasm and whether or not I cared about certain characters. So I got excited about reading more Watchmen stuff, but when I realized they weren’t doing another overall mini-series but were giving each character their own series, I thought, “do I really care what Silk Spectre was doing before Watchmen? Do I really care what Captain Metropolis’ adventures were? I don’t know.” So that was my only concern.

Sommer K (SK): I haven’t read the original Watchmen. (Boos from Geoff) I saw the movie, and that really didn’t make me want to read the book. Hearing great things about Alan Moore and that so many people love the original does make me want to read the book. But I did not like the movie. So, I was very ambivalent about the whole idea of Before Watchmen. I was willing to give it a try.

Were you influenced by Alan Moore’s negative reaction to the announcement of the series?

SK: Alan Moore’s reaction actually made me more curious about the series because he’s kind of cranky and reclusive. I thought it was probably a bad sign that the original author was angry about the series, but I also thought, “Well, he’s Alan Moore, he’s bound to be angry about it.” So the controversy made me more curious to check it out.

Geoff Deen (GD): What Alan Moore thinks about it doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t care about all the drama placed on how good Watchmen was. I read the book – I enjoyed the book. I watched the movie – I enjoyed the movie. If you want to tell more stories about the characters – fine, who cares, its comic books. Just tell the story. As long as its good, which it seems to be, and they’re treating it with respect and have good creative teams on it, go for it. Why not?

JK: I agree. Its not like they’re rewriting the original Watchmen. They’re just adding more story around it.

SK: I can see the argument though that Alan Moore’s intention with the original story was to leave some mystery around the characters for a purpose, and now you’re detracting from that by adding other people’s ideas into that space.

JK: But you could say that about anything. There are some really great Batman stories out there that I really love, and there are some completely terrible Batman stories. But because I’ve read the terrible stories doesn’t make me like the great stories or Batman as a character any less.

A frustrated Alan Moore

Now that you’ve read the first four #1 issues (Minutemen, Silk Spectre, Comedian, Nite Owl), do you feel that it was worth DC’s effort to take this on, and worth your time to read them?

GD: Yes, except for the Silk Spectre story, which really was boring. But I thoroughly enjoyed the other ones. I thoroughly enjoyed Minutemen – it was very New Frontier. I loved Darwyn Cooke’s work on it, and it was exactly what it was supposed to be. I thought the Comedian was an interesting political story, and I thought Nite Owl was a good origin story. I’d say three hits out of four.

JK: I agree more or less. I thought Minutemen was good, but I was expecting more. It felt like he just used a lot of the text from Hollis Mason’s book from the original Watchmen story. I guess that’s fine, but I was expecting something more original and a bit deeper.

SK: I agree with Geoff that the Minutemen was the best one. I loved the art, and it was the only one of the four that really made me want to read Watchmen. The Minutemen are just side characters in the original, and you learn so much more about them in Before Watchmen. They’re really brought to life.

JK: I would tend to agree though that they’ve been good overall. Even Silk Spectre, which I hate to say is my least favorite so far, was well-crafted. The art was solid, the script was solid…

GD: I just didn’t care about any of the teenage drama.

JK: That’s the thing… it felt like something from Dawson’s Creek. It just felt like a very derivative story that we’ve all heard before. Maybe in some ways people can relate to the teenage angst and issues with parents, but I can name 10 other films that did it better.

SK: The only thing I really liked about the Silk Spectre story was her interaction with her mother, because her mother is completely crazy. They did a good job of portraying her as someone obsessed with her glory days as a superhero, and it would be really creepy if that was all your mother would let you do. She makes you train to fill her shoes and then comes and attacks you in your living room. That was the only cool part.

First Before Watchmen Titles

What did you think about Comedian #1?

JK: The Comedian was good. There was nothing wrong with it that I can think of, but I did have some hang ups on little things. I thought it was odd that he took orders from the first lady. That doesn’t seem to be in his character. And then they kept referring to him “loving President Kennedy”, and I wasn’t sure what was going on there. Were they trying to imply some homoerotic tension between the two of them?

GD: No! I didn’t think it was homoerotic. I took it as he would do anything for someone he believed in.

SK: Yeah, but how is that the Comedian? Everywhere else he’s pretty much portrayed as an angry psycho, and then his whole introductory comic is about how loving he is, and how sad he was when his good friend dies. I felt like I was reading a different character. In Minutemen he is portrayed as being insane and not caring about other people, and his attempted rape of Silk Spectre happens before this stuff with Kennedy, so the whole Comedian comic just seemed out of character.

JK: Well, yeah, and here was my biggest thing with that: In the original Watchmen it was inferred that the Comedian may have had something to do with Kennedy’s assassination. He says jokingly to a group of people, “Haha, don’t ask me where I was during the Kennedy assassination.” In the movie, it is made explicit that he was the one who assassinated Kennedy. So, in the Comedian comic, not only is that not carried over, but they intentionally make it clear that he could not have anything to do with the assassination because the government sends him off on some mickey mouse raid at that time on Moloch. Those are two extremely different portrayals.

SK: Why do you think that was even in the original book? Don’t you think Alan Moore had some intention behind including the Kennedy assassination? What does implying that he killed Kennedy say about the Comedian?

JK: That he’s a government stoogie…

SK: Really, so that’s what’s behind the Comedian? He’s just a gun-for-hire? He’ll just kill anyone if he feels like it or he’s told to? Isn’t each character supposed to stand for a different type of morality? He just stands for lack of morality?

GD: He definitely is the amoral character.

JK: He’s a nihilist.

SK: So then what’s the point of showing him have all these feelings?!

JK: Well, yeah, and at the end of the comic, he and Moloch hold hands, when they find out the news about Kennedy! I don’t know what to think now. I’m very confused, and it bothers me a little bit.

GD: You just have to let that story go and see where he goes with it. Azzarello’s not stupid.

SK: For me the problem with Comedian is that I don’t give a crap about the Kennedys. I’m not reading Before Watchmen to go back in history about the Kennedys. And I’m sick of people postulating over whether Marilyn Monroe was murdered. She wasn’t murdered. She was high all of the time. She was a mess. She died of a drug overdose. So that part bothered me. Once they got passed all of the Kennedy crap, and the Comedian is finally doing his thing and kicking butt, then it was super cool. The action was great. And I really liked the ending. The one thing I do find interesting about the Kennedy assassination is not the Kennedys themselves. They symbolized something for people in this country, and that is what’s interesting to me. So I like that the Comedian is supposed to kill this guy, but when they find out that the president died, they put everything down and show that we’re all Americans in that moment. So maybe it showed that the Comedian does actually believe in something. Maybe he believes in America.

The Comedian comments on JFK

How about Nite Owl #1?

JK: I thought that was the best one. It didn’t blow me away, but it was very well handled. It injected more humor than the other books. And the art was great - I loved seeing Andy Kubert inked by his father. That was a really nice touch. It was a lot of fun - a quick sneak peak at how Nite Owl I met Nite Owl II.

SK: Nite Owl was my second favorite. It was just an interesting, enjoyable story. It was fun seeing him as a kid going from his horrible home to wanting to have more important things in his life.

JK: But, why did he need to have a horrible childhood? They didn’t go into any of that in the original Watchmen. Why not just have him be a normal kid who is good at building gadgets?

SK: Because if you’re too comfortable in life, you’re not motivated to go out and save people. You need something to fight against.

So, if somebody hasn’t read Watchmen, should they read Before Watchmen before Watchmen?

GD: No, they should read Watchmen first. I would have the backstory of the universe set up before these offshoots. No matter what, whether these are good or not good, or you like them or don’t like them, Alan Moore’s Watchmen was the original. Read that first, and then everything else is icing on the cake.

JK: From what we’ve read so far, I would totally agree. It almost feels like in order to understand Before Watchmen, you have to have read Watchmen.

Final verdict: should DC have done this series? Is it worthwhile?

GD: Yeah, totally. Keep making money off of Watchmen, as long as its well done and treated with respect, which so far seems to be the case. Silk Spectre, being the worst of the four, was still not a horrible book.

JK: I’d agree. Who knows, it may add more to the enjoyment of Watchmen, and it may not. But I’ll say this – even people who didn’t really want any kind of follow up to Watchmen, deep down inside felt, “it was such a good story, I want more somehow.” So this is DC’s way of giving that to you. It pissed off a lot of people. It made a lot of other people happy. But much like any comic event, I’m in the “I’ll let you know how I feel when its over, and most likely it’ll be ok” camp.

SK: For me, I’d just say, why not?

GD: Yeah, you’re not going to hurt the original. The worst thing you do is you tell a bad story.

SK: I mean, if you don’t have a lot of time to read comics, this would not be the series I’d tell you to read. Go read Image’s new stuff instead. But if you really like comics and you love Watchmen, or even if you don’t love Watchmen but you like to read comics of pretty good quality, go ahead and read Before Watchmen.

 

Final MightyVille Ratings:

  • Minutemen #1:
  • 4 out of 5
  • Silk Spectre #1:
  • 2 out of 5
  • Comedian #1:
  • 3 out of 5
  • Nite Owl #1:
  • 4 out of 5
  • Before Watchmen series so far:
  • 3 out of 5

 Watchmen Button

What do you think of Before Watchmen? Where we right on, or do you completely disagree with us? Comment here, or send us your own review at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Keep your review under 1000 words, please, and we’ll share it on Mightyville.com!

 More Before Watchmen on MightyVille:

New "Before Watchmen" Variant Covers: A First Look!

 

Comments (2)
  • bjmorga
    Nice overview of the initial issues. Since I order my comics by mail, I've only read the four mentioned. I thought Silk Spectre was by far the weakest. I actually really liked Nite Owl except for the fact that JMS wrote Rorschach like ripping a page out of someone's fan fiction. He hurm'd us to death in that issue! "Hey, Rorschach says 'hurm' a few times in the original miniseries. Let's have him do it in every panel!"
  • Joe_Kach
    I feel you on the "hurm" bit, though I felt the joke at the end was a good pay off for it all.

    Thanks for sharing!

    --J.
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