Or – “Where We See How DC Plans To Follow A Very Tough Act…”

Watchmen has, for many years, been held up as an example of ‘comics done right.’  At least part of that appeal is the fact that the story has a beginning, a middle and a transition to a new beginning (because, as Jon Osterman reminds us in the text, “nothing ever ends.”)  25 years later, the world of ‘Watchmen’ is once again in play, without the original creators, and the comics community can talk about little else.  Major Spoilers wonders if they’re going to deepen the characters and story, or is DC merely gilding their lilies?

Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Cover Artist(s): Jim Lee w Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair/Darwyn Cooke
Colorist: Phil Noto
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Before Watchmen – Minutemen:  In a world not unlike our own, the second World War brought more than paper rationing and Rosie the Riveter, spawning a wave of “mystery men” in the grand comic book tradition.  First the brutal Hooded Justice, then the noble Nite-Owl, following in quick succession by others, each of whom had their own reasons for doing something that even they admit was dangerous and possibly crazy.  Years later, the Minutemen are viewed as a passing craze, like phone-booth stuffing or the Lindy Hop, and the world has been forever transformed by a REAL superhuman, Doctor Manhattan.  What can you do when the world has passed you by?


It’s interesting to me to review this book so soon after Earth-2 #2, as both books are an attempt to do Golden Age-style heroes in a more modern context.  From the very first page, Darwyn Cooke maintains the visual metaphors that defined Watchmen (transitioning the view from a crib across several panels into the Doctor Manhattan watch-gears-as-metaphor-for-underpinnings-of-the-universe visual.  I am very happy to say that Cooke’s signature style lends itself well to this world, but part of me laments that the book isn’t done in the signature 9-panel grid that Dave Gibbons used in the original work.  In a nice touch, the narrative starts as the soaring prose that you’d expect from a Watchmen sequel, but then breaks down and the writer (Hollis Mason, the first Nite-Owl) takes a break from the writing of his autobiography.  It’s a pretty cool subversion of what you’d expect, and one that leads me to believe that these characters are in good hands with Cooke.  It’s hard not to compare this to his work on The New Frontier, especially as Hollis muses (or perhaps writes, it’s not clear) about his fellow Minutemen.  As I read this issue, I found myself taken by how much thought Cooke put into even the least-known characters, especially Mothman and The Silhouette…


The issue gives us the Minutemen as defined by Hollis, and aside from the nine-panel grid, there aren’t a lot of great disappointments within it.  I was troubled the the sequence involving the young Comedian, which pains him mostly as a thug and saddles him with dialogue that I couldn’t really reconcile with the Eddie Blake I remember from the original, and there is an overarching issue with the narrative, as well, as some of the information that Hollis is “writing” clearly isn’t in the finished product of his book, or else the original story would have gone much differently.  Still, given that there’s a sequence involving Silk Spectre’s husband/publicist questioning what he can and can’t put in the book, I have faith in Darwyn’s skills.  The backup story, Curse of the Crimson Corsair, is maddening, however, a two-page sequence of a story that will apparently be told throughout ALL the Before Watchmen titles.  I appreciate the parallel to the ‘Tales of the Black Freighter,’ but I’m bothered by the fact that I have to commit to purchasing all the books (or the inevitable collection) to find out what this is all about.  For what it is, though, it’s well-written and drawn, but not really something that I can objectively review as a separate entity.


As our podcast discussions will attest, opinions vary on the Before Watchmen project, and I suspect that your enjoyment of this issue, and the project as a whole, is going to hinge upon how you feel about Alan Moore’s creative rights.  Looking at this book as an individual issue, it’s quite successful, fleshing out several characters in very satisfying ways, re-assessing others (Silk Spectre in particular gets a tiny, obvious moment that changes everything, yet fits perfectly with what we know of Sally) and including the necessary homages and references to the original text.  I did get a chill when Hollis mused over the Nite-Owl statue that will eventually play a role in the end of his story, and Darwyn’s art is smoothly wonderful throughout.  I can’t really make a decision for you, the reader, as to whether this comic is truly necessary, but it’s at least entertaining and well-crafted.  Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 is interesting, mixing the new and the familiar in clever ways, and doesn’t create any major contradictions or dissonance to Watchmen itself, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Certainly, if you feel the 12-issue original is sacrosanct and must not be trifled with, this isn’t going to change your mind, but if you’re able and willing to give BW: Minutemen a chance, it’s good work.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. MilliVanilli
    June 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm — Reply

    I wish that I lacked the proper morality and was able to ignore principles like creator rights and corporate greed, so I could enjoy this work as you do.

    • June 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm — Reply

      I wish that I lacked the proper morality and was able to ignore principles like creator rights and corporate greed, so I could enjoy this work as you do.

      I wish that everything was as black and white as that statement. Have you seen the Avengers movie? Or read a Superman comic? Or, indeed, read any of Marvel and DC’s output over the last 8 decades? Creator’s rights and corporate greed are pretty complex concepts.

      Would enjoying Lost Girls and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (characters originated by other authors used by other creators to expand on the original works, much like Before Watchmen) be immoral as well?

      • June 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm — Reply

        You, sir, win the internet with this response.

      • MilliVanilli
        June 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm — Reply

        Look man, you can try and rationalize it all you want. You can make excuses and try to b.s. some half assed retort, but you know damn well that this is wrong and the creator is against it. It’s not grey, you’re just choosing to see it that way because it’s more important to scratch your fanboy itch than make a difficult moral stance. You’re just making excuses because you want to read it, and what you want is more important to you than what is right.

        • June 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm — Reply

          Mileage varies, as always…

        • ManglesMcgee
          June 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm — Reply

          The creator holds no rights in this issue, these characters are owned by Time Warner Bros/DC. If Moore wanted to keep his rights as a creator, then he shouldnt’t have entered into an agreement with a corporate entity that took those rights away. It’s not like he didn’t know what he was doing, and if he didn’t know, he should have consulted with an attorney before entering into the agreement.

        • AllenBT
          June 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm — Reply

          No one held a gun to Alan Moore’s head, and I guarantee he and his agent were high fiving each other ten minutes after the contract was signed. You don’t get a “do over” just because something you sold was more successful/valuable than you expected. Maybe every time someone wins a lottery, the 7-11 clerk should rush out into the parking lot and demand their ticket back too.

          And ultimately you can’t discount the money and effort DC put into producing the book, from paying for printing to promoting the property, as contributing factors to its success.

          If Moore really is that upset and not just grandstanding all of the time, maybe he should stop cashing the royalty checks.

        • Space Cadet Juan
          June 8, 2012 at 3:25 am — Reply

          Matthew, for what it’s worth your retort seemed completely full-assed to me…

        • Kevin Flythe
          June 8, 2012 at 8:50 am — Reply

          MilliVanilli, while I share your opinion and am abstaining from Before Watchmen myself, I can’t condone the tone of your response. Of all people on the Internet (dare I say, the world?), Matthew knows darn well about the controversy and the objections, both moral and otherwise, to this work. However, he also happens to work at two places (Major Spoilers, THE website for pop culture and comics fans, AND Gatekeeper Hobbies Huntoon & Gage Topeka, ask him about their Watchmen toasters) that deal with reviewing and selling comics, respectively. So is he using that as an excuse to give him a reason to read this book? No, he just wanted to read the darn book, but it helps him talk to Spoilerites and customers about the quality of the work, and keeps someone like me who has chosen not to read them informed of what DC is doing with them. If he tells me the work is worthwhile, I might even put my dollar behind it eventually. If he tells me it’s not, I won’t. A good comic is a good comic, no matter what the controversy surrounding it, and Matthew knows good comics, so I’m glad he’s reading this.

          Now, following that diatribe, let me humbly make a request. If you want heated debate and arguments based on a lack of respect for other people’s opinions, there are a lot of other comics sites I can recommend. I’m proud to be a Spoilerite because the comments section on this site NEVER sinks to that low. Everyone’s opinion is welcomed and valued, yours included, and we want to hear what you have to say. But please, out of respect for others, be civil, because that’s the way a good conversation should be. Search your feelings, MilliVanilli. Girl you know it’s true.

    • Russ Catt
      June 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm — Reply

      Wow… did you really mean for that remark to be so cutting?
      I don’t think we can fault the site for reviewing this title. It is newsworthy.

      For my part, I’m glad that it looks like the creative teams behind these titles are approaching their tasks with all due consideration and care. I simply have no desire to read them.

  2. Firefox
    June 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    I read this last night, and it was very interesting. I look forward to the new books as they come.

  3. June 7, 2012 at 1:19 pm — Reply

    I enjoyed this issue, art & story were all good. Plus it’s the only of these “Befores” that makes sense to tell.

  4. June 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm — Reply

    I agree with Matthew. It was a very compelling read and I look forward to the rest of the books. I hope the rest are as good.

  5. Armaan
    June 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm — Reply

    I kind of loved it.

    No, sorry, I REALLY loved it. I have a new favorite comic book writer. The fact that Cooke drew AND wrote this book only makes me admire it that much more… I think the story was amazingly well written, and the characters.. I lvoed reading about them. Especially Silhouette. It was hearbreaking, the underlying darkness to everything, especially when written by a guy who seems as standup as Nite Owl.

    It’s a good story. With good art. The kind of comic book I want to show to my friends and say “This is why I love comics.”

    Nothing can take away how good I think this comic is.

  6. JoeM
    June 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm — Reply

    I really enjoyed this. This is not what I was expecting. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I feared that this was just going to be a copy of the original, you know, what I would probably write if I were trying to write this. And the first page scared me. But then Hollis said what I was thinking. :D
    I liked Mothman and the Silhouette. But I really liked Captain Metropolis. For me, his sequence worked very well.
    I think I am going to enjoy this a lot.
    Thank you for your review Matthew, I think you are spot-on.

  7. Shawn Hill
    June 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm — Reply

    Very thoughtful review, Matthew. As for the pirate material, I plan to treat it exactly the same as I did the pirate story in the original: by ignoring it altogether. I’m in it for the spandex, and Cooke has already given me more Silhouette than I could have dreamed of. I’ll be buying the rest of the tie-ins based on that combination of artist/character (Straczynski has already shown a predilection for such material with The Twelve), IE only if they’re as good as Cooke’s effort.

  8. July 15, 2012 at 9:56 am — Reply

    Can anyone tell me what is depicted on the first panel of the second page? There’s a manhole cover, and there’s rain, but what’s the yellow and brown stuff, and where exactly is that place supposed to be? I just can’t figure it out, although the rest of the issue is clear as day.

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