REVIEW: Before Watchmen – Dr. Manhattan #1 (of 4)

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DC’s attempt at capitalizing on the success of Watchmen with the release of the prequel series has been successful in a purely monetary sense. Each new release has been, for the most part, a top seller, all the while receiving lukewarm reviews from critics and fans alike. Find out if the Dr. Manhattan outing breaks the mold of mediocrity after the jump!

BEFORE WATCHMEN: DR. MANHATTAN #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Steve Wands
Colors: Laura Martin
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan: Dr. Manhattan was once just a watchmaker and nuclear physicist by the name of Jon Osterman. That is, until an accident involving an intrinsic field experiment turned him into the demigod Dr. Manhattan. He perceives all of time as happening at once, can change matter at the sub atomic level, teleport and pretty much anything and everything else. Spending some time with the hero group known as the Minutemen, then the Watchmen, and fighting in the Vietnam War, Dr. M has been there to defend America wherever it needs defending.

INTERNAL EXPLORATION

While other Before Watchmen books have decided to explore what happens before the Moore masterpiece known as Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan #1, instead, takes the reader to moments already seen in the original piece and shows them through Dr. Manhattan’s eyes, with only brief moments exploring Jon Osterman’s life before his transformation. While this is interesting at times, especially at one point where he shows the readers an alternate history that could have happened, it is ultimately boring. Since Dr. Manhattan is so close omnipotence, he does not have any real personality to make his internal monologue interesting while he brings up heavy topics like quantum probability, alternate realities, and time travel. It ends up reading like a college paper on philosophy on quantum physics.

ALIEN LOOKS ALIENATES READER

The overall art in the book is solid. Hughes draws everyone other than Dr. Manhattan really well. The good doctor himself though looks like a blue blob against the backdrop of the rest of the world. I would like to think this was done on purpose to add to the idea that he stands out, that he does not belong. Unfortunately, Dr. Manhattan’s body lacks any real design, as if he was added as an after thought to the comic, its hard to believe that this alien look was done on purpose. There are some fantastic panel layouts though, especially at the “universe that could have been” bit with Rorschach and Silk Specter. There is also this one full page of Dr. Manhattan traveling through time that is absolutely gorgeous, one that instills faith that Hughes can pull out some really interesting stuff later on in the series.

BOTTOM LINE: INTRIGUING BUT NOT FANTASTIC

Its a solid comic, nothing inherently wrong with it, just nothing exactly special or exciting either. The last couple of pages did pique my interest enough to read the next issue. If you are a die hard fan of Dr. Manhattan and just need to read more about him then by all means pick this up, but if you are on the fence then do not bother, its not worth the $3.99 for someone with a passing interest.

Rating: ★★½☆☆