REVIEW: Before Watchmen Dollar Bill #1

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Watchmen’s most popular character gets his chance to shine in the latest Before Watchmen title. Wait…you don’t remember who Dollar Bill is? Well continue on dear reader and I will help shed some light on this wonderful hero!

Dollar Bill_coverBefore Watchmen Dollar Bill #1
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Steve Rude
Letterer: Steve Rude
Colorist: Glen Whitmore
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Before Watchmen: DC has been releasing books telling stories of the main cast of Watchmen taking place before, well, Watchmen. Then they decided to release this one.

DOLLAR WHO?

All smart-assery aside, I have been enjoying the Before Watchmen series quite a bit. I don’t hold Watchmen in the high regard most do, but I like it and understand its importance in comic’s history. So, being one who doesn’t know every minute detail of the classic story, it didn’t surprise me that I had no recollection of who Dollar Bill was. After reading this issue, I did remember a character that got their cape stuck in a revolving door, resulting in death. I just didn’t know his name was Dollar Bill. How could I have forgotten a character with such a unique trait as this? I decided to break out my copy of Watchmen and do some extensive research. I say extensive because it took me quite a while to find Dollar Bill in it at all. As far as I could tell, he is in three panels and mentioned in an excerpt from “Under the Hood.” No wonder I couldn’t recall who he was.

Why do I even mention all this? Well for starters, to give you faithful readers an idea of where I was coming from after reading this issue, but also to illustrate a point. If a character as minor as Dollar Bill seems, to the point that he is forgettable, does he deserve an entire issue to tell his back-story? The answer, I suppose, depends on your desire to know the history of all the characters from Watchmen. For me, I don’t know that I needed to read a thirty-two-page story about Dollar Bill. So, how do you tell a story about a character whose most defining trait is getting their cape stuck in a revolving door? Len Wein does good job and it’s certainly entertaining but the problem I have is its lack of giving us anything more than Watchmen itself. In the “Under the Hood” excerpt we learn he is a former athlete, someone who wanted to get into acting, became a mascot for National Bank, joined the Minutemen, and then was shot after getting his cape stuck in a revolving door. We get all that in this issue, some expanded on some more, but all in all not a lot new. I enjoyed seeing more of the character’s personality, a down and out actor taking up an easy gig only to get in over his head resulting in his untimely death. My favorite part of the issue was Dollar Bill’s telling of the first bank robbery he stopped with the Minutemen. Here we see him react like any normal human would, terrified out of his mind, until he gets that rush of adrenaline and becomes the hero he’s meant to be. He feels full of passion, alive and I was glad to see this, as my impression of him was that of a loser. This was also the only part I felt gave us something not seen in Watchmen. The rest feels unnecessary and redundant. That’s unfortunate because this book could really have made the character shine. We’re meant to care about Dollar Bill’s story but, ultimately, never shown why we should. At the end, Mothman asks “Six months from now, who’s going to remember Dollar Bill?” As someone who didn’t, I can’t say this issue will stop me from forgetting him again.

OLD TIMEY GOODNESS

Steve Rude’s art couldn’t be more perfect for a tale like this. Firmly in the Golden era, his art represents the times astonishingly well. Seeing his drawings of the costumes gave me the same reaction that Dave Gibbon’s work did in Watchmen. This is exactly what someone would look like wearing those ridiculous costumes. There is innocence to his work that reflects the comics of that time and it all works. While there is a lot of text in this issue, none of it ever cramps the art, allowing much of it to breath. If there is one complaint I have its with some of the lettering. There are a couple instances where the flow is interrupted by the placements of the letterboxes. At one point, the placement requires the reader to read from right to left resulting in quite an unnatural feeling. It’s a minor complaint and only occurs a couple of times but enough that it stood out. Still, Rude’s art is the best thing about this book by far.

BOTTOM LINE: WORTH A READ, BUT NOT $3.99

Before Watchmen Dollar Bill #1 is a fine story, one that I enjoyed. The problem is that it feels redundant and unnecessary. An extremely minor character in the original story, Dollar Bill’s could have been better served as a backup in one of the main titles. At $3.99, the reader doesn’t get much new material or insight to the character that isn’t already given in Watchmen. Steve Rude’s art is wonderful and makes the story much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, I fear, this issue doesn’t make Dollar Bill an unforgettable character. Before Watchmen Dollar Bill #1 gets 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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