Before Watchmen: Moloch 2 (February 2013)

Straczynski turns Moloch into the martyr of Watchmen. And he gets away with it. Moloch’s such a broken soul, it’s feasible he’d bend to Adrian’s will. As for Adrian, who practically gets more page time here than Moloch, Straczynski seems to recognize what he and Moloch have in common… they’re both illusionists. Adrian’s convincing Moloch he’s doing the right thing, which includes killing lots of people.

The issue covers the time Moloch leaves prison–Adrian gives him a job fit for a member of the Red-Headed League–up until his death. Because Straczynski is so concerned with explaining another side of Adrian’s master plan, Moloch doesn’t really get to do much. He’s broken and sympathetic, nothing more. It’s too bad, since Straczynski writes him pretty well. He’s almost lovable.

Oh, and the pirate backup finally finishes. Higgins uses a lot of color for it but it’s still utter crap.

CREDITS

The Eleven-Thirty Absolution; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Conclusion; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Moloch 1 (January 2013)

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Even though Moloch appears in the original Watchmen, there’s a lot more talk about him than show. J. Michael Straczynski turns the character into a quintessential sympathetic villain. He was born with deformed ears, leading to teasing in childhood and other tragedies later in life. Straczynski uses first person narration, making the reader identify with Moloch even more.

Straczynski recounts most of Moloch’s career this issue–presumably next deals with how he ties into the original series’s big reveal–and it moves at a nice pace. Eduardo Risso’s a great choice for the art; he handles the forties time period beautifully. He plays with a lot of false innocence visuals.

I’m a little surprised Straczynski was able to do so much with Moloch. It probably helps he didn’t try too hard and it’s only a two issue series. The brevity helps move it a whole lot.

It’s an unexpected success.

CREDITS

Forgive Me, Father, For I Have Sinned; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Eduardo Risso; colorist, Trish Mulvihill; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Four; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 4 (December 2012)

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And another good one. Azzarello likes doing war comics; he should stick to them. Even though there are some confusing parts to the narrative–Azzarello fractures it without establishing the bookends–and the song lyric excerpts don’t work, it’s a successful issue.

Towards the end, Eddie and his gang drop acid before going on patrol. If Azzarello had structured the whole comic around the trip, it would have integrated much better. Instead, it feels like Azzarello’s just explaining a series of events. That approach is good since the writing’s good, but the fracture structure feels too forced.

And there are some changes to Eddie. Azzarello never goes into how the changes really effect him, but some are very obvious. There’s no judgment in Comedian. Following his movie inspirations, Azzarello just lets Eddie and company personify the insanity of the Vietnam War.

It’s not original at all, just darn good writing.

CREDITS

Conquistador; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Six; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 3 (November 2012)

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It’s another surprisingly good issue.

Eddie’s on leave in Hawaii after he aggravated a riot while on leave in L.A. Azzarello structures the whole issue around him telling Bobby Kennedy (his strongest government supporter) about it.

Going between race riots and war protests, Azzarello manages to look do a nice little history issue. There’s not a lot of facts, but he definitely investigates the complications behind these things. And Eddie even gets a little character.

Eddie can’t have too much character, however, as Azzarello is moving him through the series as the reader’s guide through history. The other Watchmen superheroes haven’t shown up yet–and the brief mention of them this issue is a surprise–because they don’t work with what Azzarello’s doing.

This Comedian series is half done; it’ll be interesting to see if Azzarello can stay so gleefully disentangled from the original series in the second half.

CREDITS

Play With Fire; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorists, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Five; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

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Yeah, Azzarello definitely enjoys writing Comedian. There’s a lot of Vietnam War history here, a little American political history and almost no Watchmen connection. The Comedian could just be anyone. Azzarello never gives him anything superhero specific.

So, as a comic, it’s good, but–and I can’t believe I’m saying it–it fails as a Before Watchmen title. Eddie’s a corrupt, kill-happy advisor. Azzarello gives him no special personality, not even a real character moment in the entire issue. There’s a little with him hanging out with Bobby Kennedy, but not enough to make an impression.

It’s a war history comic. Jones’s art isn’t great for the subject, but he handles it better than superhero stuff I guess. There’s definitely a morose tone to it.

I’m hoping Azzarello doesn’t even try tying into the original series.

The pirate backup, shockingly, has a plot point. I didn’t they even bothered.

CREDITS

I Get Around; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Eight; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 (August 2012)

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I thought J.G. Jones was a better artist. I don’t know why exactly, but I did. His figures in Comedian are terrible. People change size, make no sense when standing next to one another. And his faces are even worse. It’s an ugly comic. I guess the editors didn’t think they could tell him to actually work at it.

Reading the creator team, I thought I’d have the problems with Brian Azzarello, but no. It’s all Jones. Azzarello does a really good job with the writing. Eddie’s still unlikable, but Azzarello gets how to make an unlikable character interesting to read.

There’s a great finish; the issue’s got a couple big historical moments. The first is somewhat slight, but Azzarello does wonders with the second.

I can’t imagine he’ll be able to maintain this level of quality plotting.

The pirate backup’s not the worst ever, but strangely annoying here.

CREDITS

Smile; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Three; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 3 (January 2013)

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Travis Bickle guest stars in this issue. Azzarello’s deep, man, he’s really deep.

He also sets up Rorschach’s girlfriend to get killed, which will undoubtedly explain why he loses himself completely in the mask. The Before Watchmen editors clearly didn’t coordinate or they just gave Azzarello free reign. He uses it to write a really lame comic book.

The entire issue reads in a few minutes, even though it takes place over a day. Azzarello doesn’t try to write much in the way of narration here, either because he’s too enthralled with his dumb plot twist involving the girlfriend or because he realized he’s incapable of writing good narration. I’ll assume the former. If it were the latter, there would be other signs of progress in the issue.

I hadn’t realized before, but Bermejo doesn’t draw fluid environments well. When people are interrupted, in dialogue or movement, he flubs it.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Eight; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 (December 2012)

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Azzarello gives Rorschach a love interest. Maybe he didn’t read Watchmen after all. I was kind of kidding before, but now I’m not so sure.

The series is a mix of bad ingredients. Azzarello and Bermejo go for visual realism, whether in the depictions of the city or its people, but then Azzarello writes a goofy bad guy out of an exploitation picture. He’s got a pet tiger and a supervillain name and a skin condition out of Ennis’s Punisher MAX.

The series’s problem is its derivative details, specifically how none of them are derivative of the original series. Rather, it’s stuff Azzarello likes. Or thinks is good. Or just plain wants to rip off.

Maybe if he had a consistent handle on the character, the issues would read a little better. But Azzarello lacks commitment. Rorschach is clearly just a paycheck to him and it shows on every page.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Eight; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 1 (October 2012)

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Wait, am I really supposed to take Rorschach seriously? Brian Azzarello’s writing of the narration suggests he’s never even seen the Watchmen movie, much less read the comic. It’s like he heard there was crazy narration and did a terrible job approximating it.

The series is set in 1977, in New York City. Taxi Driver would be the most obviously influence on Lee Bermejo’s art, except the art is slick and shiny. Rorschach looks desperately fake.

There’s an inexplicable, goofy lack of reality to the writing. Rorschach gets his ass kicked, but the bad guys don’t kill him. They don’t make sure he’s dead, even after they lay an elaborate trap to catch him. Instead of doing a hard boiled Rorschach comic, Azzarello writes one with less teeth than an episode of “Simon & Simon.”

The only teeth Azzarello gives this one are poorly constructed dentures.

And pirate backup is terrible.

CREDITS

Damn Town; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part One; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 3 (February 2013)

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In a lot of ways, Straczynski has turned Dr. Manhattan into a neatly disguised rumination from a fictional character questioning his relationship with his environment. Jon wants to change his personal narrative to make it a happy one, which turns out to end the world. One has to wonder why he didn’t just try to remove the costumed adventurers all together… as in our reality (all Straczynski’s quantum mechanics has got me talking like he does), there was no nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

It would’ve been too cute maybe.

Straczynski continues to write Jon quite well. He captures some of the isolation and melancholy from Moore’s characterization and expands upon it. The whole family history thing is fantastic.

This spin-off is probably the best thing Straczynski has written.

Great Hughes art (he wimps out on the detailed blue penis though).

Awful pirate backup.

CREDITS

Ego Sum; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Nine; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 2 (December 2012)

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Straczynski and Hughes aren’t satisfied with just playing with Watchmen here–Hughes does a lovely montage featuring imagery from the prequels and the original–they also feel the need for a 2001 reference. Dr. Manhattan is interesting because of that ambitiousness.

For example, Straczynski’s writing is concerned with being smart and thoughtful. The series is an informed layperson’s rumination on quantum physics. He’s designing the whole comic around the idea Jon can unmake the universe based on how he choses to perceive it. That idea’s a big one–and Hughes is the perfect artist for the fantastic reality of it–but it’s not necessarily tied to Watchmen.

Instead of wrapping himself around the original’s mythology, Straczynski takes some characters and details and goes off in an entirely independent direction. Even when he does tie into the other prequels, it feels organic.

It’s nice.

The pirate backup even looks quite good.

CREDITS

One Fifteen P.M.; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part One; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 (October 2012)

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There’s something cool about Dr. Manhattan. Not just because Adam Hughes does the art–though the way he’s able to be stylized and still fluid is impressive; I wasn’t expecting him to do sequential so well.

And it’s not cool because J. Michael Straczynski tries so hard to ape Alan Moore’s “voice” for Jon. It’s cool because Straczynski actually comes up with something a little different than the rest of these Before Watchmen books.

Well, the ones trying to deal directly with the original series’s events. While Jon’s off on Mars, Straczynski gives him a side adventure. He goes into it without trying to tie it into the original series. It’s like he’s broken the timeline between the original and this prequel.

So between this approach, Hughes’s artwork and Straczynski’s successful aping of Moore’s voice for the character, the issue’s not bad.

The pirate backup, however, is horrendously written stuff.

CREDITS

What’s in the Box?; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Two; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 4 (January 2013)

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Where to start… when Wein brings up Rorschach in 1960 but then later says he doesn’t show up until a few years later? I hope the editors didn’t get paid for this one in particular.

The only distinct thing in the comic is Wein’s handling of the Kennedys. Adrian’s very judgmental of them, but then turns around and tries to solve the assassination. In another of Wein’s dumb moves, Adrian can’t figure it out. Wein sets up everything for Adrian’s easy success; Adrian actually having to think would be a nice change.

The dead girlfriend pops up. Apparently she’s been haunting him. Wein never mentioned it before, as his characterization of Adrian is completely inept.

Some weak art from Lee. His rendering of Silk Spectre is the most memorably bad (and she’s only in the comic for two panels).

At least, the pirate backup’s worse than the feature this time.

CREDITS

Shattered Visage…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Five; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 3 (November 2012)

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Len Wein has been writing comics for decades. He’s definitely an adult. Why does he write dialogue Yogi Bear would find infantile? Except the stuff with the Comedian making gay jokes about Adrian. Those comments read a little meta given Wein’s awkward handling of Adrian’s sex life.

Though Wein does write Eddie’s double entendres like he’s just seen his first “Dynasty.” Ozymandias is so poorly written, it’s occasionally embarrassing to read.

There are a few red herrings to kill time before Wein makes his big reveal–Adrian had the plan for Watchmen way back in 1959. Because he’s so smart. This series would have been better spent going through the books on Adrian’s shelves than Wein’s lame attempts at a narrative.

It’s awful.

However, Lee finally does find something he can draw. The scenes in Antarctica do look awesome.

And the pirate backup is once again better than the feature.

CREDITS

The Heart That Fed…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Seven; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 2 (October 2012)

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Wein seems to think giving Adrian very purple narration suggests intelligence. It doesn’t. Adrian’s of “sleek” as an adjective is laughable.

Then there’s the problem of the thugs oscillating between ostentatious dialogue and traditional moronic thug dialogue. Wein is trying really hard; it kills any chance the series has–which isn’t much, given Lee’s painfully static art.

Speaking of Lee, his rendition of the Comedian is some of the worst comic art I’ve seen in a while. There’s only the one reveal page, but it’s truly hideous.

Wein rips off some details from the Shadow–the agents of Adrian (maybe Moore had those too)–but it’s otherwise indistinct superhero stuff. Lots of cursing to show it’s a grown-up comic book and not for kids.

As for the ties to the rest of Before Watchmen, a good editor would’ve made them more integral.

The pirate backup’s got really lazy art.

CREDITS

The Hand That Mocked Them…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Ten; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 1 (September 2012)

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I don’t know what’s more amusing in Len Wein’s wordy exposé of Ozymandias–the idea of majoring in Alexander the Great in post-graduate work (seriously, did no editor explain to Wein how higher education functions) or Adrian being ashamed of his homosexual dalliances.

Wein has Adrian recording his memoirs during the final events of the original Watchmen and Adrian hides the gay adventure. Jae Lee’s art shows it while the text obscures it. If you’re going to be vaguely homophobic about it, why put it in? Unless it’s because Adrian’s just the bad guy.

Speaking of Lee’s art… It’s bad. Every page is meticulously designed like a cover–even the part where Adrian hallucinates on hash (the world clearly operates differently in the Watchmen universe)–but boring. And Lee’s incapable of drawing Adrian’s eyes. It’s a funny looking comic.

The pirate backup may actually be better than the feature.

CREDITS

I Met a Traveler…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Five; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 3 (November 2012)

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Well, Straczynski doesn’t spend too much time with Rorschach this issue, just enough to remind everyone he’s around. He also doesn’t continue the narration from Dan. Why? Because Straczynski doesn’t go for any kind of narrative continuity; Nite Owl’s an editorial disaster. I guess no one told Straczynski to at least be consistent in his lameness.

And, except the art (which is often quite bad), Nite Owl’s more lame than anything else. Straczynski treats Dan like a bit of a tool, introducing the costumed madam as a way to show off how little Dan has going for him. Because, after reading Watchmen, everyone wanted a comic about Dan Dreiberg losing his virginity to a vaguely condescending madam.

Straczynski also makes the juxtaposing of Dan and Rorschach crystal clear. Lovely to read someone who treats his readers like illiterate boobs.

The Higgins pirate thing is especially bad here too.

CREDITS

Thanks for Coming; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; penciller, Andy Kubert; inkers, Joe Kubert and Bill Sienkiewicz; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Nick Napolitano. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Six; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 2 (October 2012)

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Why didn’t they just combine this series with the Rorschach one? Straczynski probably gives Rorschach a third of the issue anyway. He’s juxtaposing Dan and Rorschach’s differing Mommy complexes, which would work for a combined book. But for one called Nite Owl? Doesn’t make any sense.

There’s not a lot of callbacks to the original series here, except Rorschach getting his sign. Why doesn’t he get in his own series? Because Straczynski doesn’t have a story for Dan, not really. He’s got Dan chasing down some leather madam–gratuitously topless woman in a DC regular comic alert–because of his Mommy issues.

There’s also a lot of stuff Straczynski should have included in the first issue regarding Dan’s home life. It’s unclear how he’s a millionaire when his family lives in a very middle class home. Straczynski definitely should have addressed it.

The art’s real bad this issue. Real bad.

CREDITS

Some Things Are Just Inevitable; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; penciller, Andy Kubert; inker, Joe Kubert; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Nick Napolitano. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Nine; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 1 (August 2012)

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Given the problems, Nite Owl is a lot better than it should be. Straczynski writes Rorschach and Nite Owl well together. The humor of a gentler Rorschach helps it.

Now for the problems.

It’s trite and obvious; no surprise from Straczynski. He’s got Dan blathering about his fate with Laurie. Then there’s a line to tie-in to the Minutemen series, only that series didn’t set this one up. Then there’s the retcon regarding Dr. Manhattan perving on Laurie.

Oh, and Dan’s abusive father. It reads a little like “Dr. Phil meets Watchmen” for the beginning. Straczynski introduces one bold move but then backs off immediately.

As for the art… Joe Kubert inking Andy… It’s a mess. It has a retro feel, with Andy really pushing for his dad’s style. At its best, the art’s mediocre. At its worst? The backgrounds look photoshopped.

It’s a breezy read and not atrocious.

CREDITS

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; penciller, Andy Kubert; inker, Joe Kubert; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Nick Napolitano. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Four; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 4 (January 2013)

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Looks like Conner rushed a bit with the art. The issue opens fine and closes okay, but there are some definite rough patches.

The ending is atrocious, when Cooke and Conner tie it directly into a scene from Watchmen, only now we get to hear Laurie’s take on the scene. Guess what? Neither Cooke nor Conner–whoever wrote the scene–are as good of writers as Alan Moore. Shocker.

Otherwise, the issue’s not terrible. Instead of letting her be a hippie superhero, which was interesting and fun, the writers wrap everything up neatly for the finish. And the writing between Laurie and Sally is terrible, which doesn’t help things.

Hollis Mason shows up for a little bit and he should’ve been the narrator of the whole series, given where it goes.

Again, it could be worse–like as bad as Higgins’s pirate story–but it could be a lot better.

CREDITS

The End of the Rainbow; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Three; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 3 (November 2012)

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The mystery of the smiley face button is solved! Finally, now everyone can sleep at night. The addition of said button does make one wonder if Cooke’s flipping off Moore a little (as the button is what started Moore’s disputes with DC).

This issue features a lot of things Cooke and Conner should have covered in the previous one, with Sally worrying about her kid instead of just ignoring it (from the reader’s point of view). The ending isn’t great, but it’s whole.

It’s a bridging issue without any memorable scenes. Even Laurie tripping on bad acid turns out to be a red herring.

The comic’s not bad, however. Conner’s art is still a nice mix of straightforward and sixties–not quite indie, but definitely not mainstream vanilla–and the scenes are well-written.

Laurie just isn’t enough of a character this issue.

The crappy backup has a terrible cliffhanger.

C 

CREDITS

No Illusion; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Four; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 2 (September 2012)

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Cooke and Conner set up Laurie as a hippie superhero; it’s kind of cool and definitely a decent look at sixties San Francisco. What’s interesting–and something I don’t think the original series ever established–is Laurie goes the “with great power” route. She turns into Silk Spectre because she can help people if she does. It deepens the character quite a bit.

And she needs it, because Cooke and Conner spend almost half the issue on the supervillains plotting to get kids tripping and consuming. It’s an incredibly boring scene and it goes on forever and ever.

Her boyfriend’s not much of a character either. I haven’t determined if they’re supposed to be teen runaways, but one would think his parents might be concerned.

The ending cliffhanger’s either going to be awesome or some terrible way to be grim and gritty.

Shockingly, Wein writes an okay pirate backup too.

CREDITS

Getting Into the World; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Seven; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 1 (August 2012)

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For Silk Spectre, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner go the romance comic route. Or at least closer to it than I was expecting, but it makes sense given Laurie’s age during the high adventuring days of Watchmen.

She’s got her teen story going while Sally deals with aging and raising a kid to be a costumed adventurer. Cooke and Conner make both women utterly sympathetic, but it only works on Sally’s side because the reader knows her story.

Without it, she’d come across as a tiger mom. Except maybe the phone call to Hollis, which is as close as the comic gets to self-indulgence. It needs a little more, but it’s quite good as is.

Conner’s art never gets too cute, but always maintains the romance comic tone. It’s rather good and hard to imagine Spectre without it.

Higgins’s backup art, however, is severely lacking. It’s a muddled mess.

CREDITS

Means Goodbye; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Two; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 5 (February 2013)

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Yeah, Cooke goes exactly where I expected him to go. I suppose one could say there’s a balance to how he treats gays, but there’s not. He turns one group into martyrs and demonizes the other. It’d probably make Alan Moore ralph; one’s got to wonder if it’s there as a middle finger to Moore, actually.

Otherwise, it’s an excellent issue. Cooke gives the Minutemen a great mission with lots of twists. The final one gives Hollis some great scenes. The issue feels the tightest, with Cooke layering in visual references better than he has before.

It’s not all action. There’s also the ties to the original series, mostly with Sally and the Comedian. Those scenes are a lot more perfunctory than the action plot.

Of course, I think it’s the first issue where Cooke primarily has original material. No wonder he works better with it.

As always, lame backup.

CREDITS

The Minute of Truth, Chapter Five: The Demon Core; writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke; colorist, Phil Noto; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Seven; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Wil Moss, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 4 (December 2012)

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On one hand, this issue is the most how I’d expect a Watchmen prequel from Cooke to read (if it weren’t four issues in). There’s back story on the Minutemen after the war, including when Sally and the Comedian reunite. Cooke humanizes him quite a bit… even if he does rip off Full Metal Jacket and a handful of other war movies to do so.

And he turns Sally into a stronger character than expected. Nothing like how she reads in the actual Watchmen comic, but a better character in this series. Cooke has made a few things his own, including the Silhouette’s experiences in Germany in the thirties.

Sadly, he comes up with a contrived reveal for the end of it. It’s cheap and completely unbelievable if it plays out the way he’s suggesting here. It’s rather distressing.

Finally (as usual), Higgins’s pirate thing is a waste of time.

CREDITS

The Minute of Truth, Chapter Four: War Stories; writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke; colorist, Phil Noto; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Two; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Wil Moss, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 3 (October 2012)

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Poor Hollis, in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists. Strangely, Cooke doesn’t narrate the book well when Hollis–in the sixties–is commenting directly on his younger self’s actions. The narration does work otherwise though.

The charm of Minutemen is gone. Once again, there’s a meta reference to it in Hollis’s opening narration. What remains is a destruction of the Golden Age ideal. It’s a good comic, but Cooke seems to be doing it in embrace the cynicism.

I can’t decide if he’s doing it as a way to interaction with Watchmen’s media legacy or if he’s doing it as a joke. If he’s laughing at the idea of doing a sequel to a work without the original writer’s involvement. If he’s calling Before Watchmen fanfic and nothing more.

Regardless, Cooke produces a thought-provoking comic book, both in its story and also free of those constraints.

CREDITS

The Minute of Truth, Chapter Three: Child’s Play; writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke; colorist, Phil Noto; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Three; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Wil Moss, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 2 (September 2012)

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And now I’m not sure with where Cooke takes things. He turns Minutemen, in its conclusion this issue, into a really tough, uncomfortable book. It’s like I can’t decide if it’s homophobic, if Cooke’s just using the material or if he’s just being straightforward about it. There’s probably no comfortable way to handle it.

I’m talking about the superheroes, not the bad guys. For the bad guys, Cooke goes even more subtle and poetic even. He’s really playing with his format this issue; not just how his style doesn’t seem to lend itself to grit, but also how he occasionally mimics the original Watchmen panel arrangement.

It’s a good issue, well-written and well-illustrated, but I’m not sure how much I like it.

He also has a meta allusion to the Before Watchmen series at the open.

Higgins’s pirate art is too slick this time, sinking the backup story.

CREDITS

The Minute of Truth, Chapter Two: Golden Years; writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke; colorist, Phil Noto; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Six; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Wil Moss, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen 1 (August 2012)

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I’m a little surprised, but I only have one problem with Minutemen (at least the Darwyn Cooke material). Who the hell is Hollis Mason talking to? He’s basically summarizing his book, right? It doesn’t make any sense.

The only surprises are Silk Spectre and the Comedian–she’s a model faking being an adventurer and he’s already a vicious psychopath. The revelation of a rough childhood reads like giving his behavior an excuse, even if Cooke doesn’t intend it. But it doesn’t really matter because it’s Darwyn Cooke doing period superhero art.

There’s not much better, except maybe Darwyn Cooke doing really violent period superhero art and he does that art here. The issue’s a feast for the eyes and Cooke’s got the time period down.

The pirate backup has good art from John Higgins, but two pages isn’t enough space for Len Wein to do anything in terms of writing.

CREDITS

The Minute of Truth, Chapter One: Eight Minutes; writer and artist, Darwyn Cooke; colorist, Phil Noto; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part One; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Wil Moss, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

The Boys 28 (March 2009)

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Hughie disobeys orders to try to help the G-Wiz, which doesn’t go well for them. It also doesn’t go well for the reader because Higgins is back on the art and he’s bad. He’s bad when he’s just doing regular scenes (he draws Butcher like a hobbit at one point) and he’s even worse for the bloodbath with the Frenchman and the Female.

Ennis tries to fit a bunch of characters in–the bad guy suits, the Legend, everybody gets an appearance (except Annie)–only it’s all very slight. When Mother’s Milk reveals the secret of the G-Men, it’s been obvious to the reader for a couple issues.

Hughie’s behavior also doesn’t make any sense. He’s not a social worker. Ennis hasn’t been playing him like one; needing him to be one these last few issues has been a misfire.

Ennis never found a story for this arc.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part Six; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, John Higgins; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Joseph Rybandt; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys 26 (January 2009)

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I’ll never complain about Robertson being lazy on The Boys again. Actually, I probably will, but I sure do miss him this issue. John Higgins fills in and, while he can handle a lot of the content, he misses the nuance to some of it. He draws Annie like any other bimbo comic book blonde. Gone is the innocence. It changes the character quite a bit.

Higgins’s finest work might just be on Terror. He might draw the dog better than anything else.

Ennis is stretching out the story arc unnecessarily with this issue. Hughie’s interlude with Annie doesn’t build from the previous foreshadowing, Butcher’s subplot is just a tease, Mother’s Milk only has two pages. The Frenchman and the Female only have one.

Ennis focuses on the G-Men because he’s got some good X-Men jokes. But he’s overdoing it. Making fun of the X-Men is easy.

CREDITS

We Gotta Go Now, Part Four; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, John Higgins; colorist, Tony Avina; letterer, Simon Bowland; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

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