DC Comics is publishing a number of titles under the Before Watchmen banner, which leads up to the events in the original “Watchmen.” The fourth title to premiere in the prequel series follows a young Dan Dreiberg and his idolization for the original Nite Owl (Hollis Mason.) After discovering his secret identity, Mason takes young Danny under his wing and trains him to carry on the legacy as the new Nite Owl.
Issue #1 of four in the series entitled “Nite Owl” had me approaching the story cautiously, I found the Dreiberg/Nite Owl II character’s background in Moore’s “Watchmen” to be the least interesting and dry, although he did have a neat ship and some cool gadgets. Writer J. Michael Straczynski does a surprisingly nice job of self containing a story that allows Dreiberg to be compelling and flourish in his early days. Approached differently than Silk Spectre training her daughter to assume the mantle, Dreiberg tracks the first Nite Owl (Hollis Mason) and pursues the cape from Mason who makes sure Dreiberg is prepared to carry on the Nite Owl legacy. Straczynski smoothly transitions the old guard to the new. Mason is a good mentor for Dreiberg and ensures he goes to college, and is physically and mentally tough enough to step into the costume. In the process of fighting crime, Dreiberg meets and becomes fast friends with fellow vigilante Rorschach. The two form an effective working relationship against the city’s criminal element. Straczynski also introduces the formation of the Crimebusters at Captain Metropolis’ invitation. All other members of the “Watchmen” cast make a cameo appearance, which charges the story with excitement. At the end of the issue, the plot is buttoned up nicely with the reader wanting to see where the story will take the second Nite Owl. Eventually, there will be a falling out between Rorschach and Nite Owl with Nite Owl reluctantly teaming up with the Comedian. Artist and inker Andy and Joe Kubert honor the look and feel Dave Gibbons gave the original “Watchmen” book, specifically with the Nite Owl character. The debut of the Comedian and the Nite Owl books have been the best of all the miniseries DC’s Before Watchmen story arc has released so far. I highly recommend picking up this issue and following it to its inevitable conclusion in issue four.
Finally, there is an attached two-page back up story that is a continuation of “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep” (part four) story, which debuted in the first issue of “Minutemen.” The story follows a sailor, Mister McClachlan, who witnesses his shipmate being keelhauled for a petty theft. After the horribly mutilated body of his crewmate is pulled from the water, Mister McClachlan is outraged by the orders of Captain Chane, and the lack of compassion the captain has for the dead man. He decides to gallantly take matters into his own hands and points a gun at the captain while accusing him of “Cruelty and Butchery.” Unfortunately, the Captain isn’t worried. He is saved by another member of the crew who gets the drop on Mister McClachlan by pointing a gun at his head. Mister McClachlan is tied to one of the deck cannons in order to be administered the punishment of fifty lashes before his court-martial. In the midst of being lashed, a Spanish frigate closes in on the ship and attacks. The Captain is killed and the vessel is damaged. The ship lists causing the deck cannon with McClachlan tied to it to fall into the ocean. While sinking to ocean’s bottom, McClachlan loosens his bindings and surfaces for some much needed fresh air. He discovers that the ship he was on has vanished. Apparently, a round from the frigate’s cannons had struck the powder stores and blown his ship to bits. McClachlan decides to swim for it and after a time encounters a make shift raft occupied by fellow crewman Raleigh. Unfortunately, Raleigh has mysteriously perished. McClachlan casts Raleigh’s body to the briny deep. Later, McClachlan looks into the water only to see Raleigh’s face staring back at him. The next installment of this story will continue in the first issue of “Ozymandias.” Until then, fans will have to wait.
The “Nite Owl” story is written by J. Michael Straczynski, with art and inks by son and father team Andy and Joe Kubert. “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep” (part four) is by Len Wein & John Higgins, and is lettered by Sal Cipriano. The comic is Rated M for Mature Readers.
Here are the other titles in the Before Watchmen series: “Minutemen,” “Silk Spectre,” “Comedian,” “Ozymandias,” “Rorschach,” and “Doctor Manhattan.”