Writer Alan Moore has created one of the best original comic book stories with the 1986-1987 twelve-issue limited series “Watchmen.” In March of 2009, the closely faithful movie adaptation of this classic story was released by Warner Brothers and director Zack Snyder. The storyline and intricately woven plot have intrigued fans for years. Now, DC Comics is publishing a number of titles under the Before Watchmen story arc, which takes place before the events of the “Watchmen.”
Issue #1 of six in the series entitled “Minutemen” follows the immediate retirement of the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. Mason pontificates his life as a crime fighter while attempting to publish his soon to be famous/infamous tell-all autobiographical book “Under the Hood.” He reminisces about why he became a superhero and how he was inspired to become Nite Owl. He lightly delves into some of the backgrounds of his fellow vigilantes such as Hooded Justice, Silk Spectre (Sally Jupiter,) The Comedian, Mothman, Dollar Bill, Silhouette, and Captain Metropolis. With fame, fortune, personal gain, or altruistic intentions motivating these “capes,” an idea was hit upon by wealthy financier Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis) to form the superhero group known as the “Minutemen.” By placing advertisement in major newspapers and using his headquarters as a base of operations, it was relatively simple to attract other “Masked Adventurers” to fill the membership roster in which a group effort would be mutually beneficial.
Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s premiere issue does an admirable job of building an interesting background in which certain characters were briefly covered or alluded to in Moore’s original “Watchmen” series. The story creates an avenue which will cross-over to the other books in the Before Watchmen story arc with all of the titles ultimately culminating on the doorstep of the “Watchmen.” Admittedly, I was a little nervous when reading this, but soon overcame my anxiety when Cooke hit all the beats by providing some insightful character development, and setting the stage for the Minutemen’s adventures. Cooke’s artwork has the look and feel of original Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko, which is appropriate for the period of time that is envisioned. Although, it does not look like Dave Gibbons’ ’80’s “Watchmen,” it shouldn’t. The artwork needs to stand on its own merit, and it does. I look forward to reading the next issue and the other titles in this series of comic books.
Finally, there is an attached two-page back up story, which is reminiscent of “Tales of the Black Freighter.” This story “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep” (Part One) follows a sailor who witnesses his shipmate getting keelhauled. His shipmate is lethally punished for stealing a second ration of rum. Scratching the surface, this story will unfold in the other Before Watchmen books. Until then, fans will have to wait.
“Minutemen” is written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, colored by Phil Noto, and lettered by Jared K. Fletcher. “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep (Part One) is by Len Wein & John Higgins, and is lettered by Sal Cipriano. The comic is Rated M for Mature Readers.
Here are a few other titles to keep a look out for in the Before Watchmen series, which will be released in subsequent weeks: “Silk Spectre,” “Comedian,” “Nite Owl,” “Ozymandias,” “Rorschach,” and “Doctor Manhattan.”