Thursday, June 7, 2012

Before Watchmen - Minutemen #1 Review

Minutemen #1 - Darwyn Cooke Cover
 BEFORE WATCHMEN  Minutemen #1
written and drawn by DARWYN COOKE

Before Watchmen is the biggest comics event in the past ten years. It's bigger than any massive crossover by either of the big two companies. It's bigger than the launch of the Ultimate Marvel line or the relaunch of DC's entire catalog. This is Watchmen for crying out loud. You know, that little graphic novel that was consistently a top-selling book?

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original opus is widely regarded as the single greatest piece of comic fiction of all time. It is incredibly deep and detailed, rich with hidden little things on every page. It has been analyzed time and time again. It is a cherished thing among many people.

I am not one of those people. Don't get me wrong. I love the book. I love the characters. I did not, however, get to experience it firsthand. I didn't read Watchmen until I was eighteen years old. By then, I had gotten my fill of realistic, brooding, gritty superheroes and their lives out from behind a mask. By the time I read the book, I had already read a million different quotes from Alan Moore damning DC Comics to Hell. I get it Alan, you got screwed. I know.  It's hard for me to pick a side, because any creator being screwed over is no good. I'm all for creators rights. However, I also think from a business standpoint at times, so I can see why DC did what they did. There is no right or wrong here, for me at least. Both parties could have handled this situation better over the years.

Despite Moore's numerous protests and non-support, Watchmen was finally made into a movie. At this point, I really didn't care. I thought it'd be exciting to see on screen. You know what? It was. It was awesome. Zack Snyder made what I think is the closest adaptation we'll ever see of that original story outside of a massive, panel for panel animated version.

When DC made the announcement for Before Watchmen, the entire comic world let out a collective "OH EXPLETIVE DELETED!!" Whether they were in favor of it or not, they were talking. This is a series with characters that people have only seen in the original material, a roleplaying game, and ill-conceived video games that tied in with the movie. They had to be excited to see these characters again. Then the creators were announced. That's when it was apparent that DC was not screwing around. Whether this was for money or love of the material, it was ballsy and they putting their balls to the wall.  The preview art firmly established that the people selected for each project were a perfect fit. I really would like to have video recordings of every creator's reaction when they were offered this job.

Yesterday saw the first release in this ambitious undertaking in the form of Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen. I have been a fan of his since New Frontier and was extremely excited he would be tackling the old school heroes of this universe. Cooke pulls double duty as writer and artist here, and his work is just as vivid as ever.

Minutemen #1 cover by Michael Golden

The books plays out a series of vignettes narrated by Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. They detail each hero's background and gives them each a distinct personality. The exposition never gets boring as most scenes are backed by action. There are hints that this book will get a little more violent as it goes along.

We didn't get to see the original Minutemen do too much as far as actually operating as a unit in the original book, so it will be great to see them working together as the series progresses. This is basically the Justice League of the Watchmen universe. The big hitters, so to speak.

Cooke's retro-ish art style was the best choice for a book like this, surely to be steeped in history and the America of old.

This was a great lead-off, and with Cooke and Amanda Conner's Silk Spectre releasing next week, the event is kicking off with a bang.

 Controversial? Of course. If you really love these characters, though, get ready for a wild ride, because I'm sure peoples' opinions are going to be the most varied you'll ever hear. Either way, DC has accomplished their mission. This will sell, and it will have people talking.

UPDATE: I will be covering the back-up story Curse of the Crimson Corsair as a whole when the series is completed.

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