Comic Review: Before Watchmen - Minutemen #1 / Art: Darwyn Cooke / Writer: Darwyn Cooke / Publisher: DC / Release Date: Out Now
The Before Watchmen series has been plagued by harsh criticism since its announcement, so much so that a dark cloud hung above it, foreclosing discussion of the purely creative merits of the work. Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 cuts through that cloud like a bright ray of sunshine, breathing fresh life into the 25 year old franchise while delivering a story that lives up the Watchmen name. Though there are certainly legitimate ethical considerations arising from the dispute between Alan Moore and DC, for the purposes of this review, Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 will be judged by its own merits, independent of outside considerations.
To frame the story of the Minutemen, Darwyn Cooke uses Hollis Mason’s autobiography Under the Hood, the pages of which were peppered throughout the original Watchmen, hinting at the golden era of days gone by, made infinitely more tragic by the bleakness of the book’s Cold War setting. The nostalgia is strong in Before Watchmen: Minutemen, yet Cooke’s whimsically vintage art adds a touch of playfulness to an otherwise wistful tale. As both writer and artist, Cooke seamlessly blends text and visuals, creating a book that wouldn’t have been terribly out of place in the Golden Age of comics.
It’s hard to tell a story in thirty pages or less but Cooke manages to spin a tale full of both unbridled joy and the kind of regret that only comes with age and experience. Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 is a satisfying read that hints at a larger narrative without sacrificing its own internal cohesion.
The first issue (of six) serves as an extended introduction to each member of the Minutemen team, including the ambitious Sally Jupiter, the mysterious Silhouette, and the thuggish Comedian, forever dancing at the extreme edges of heroism. Several of the characters received only token mentions in the pages of Watchmen and as such, have never been held as sacred as the book’s main characters.
As far as publishing strategies go, rolling out Before Watchmen: Minutemen before the titles focusing on the likes of Rorshach, Nite-Owl II, and Dr. Manhattan is a wise one. Even the most dedicated old school Watchmen fan would be hard-pressed to find fault with Cooke’s vision of the Minutemen. While the debate about creator’s rights and publishing ethics will surely rage on, it would be disingenuous to deny the brilliance of Before Watchmen: Minutemen. If nothing else, Darwyn Cooke has proven beyond a doubt that there are stories left to tell in the world of Watchmen.