Review: Before Watchmen – Nite Owl/Dr Manhattan / Author : J. Michael Straczynski / Artist: Adam Hughes, Joe Kubert / Publisher: DC Comics/ Release Date: July 16th
J. Michael Straczynski is perhaps best known for TV series Babylon 5, which established his talent for intricate and believable stories set in fantastic situations. It is no surprise then that he was brought in to write the new batch of prequels inspired by Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel, Watchmen, specifically Nite Owl and Dr Manhattan.
The Nite Owl story works perfectly well as a prequel. It picks up on a couple of minor details from the book and runs with it. Not only do we find out more about the superhero's relationship with other crime fighters, we also get a unique perspective on his character. It isn’t terribly remarkable, and certainly it doesn’t have the same sort of impact as the original, but it doesn’t take anything away from the source.
JMS is also well known for indulging in philosophical ramblings, so it’s predictable that his take on Dr Manhattan’s story is introspective and filled with a lot of navel gazing. Sadly, this doesn’t do anything that can’t be found in the original work and Alan Moore did it better back in the day. It feels like an opportunity to approach the god-like Doctor Manhattan has been wasted. It’s not a bad story, but it is a retread of scenes in the original book and simply underlines existing points.
We’re also treated to a short story about one of Watchmen’s bit part characters, Moloch. The initial revelations are handled nicely, but alas it drags toward the end as it ties itself to the original. It’s almost as if the book feels insecure about its origins. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr Manhattan is well drawn and well written, but ultimately it’s an unremarkable appendix to one of the most successful comic books ever written.