Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Moloch

Published: November 7th, 2012 – December 19th, 2012
Written by: John Higgins, J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: John Higgins, Eduardo Risso, Trish Mulvihill
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 52 Pages

Review:

I’ve finally gotten to the end of the Before Watchmen series. They didn’t need to be read in a specific order, so I started with the ones that I really wanted to read and then worked my way through the rest of them. I actually didn’t even know there was one for Moloch, as it was tacked on to the end of the volume that collected the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan’s stories.

So this was kind of a pleasant surprise, as I wasn’t expecting Moloch to be given any sort of character development beyond how small his role was in the original Watchmen.

This, like the other volumes, delves right into Moloch’s backstory and gives him a good origin. You understand why he is the way he is and how he became a criminal and eventually was used by Ozymandias, who exploited his desire to reform.

I really liked Matt Frewer’s portrayal of Moloch in the Watchmen movie and if they were ever going to adapt the Before Watchmen series into a live action format, I’d love to see him get to return to tell this story. In fact, I didn’t much care about Moloch until I saw Frewer play him, giving him more life than the original comic did.

And that’s also what I liked about this story, is that it gives the character merit and a purpose. I’ve yet to read Doomsday Clock, which is a Wathcmen sequel, but I hope aspects of this story carry over into that.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan

Published: August 22nd, 2012 – February 27th, 2013
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein, John Higgins
Art by: John Higgins, Adam Hughes, Laura Martin
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I’m almost through all of these Before Watchmen collections. While they’ve all been pretty good, this is one of the ones that fell just a bit short for me.

I still enjoyed it but it was slow and just wasn’t as interesting as the origins of some of the other characters. But Dr. Manhattan, as a a literal god, isn’t that interesting of a character.

My hopes for this were high though, as I’ve typically dug the comics written by J. Michael Straczynski and this also had the assistance of Len Wein and John Higgins, who did a lot of the art.

The problem with this story is that it didn’t feel like it had enough meat and potatoes to fill up four issues. But I guess they wanted to give Dr. Manhattan a story that was long enough to be equal to the other main Watchmen characters.

This was just lacking the depth and the intrigue I got from some of the better stories like Silk Spectre, The Comedian and Rorschach’s.

Still, for the Watchmen completist and for those who want to understand the characters better, this is certainly not a waste of time.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl

Published: June 27th, 2012 – December 26th, 2012
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski, Len Wein
Art by: Joe Kubert, John Higgins, Bill Sienkiewicz
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 110 Pages

Review:

I’ve only got a few of these Before Watchmen stories left but, for the most part, it’s been a fun ride so far, as this series has added a lot of context and depth to these characters. And while I was initially against this series when it was announced, I’m actually glad that it was made and was superbly handled by the creative teams involved.

The Nite Owl story is no different and this is one of the better ones. It focuses on Nite Owl as the title implies but it also has a lot of its focus on Rorschach and his history and relationship with Nite Owl.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski, who penned one of my favorite Thor runs, as well as the great Len Wein, we are given a story that understands these complex characters and presents them in a new way with great respect for the source material. It’s a rare thing to see modern comics have respect for the foundation and layers that have been built up before this decade.

The art in this is damn good too and it goes to show that DC Comics were really putting their best people on these books.

While these have been criticized as being cheap cash-in attempts, I don’t see it that way. DC wanted to do more with these characters that they own and they wanted to set up a richer mythos going forward, which would eventually lead to the Doomsday Clock event that merges the Watchmen universe with the regular DC canon.

I think fans of the original Wathcmen will always be split on whether or not these modern stories should exist but I think that they’ve certainly justified their existence.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre

Published: July 13th, 2012 – November 28th, 2012
Written by: Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins, Len Wein
Art by: Amanda Conner, John Higgins, Paul Mounts
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 126 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t one of the Before Watchmen books that I was anticipating when compared to the ones featuring the characters I like more: The Comedian and Rorschach. But man, I was pleasantly surprised by this and that has a lot to do with the writing.

Silk Spectre’s story was penned by Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, John Higgins and Len Wein – a pretty solid team. But a lot of times, this many writers can create a clusterfuck. This wasn’t. It had a nice flow to it and it made Silk Spectre a richer character than she was if all you’ve ever read with her is the original Watchmen.

I also really dug Amanda Conner, John Higgins and Paul Mounts art. It fit well with the story and did the proper job of reflecting the era where this tale primarily takes place.

As much as I like Alan Moore’s original Wathcmen, this gives both Silk Spectre characters a deeper exploration and in fact, makes them more interesting. It’s also cool seeing how the Comedian is involved in a very pivotal moment in the younger Silk Spectre’s life.

This story is kind of tragic but it helps build more context to the character and her life. Granted, this wasn’t written by the character’s creator but I don’t think that it, in any way, diminishes Alan Moore’s overall vision. And this, like most of these Before Watchmen comics, seems to truly respect the source material while building off of it in a great way.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Minutemen

Published: June 6th, 2012 – January 23rd, 2013
Written by: Darwyn Cooke
Art by: Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stewart
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 164 Pages

Review:

Working my way through all of the Before Watchmen stuff has finally brought me to the story about the Minutemen. I was excited about this one, beforehand, as it is the one chapter in the saga that focuses on the earliest stuff in the Watchmen timeline. Plus, I was excited to see Darwyn Cooke’s take on Alan Moore’s stupendous universe.

Overall, this was a good, solid read. Cooke’s art style, here, really encapsulated the feel of the World War II era. All the characters looked fantastic in their sort of pulpy ’40s style.

The story shows how the Minutemen came together but the most interesting part of the story is the dynamic between the team members and how they’re all pretty damaged people having to play up appearances for the public.

Cooke tackles a lot of issues within the pages of this collection without being too heavy handed about it. Frankly, it just works and works well.

I liked seeing and understanding these characters at a deeper level because as great as they all were in the original Watchmen story, they didn’t have much time to shine with the events of that book being focused on the heroes that became their heirs.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill

Published: January 30th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: Steve Rude, Glenn Whitmore
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 27 Pages

Review:

This installment of the Before Watchmen series only spanned a single issue. I’m fine with that though, as it’s the least interesting chapter, overall.

I don’t really care about the Dollar Bill character and I don’t think anyone else really does either. The only thing that makes this interesting is how he joined the Minutemen and the fact that those characters also make appearances here.

I wouldn’t call this story a waste of time but it was most definitely filler.

This may seem really short and sweet, as I usually have a lot more to say, even about a single issue of a comic but this was just pretty damn meh.

I don’t blame Len Wein for this not hitting any sort of mark, he’s a talented writer and always has been but this was probably thrown in his lap by DC trying to milk Watchmen for everything it’s worth.

While I’ve pretty much loved the Before Wathcmen releases I’ve read thus far, this was the first one to seem like a cheap attempt at chafing the cash cow’s teats.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Crimson Corsair

Published: July 4th, 2012 – March 13th, 2013
Written by: Len Wein
Art by: John Higgins
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 57 Pages

Review:

I actually wasn’t expecting a prequel to The Black Freighter part of the Watchmen story when I started reading the Before Watchmen series but low and behold, we were given one and it was written by the great Len Wein with art by the always solid John Higgins.

Out of all the Before Watchmen stories I have read, thus far, this one is my least favorite. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, I enjoyed it quite a bit but it resonated the least with me, even though I’m a big fan of swashbuckler stories.

I think the problem with it is that within the context of what Before Watchmen is, this doesn’t really fit. The Black Freighter was a comic book within the comic book. In the Wathcmen world, it is fiction and read within the comic’s own pages. It was also made into an animated film to be spliced into the motion picture but was cut from the final version and later released on DVD and then edited back into The Ultimate Cut of the film.

So with the other comics in this series fleshing out the backstories of the main characters, this one just seemed unnecessary. It’s still cool that it exists but the story here isn’t anywhere near as good as The Black Freighter. And this doesn’t really add anything to that tale either.

If you are a fan of dark, swashbuckling comics like The Black Freighter, then this will probably be interesting to you. But if you want to know more about the Watchmen world itself, this isn’t a necessary read.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.