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.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias

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

DC Comics, 156 Pages

Review:

I have been loving this Before Watchmen series. I previously read the Comedian and Rorschach stories, so this one is my third installment.

Out of the three I have read, this is my least favorite. But it’s still damn good and really captures the spirit of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s original Watchmen series. All the ones I’ve read thus far have also been written by top notch writers, however.

This volume really works well for the Ozymandias character. Len Wein understands him, his motivations and does a fine job of painting a vivid picture of what made Ozymandias into the man he became, a true villain but one with noble intentions willing to cross the line in order to mold the world into what he perceives as something better.

John Higgins does some of the art and his work in other Before Watchmen books has been great. The bulk of the art here is done by the great Jae Lee, though. Lee is a guy that never gets the credit and props he deserves, in my opinion, and he did such a fine job with the art here that this is one of my favorite pieces of work he’s created.

This story also sees other Watchmen characters show up, where the Comedian and Rorschach volumes mostly just focused solely on them. Here, we see Ozymandias’ first encounters with the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl. We even get a very brief Rorschach cameo.

Overall, this was a really good read and it just increased my interest in the expanded Watchmen universe. Something I wasn’t too keen on when first hearing about it but have started to accept and have surprisingly enjoyed. But I give credit to the fact that DC Comics put their best people on these stories.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.

Book Review: ‘Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test’ Edited by Mark D. White

There are philosophy books for just about every major pop culture franchise or major property out there. I do really like reading them though, as it gives some interesting insight and depth to characters and story. Sometimes these sort of books are filled with a lot of drivel but that doesn’t mean that they’re not entertaining in their own way.

This one seemed low on drivel and really got to the core of a lot of the characters within the Watchmen story. What makes this really interesting, is that the Watchmen universe has expanded since this book came out. We now have prequel comics, sequel comics, a movie, an upcoming television show and probably new stories with these character for years to come.

What makes this cool is that there’s a lot of good analysis in the book that can be applied to the characters when observed in these new stories and through different mediums.

I wouldn’t call this book a “must own” or anything but I’ve always enjoyed philosophy and I certainly love Watchmen.

This is just one of dozens (maybe hundreds) of books like this but it is well organized, well edited and none of it seemed like filler.

I found this to be easy to digest and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other books about philosophy and pop culture franchises, as well as the original Watchmen comic.

Comic Review: Before Watchmen: Rorschach

Published: August 15th, 2012 – March 6th, 2013
Written by: Brian Azzarello, Len Wein
Art by: Lee Bermejo, John Higgins, Barbara Ciardo
Based on: Watchmen by Alan Moore

DC Comics, 111 Pages

Review:

I needed about twenty minutes to collect myself after reading this four issue story arc by Brian Azzarello and Len Wein. This shit took my breath away, which comic books don’t do very often.

This was the second story arc I read in the Before Watchmen series, having just read the one about the Comedian before this. As great as I thought that one was, this one just grabbed me and didn’t let go until well after I closed the cover.

The story here is very personal and very intense. It helps to humanize Rorschach, a guy that comes off as kind of one-dimensional in how he exists within the original Watchmen story. That’s not a knock against Alan Moore’s work but Rorschach was really just a force of nature in the most famous piece of work that featured him and here, we are able to understand him with much more depth and emotion.

Reading Watchmen, we already know about his childhood but here, we see things that happened to him as an adult that helped to shape him even further.

This is dark and gritty but not in some sort of ’90s edge lord way that is trying too hard to be like the work of Alan Moore or Frank Miller. This is dark and gritty in a way that builds off of Moore’s work in an interesting and meaningful way. It improves upon this character in a fantastic way and if I’m being brutally honest, it made me have to shut up regarding whatever criticism I once had for other people touching Moore’s work.

Azzarello and Wein proved my initial assessment wrong and wrote something compelling that enhances the rich world that I once wanted to remain untouched.

Additionally, the art style employed here is perfect.

This is a great comic book and even though it isn’t the masterpiece that Watchmen is, it deserves to stand right next to it. And I don’t say any of this lightly.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Before Watchmen stories, as well as Watchmen and Doomsday Clock.