Who Watches the Watchmen? For the next few months as DC Comics launches their line of prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal 1986 graphic novel Watchmen, Nostalgic Books and Comics will bring you periodic reviews on the BEFORE WATCHMEN event.
This week the spotlight shines on Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 by critically acclaimed writer/illustrator Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier,PARKER). Criticisms of validity and rationale for this project existing should be tossed out the window. If one can be mature and understand that the prequels are a reality, they would be hard-pressed to ignore the level of craftsmanship that has gone into enriching the world of Watchmen.
Trappings and failures of this book will most certainly be found, if one so wishes to look hard enough. And if one chooses to do so, they themselves fail to look beyond the surface. With that said, Cooke is not intimidated, nor does he crack under the pressure of trying to live up what Moore and Gibbons did.
Cooke, a confident storyteller, does not imitate Moore. He doesn’t attempt to deconstruct heroism; rather he exceptionally constructs heroism and makes a statement with their arrival in the Forties. Whereas Moore was doom-and-gloom, Cooke shines a light on optimism. On hope.
As meticulous and detailed-oriented as Moore was about story and world-building, he did very little service to the Minutemen, the original group of masked adventurers that appeared in the Forties. And yes, it can be argued that they were not fundamental to Watchmen, but there is no way to argue that they are not the starting point and absolutely crucial to everything that occurred in the original story.
In this manner, Cooke supersedes Moore by fleshing out characters that deserve to have their stories reverently told. There was always mystery behind their demise, and after this first issue, Cooke seems to be on a mission to chronicle their rise and fall.
No more Moore. Gibbons’ contribution must be addressed. Cooke art is jaw-dropping and elevated to new heights. He in turn channels the best of Gibbons’ prodigious visual storytelling. Cooke pays homage through stellar composition that harkens back to the legendary artist.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 should ultimately instill optimism. There is a high level of reverence paid to Watchmen. `If you’re truly a fan, this is more than worth your time. There is hope for BEFORE WATCHMEN.