REVIEW: Before Watchmen: Minutemen #01
Last night, in between watching episodes of Horrible Histories on the BBC iPlayer I caught the tail end of the BBC interview program hardtalk. The interview on this occasion was writer Alan Moore. I was mostly surprised by this since Moore is mostly known for being a recluse and is rarely seen in public. Since this was a rare chance, i turned the volume up and had a listen to what he had to say.
For those who don’t know. Alan Moore is responsible for many of the landmark comic books that were produced in the 80’s and 90’s. He wrote V for Vendetta, Watchmen and Batman:The Killing Joke (the storyline where the joker famously crippled Batgirl). His work is mostly regarded as being classics and helped push the comic book medium beyond that of simple superhero comic books aimed at children.
In the parts that I saw of the interview, Moore briefly spoke about Before Watchmen (which ironically enough goes on general release today). Not surprisingly he didn’t like the concept of Before Watchmen. I honestly can’t blame him, Watchmen doesn’t need anything being added to it. It works on its own as a 12 issue mini series and I mostly look on this as an attempt by DC Comics to make more money out of the Watchmen name. Moore added to this by stating that if DC had not published Before Watchmen then the rights to the Watchmen books would have reverted back to him. Since they have now been published, DC gets to keep the rights. Shrewd move DC, very shrewd.
I didn’t completely agree with Moore though. At the very end of his interview, he spoke about the Comic Book format is now in its final death throes and it will soon reach its final end. His reasoning for this is that he believes that there hasn’t been a decent independent comic book released in years. I don’t agree with him there at all. While I believe that Marvel and DC have relied far too much on superheroes. There are some companies that have produced decent independent pieces of work. For example Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets, Brian K Vaughn’s Y The Last Man and Neil Gaiman’s near perfect The Sandman. DC’s Vertigo imprint has taken great strides in pushing forward comic books with a topic other than superheroes and still just as interesting. So It’s for this reason that I disagree with Moore. It isn’t perfect, but it’s still better than some or nothing.
Having now read the first installment of the Before Watchmen series, I’m more comfortable with what DC is offering. When I picked up Before Watchmen: Minutemen #01. I wanted to hate it. I wanted to open the pages and not get past the first few pages without wanting to put the thing in a shredder. So it was to my surprise that I not only read the entire comic book, but I found myself looking forward to the next installment.
I may have to eat my previous comments about DC and it’s editorial decision. Minutemen doesn’t have the layers upon layers of subtext that was present in the original Watchmen books and it does lack Alan Moore’s way with words and the detail in Dave Gibbon’s artwork. However Darwyn Cooke manages to keep the storyline going, sensible artwork and maintain suspense.
My only worry now and this has to be one running through the DC offices right now is keeping that quality going. Next week it will be the turn of Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #01 and that too will be subject to scrutiny of those who remain skeptical. I’m still skeptical myself. DC’s Final Crisis started off with a good concept but got incredibly muddled and turned into a mess. So there’s nothing to stop Before Watchmen going the same way. The only reassurance that I can think of that it won’t be long until J. Michael Straczynski’s Dr Manhattan book.