Friday, 8 June 2012

New Beginnings - Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1

Between September 1986 and October 1987, Alan Moore created the award-winning Watchmen. It was always hinted and rumoured that he had wanted to create a prequel to it all where the Minutemen were looked at and where they evolved from. Sadly, the complete breakdown in the relationship between Moore and DC other the intervening decades has robbed us of whatever he had planned.

This week, DC have finally decided to stop even paying lip service to the big beardy one and have gone ahead and created their own prequels.

Before Watchmen: Minutemen is a new six part series penned by Darwyn Cooke - part of a larger publishing event that opens that world up from the comics and subsequent film.

Cooke has created numerous titles as well as also working as a storyboard artist on a number of different animated TV series. He's produced notable works on Batman and The Spirit as well as his own titles on IDW’s label. His career actually only started shortly before Watchmen was created and his good credentials could help him to settle the concerns of some fans and critics who have been wary of this event. These are certainly some big shoes to fill considering the accolades the original has received.

This first issue is designed to introduce all of the characters and their backgrounds as well. Using a vehicle that Moore created in the original, Cooke uses the creation of the book “Under the Hood” to review each of the respective heroes. It works in a good way in that instead of looking at a team dynamic (as this is even before that) it looks at the individual styles of them all. Using the original Minutemen picture, we get to see Hooded Justice, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, (a very young) Comedian, Mothman, Captain Metropolis, Dollar Bill and The Silhouette.

All of these characters will seem familiar but - with the exception of the Comedian who is a much more deranged version - none of these are the people we know properly from Watchmen. These are their own moments of inception and first steps into the world of masked crime fighting. What is good is that they are all different from one another. For those who have read Watchmen they will know that the team worked well in its heyday but the diverse nature of each of the individual parts is fascinating. I loved that they had such differences in approach manner and mental state.

Whilst it is a new title, it has tried to stick to its roots as well. Both in the setting of the comic and the world around it, and its own production. The artwork is very similar in style to the original as well. There is a massive difference though. In the original work a three by three grid is used with repetitive motifs as well. This gave it form and format too. Cookes’ comic doesn’t follow this giving it an identity of its own. 

As a brand new comic trying to build foundations under a well established title you have to admit it is a very daunting task for any writer. In this instance I think that Cooke has done a good job by not only giving a new look on previously known characters, but by also not overstepping the mark. For fans of Watchmen I think that this is a must-have title and they should pick up a copy or pre-order the inevitable graphic novel. If you’ve not read the original, then I think that this is also something you can get into right now. This title is also a great precursor to what is still to come from Before Watchmen. Watch this space.

Matt Puddy is gearing up for two big new comics next week.

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