Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Booknote: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

J. Michael Straczynski,, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan. New York: DC Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781401238940.

I was interested in this volume in part because J. Michael Straczynski was involved; I happen to like his work from Babylon 5, and I have read some of his other work in comics. So, with that said, let's see how this volume fares.

The Nite Owl story is one of passing the mantle as Hollis takes Daniel under his wing. In the tale, we get Daniel's childhood under an abusive father. Daniel tracks down Hollis and asks Hollis to let him be a sidekick. Dan, the technical whiz kid, goes on to improve Nite Owl and continue the work. Rorschach soon finds him, and they become uneasy partners given Rorschach's more violent and prejudiced tendencies. Overall, this fills in the back story for the Nite Owl character. I found it to be a pretty good tale, though it did feel a little rushed at the end.

The Dr. Manhattan tale read more like some philosophical physics treatise. About the only thing it adds to the Watchmen narrative is that it explains why Dr. Manhattan says he really cannot change time, the events are predetermined. Aside from that, most of what is in this story we already know if we read Watchmen. That seems to be a pattern for this series: most of what it offers is stuff we have seen already in the original work. Sure, there are one or two new angles of interest. For instance, I did enjoy the story of the Minutemen (link to that review), and I liked the tales of Ozymandias (link to that review) and Nite Owl well enough. But others have felt more like filler, and Dr. Manhattan's falls under the filler category. This volume also includes an origin tale for Moloch, a villain the Minutemen and later the Watchmen faced. I would say it was an alright tale, and it does lead right into events in the Watchmen film.

One good quality in this volume, as in the other volumes so far, is the art. DC seems to be choosing some good artists to bring the series to life.

I am giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Note to appease The Man: I read this as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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