The BW Review : “Before Watchmen : Minutemen” #3

Posted: September 18, 2012 in comics
Tags: , , , , ,


Okay, so September’s nearly 2/3 of the way over and I haven’t blogged about squat here all month, but all that’s about to change. Here’s the plan, for those of you who may be interested in such things — yes, the never-ending “Comix Month” is finally over around these parts, with two exceptions — I have one book left over from last month I still need to write about, and I’m going to be keepin’ on keepin’ on with the Before Watchmen reviews for as long as I’m buying the books. Which may not be a lot longer, we’ll see. But I do admit I have some serious catching up to do on the BW front and that’s what the next few days are all about. We’ll be examining the third issues of MinutemenSilk SpectreComedian, and Nite Owl, respectively, then diving into the one last “indie” publication I meant to get around to last month but didn’t, then it’s back to my “How I’d Relaunch The Batman Movie Franchise” series for at least a week or so — reblogged, as always, thanks to my good friends at Through The Shattered Lens, who I’m scribing said series for in the first place — and then we should be either at the start of October or pretty close to it, at which point, like every other fucking blog out there, we’re gonna talk nothing but horror flicks here for 30 days solid, with an emphasis on grindhouse horrors.

Sound good? Glad you approve.

So, without any further ado, let’s jump into the third issue of Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen  series, which is now officially at the halfway point, and see just what your host had to make of things, shall we?


First off, let me remark on the fact that even though this book has no less than three people serving in some sort of editorial capacity on it — an editor, assistant editor, and associate editor, respectively — there seems to be very little actual editing going on, to wit : the first issue, which we already determined was essentially a complete waste of time, was pure set-up, and clearly intended to serve as an introduction to these characters for the, I dunno, two or so people out there who were buying this thing who hadn’t previously read the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons original. Yet come this third installment, we get a scene involving the Minutemen deciding what sort of punishment to dole out to Eddie Blake, aka The Comedian, for trying to rape Sally Jupiter, aka the original Silk Spectre, that is completely dependent upon intimate foreknowledge of the first Watchmen series since those events aren’t recapped here in the least! Talk about schizophrenic —

All that aside, though, Before Watchmen : Minutemen #3 (with variant covers, as shown, by Cooke and Cliff Chiang, respectively) isn’t a half-bad little read on its own merits, even though it pretty much completely brushes aside the entire plot “trajectory” that seemed to be forming in the last issue vis-a-vis the child abduction/murder the team — well, part of it at any rate — had been investigating. Instead, here Cooke plunges us into the Silhouette’s essentially solo investigation of a completely unrelated child exploitation case, and shows us how our erstwhile narrator, Hollis Mason (aka the original Nite Owl) gave her a helping hand. Along the way we get some glimpses into the pages of an old 1940s Minutemen comic that are kinda neat to look at even if the existence of said book rather contradicts established Wachmen continuity that superhero titles never really took off in this world where spandex-clad crimefighters were an actual phenomenon and instead pirate comics were all the rage — and we see a little bit more of the torch our guy Hollis was obviously carrying for Usula/The Silhouette on display, but there’s really not much more than that going on here. Cooke spends a lot of time playing the “ooh, what’s this mysterious scene I’m showing you glimpses of here” card with a sequence that basically has no mystery surrounding it whatsoever — the Silhouette’s lesbian lover is washing her up in the tub after a scrape with the bad guys, as is fairly evident from the first “teaser” panel and only gets more crushingly obvious with each successive one — and then, bang, it’s issue over once she recounts her story into a tape recorder and calls it a night.

All of this, apparently, is leading up to some major shake-up of the known foundations of the “Watchmen Universe” (a term I’m still getting used to using and, frankly, hate), but whatever that is — and I’ve got a pretty good guess — you can bet one thing’s for certain : we’ll pretty much be dropped right into the middle of it rather than be lead up to it in any kind of standard-plotting sort of sense, because this series is one incredibly disjointed affair that seems content to flit around and show us whatever brief “highlights” of various Minutemen capers that Cooke wants us to see before moving on to — well, more of the same. It’s competently, if less than compellingly, written, and the period-piece art remains a treat to look at, but on the old dramatic tension scale the whole thing still rates more or less a zero. Halfway through any series some sort of fundamental driving force behind the actual plot itself isn’t too terribly much to ask for, and so far Before Watchmen : Minutemen doesn’t really seem to have one. The fan geek inside me is still looking forward to whatever this big “revelation” that’s forthcoming turns out to be — again, even though I like to think I’ve more or less got it sussed out already — but it would be so nice if we got an actual, honest-to-goodness, goes-from-point-A-to-point-B story tying the whole thing together. Instead, it feels like Cooke had one big idea that he wanted to drop on us, and the other five issues surrounding it aren’t so much lead-up and aftermath to said “big idea” as they are just filler material to pad it out with. Granted, even one idea is more than some of these BW books have going for them, but on the whole it still ain’t a lot, especially if it’s been telegraphed throughout the various titles as obviously as I think it has. Darwyn Cooke’s got three issues left to prove me wrong and make a complete mockery out of everything I’ve said here, and I honestly hope he does so.

  1. Aaron Babcock says:

    I honestly wish I had it sussed out, but I think I’m too distracted by the completely disjointed nature of these BW titles to do much of anything other than marvel at how poorly they were constructed not only as individual arcs, but as a interconnected series of arcs. I just have a hard time believing they’ll all converge at some big reveal with any amount of success.

    …And yet I still have them on my pull list.

    But this whole BW train wreck isn’t surprising. The DC New 52 relaunch has been wildly inconsistent with a few seriously good creative teams, a fair amount of middling ones, and some very, very bad ones. The teams on BW (regardless of their previous work/merits) seem to have been in the latter two groups. I can’t decide if this is because of the material, the ultimate objective of the series (as a cash cow, rather than serious effort), or if these teams were just poorly chosen.

    Just my $0.02. Great review, as always!

    • trashfilmguru says:

      I haven’t read any of the “New 52” stuff apart from “Batman,” which I find decent enough though hardly the monumental achievement lots of folks seem to think it is — I’ll take a 1970s Bob Haney/Jim Aparo or Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Batman story over a Scott Snyder one any day of the week — and the first issues of “Swamp Thing” (also by Snyder) and “Action Comics” by Grant Morrison, neither of which impressed me enough to go back and buy a second issue, so I can’t say how well or not BW stands up in comparison to those titles, but I will say this much — pretty much all DC stuff (and maybe Marvel’s too for all I know, but I haven’t picked up a Marvel book in, literally, years)reads now like it’s being structured for the inevitable trade paperback collection and they might as well openly refer to monthly buyers as “suckers” in bold type right under the cover price (“$3.99 — sucker!”) because the first issues are pretty much always complete wastes, and often just about nothing happens in tese “story arcs” until the penultimate issue, and then the final issue serves as wrap-up material. It works out okay for the TPB buyer, I guess, that’s gonna sit down and read the thing in one go — and most can be read in an hour or two, tops — but the monthly buyer is being played for a stooge.

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