Now we’re getting somewhere! The fourth issue of writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen : Minutemen is certainly the best of this six-part series so far, but its success really does underscore some of the failures of the previous three installments, to wit :
This issue is jam-packed with plot and character development, traits noticeably lacking in this series so far, particularly in the first and third parts; the main storyline actually pushes itself to the forefront in a way it hadn’t before (okay, fair enough, it threatened to in part two, then retreated into the background again in the third — as for part one, hell, it didn’t even get started there); Cooke gives equal weight here to both “filling in the blanks” in Minutemen history and presenting a new, real, coherent for why he’s doing so rather than just engaging in said style of “storytelling” merely for its own sake; and rather than leaving tantalizing hints about some overarching reason for everything he’s doing just hanging out there in one issue (two) and forgetting about them completely in the next (three), he gets back to them all and seems to be actually tying them all together in service of some grand denouement of some sort.
In short, Cooke seems to be making up for lost time here, realizing that he’s wasted at least two of his first three chapters and needs to get things going if he’s going to wrap all this up in six parts. The end result is definitely a pretty good comic, but one that has to do too much because previous segments had done so little. Here, then, is where we get to a few “spoilers,” as well as where I lay out my “grand theory” as to what’s really going on here, so if you’d prefer to be kept in the dark about all that, don’t, as they say, “follow the jump” after the cover image reproduced below:
Okay, still here? Good. This is the issue where, in true “laundry-list” fashion : The Silhouette and her partner are killed, and we learn how they met in the first place; the origins of The Silhouette’s “save the children” campaign are revealed; we learn of a crime-fighting partnership between the first Nite Owl and Mothman and begin to witness the early stages of Mothman’s slide into alcoholism and insanity; Silk Spectre wakes up to what a ruthless bitch she’s been and decides to become a real crimefighter; we learn how and why Silk Spectre and the Comedian began to — ahem! — “reconnect” some years after he attempted to rape her; and we finally get back to those weird flashback sequences we first saw at the end of the second issue and start to figure out exactly what the hell they’re all about. Whew! And ya know — I can’t help but feeling I even left a thing or two out of that rather breakneck run-down of events, but whatever. I’m fairly sure the main points are all covered.
Now, with all that in mind, there’s nothing that happened in this fourth issue that’s caused me to think again about this “dark secret” the Minutemen are hiding that’s supposedly going to be revealed next issue and turn the whole “Watchmen Universe” on its ear. It’s been hinted at in the pages of Nite Owl and Ozymandias as well as here, so here’s my best guess as to what this “major revelation” is, just to get it down for the record : the child-killer that The Silhouette was looking for when she met her untimely demise is, in fact, Hooded Justice, and rather than risk the attendant bad publicity that would come with turning him in to stand trial for his crimes, the other Minutement are going to kill him and dump his body in the ocean or river or something. Honestly, does anyone see this thing playing out any differently? The only thing “extra” we may have learned to further back this theory up here in Minutemen #4 (with variant covers, as shown, by Cooke and — hey! how’bout this! — Steve “The Dude” Rude, respectively) is that HJ may also be the same Nazi slimebag who murdered the Silhouette’s kid sister.
So — that’s where we are, as I see it, and where we’re going, as I also see it. I would well and truly welcome comments from any readers out there who have any different ideas and can back them up with story angles I hadn’t considered, but I’m pretty confident in this “best-guess” scenario of mine. Roll on issue five and let’s see if I’m right! But before we get to that, we’ve got the next installments of all the other books to get through, including the fourth issue of Silk Spectre, which next week will become the first non-Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons Watchmen series to actually conclude and stand as a complete work in its own right, so good, bad, or (most likely) somewhere in between, it should at least be interesting to be able to evaluate it in totality and determine, finally, whether or not it ever really needed to exist at all.