The BW Review : “Before Watchmen : Dr. Manhattan” #4

Posted: February 28, 2013 in comics
Tags: , , , , ,

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Remember the first issue of this series? When it looked like, out of all the various Before Watchmen books, this one might be the most relevant? That it might actually fulfill the entire project’s supposed remit of “getting us to look at these characters in a new way?” That it might  have something  to add to our understanding not only of  Dr. Manhattan , but the entire Watchmen “universe” itself? That it might have some genuine ambition? That it might, at the very least, have something to say?

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Yeah, I don’t remember that anymore, either. J. Michael Straczynski took that intriguing cliffhanger he left us with way back at the end of the first ish and followed it up with a second installment that basically took us into Marvel Comics What If —? territory, with Dr. Manhattan filling The Watcher role, then gave us a third that was basically the Watchmen equivalent of (a very condensed) Crisis On Infinite Earths, with “Big Blue” as The Monitor, destroying all other possible realities to save our own, “real” one. Now we’ve come to the “big” finale, and — well, the whole thing just kinda limps out the door with a cheap, gimmicky, completely uninvolving supposed “plot twist” that tries, in a clumsy way, to bridge the variant endings between Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen series with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film and ends up doing a disservice to both.

And speaking of cheap gimmicks, artist Adam Hughes — whose work on this project has been, and remains, generally superb — actually resorts to flipping his work upside down halfway through the book when the narrative perspective “flips” from Dr. Manhattan to Ozymandias. I don’t lay the blame on Hughes for this painfully obvious stunt, since it was likely and editorial call, but it’s certainly as dumb as it is unsubtle, and I hope that either the artist himself or at the very least somebody, somewhere behind the scenes kicked up at least a little bit of a stink about it.

Beyond that, there’s nothing much to report here. The alternate covers by Hughes and Bill Sienkiewicz (respectively, as shown) are both fine, even if Hughes’ makes it look like something interesting might be happening in this book when, in truth, nothing is, but that’s just basic comic book hucksterism 101 and again, I’m not gonna lay much blame for that at the artist’s feet when the writer — and editors — are clearly the ones with no vision here.

We finally leave things off with the old “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends” line, and see Dr. Manhattan walking around on his new faraway planet, contemplating the idea of creating some new life form of his own. In other words, right smack-dab  where we started. Which is probably Straczynski’s point, I suppose, but it’s a point that Moore had already made 25 years ago and it renders these past four issues not only totally unnecessary, but meaningless.

Nothing ever ends? Fair enough. But I’m glad this series is over all the same.

Comments
  1. wwayne says:

    This is probably the most unpredictable news I’ve ever heard in comics:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com:8080/?page=article&id=44742

    What do you think about it?

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      More evidence of DC’s complete and utter creative bankruptcy. Let’s be honest, at this point Batman would have to be committed to Arkham for even taking on another Robin — two have been killed, one of whom was his own son! Doesn’t Gotham’s county or city government have a Child Protective Services division? On the whole, though, it’s just more of “The Big Two” doing what they do — throwing out one cheap gimmick after another to temporarily bump up sales for a couple of months. When sales on the Bat-books level off again after this, you can bet another publicity stunt will be on the way. Meanwhile, the creative death spiral of strip-mining old ideas for everything they’re worth and then some will continue. In order for DC to remain viable for the forseeable future, they need to place a lot more emphasis on discovering and developing the next wave of great creators a la Moore and Miller, rather than continuing to go back to the quarter-century-old-well this last wave of great creators came up with for them.

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