Posts Tagged ‘Steve Rude’

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The fine comics blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco, whose work can be found at everydayislikewednesday.blogspot.com, among other places, had this one pretty much pegged : he said that the very existence of a Dollar Bill one-shot as part of the Before Watchmen project is proof positive that DC comics in 2013 has become effectively immune to parody, because they’re spoofing themselves without even knowing it.

It makes sense, when you think about it — Dollar Bill, after all, isn’t even so much a character as he is a quick little cautionary tale in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen : he’s the guy who got shot by bank robbers when his cape got caught in a revolving door. That’s pretty much all we need to know about him. Expanding his story into a book-length tale literally can’t be seen as anything other than an exercise is complete and utter fan-wank. It’s a move that would only be made by a company absolutely bereft of anything that even smells like a new idea.

Still — who knows, right? Maybe writer Len Wein and artist Steve Rude have something up their collective sleeve when it comes to Bill Brady. Maybe there’s something we don’t know about the guy that wasn’t revealed in Moore’s “Under The Hood” text pieces back in the original series. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a treasure trove of great stories to be told about the guy who was a superhero-for-hire employed by the fictitious National Bank chain.

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Or, hey, maybe not.

Honestly, Before Watchmen : Dollar Bill makes the two-issue Moloch series look relevant by comparison. There is quite literally nothing in the 26 pages of story and art in this book that Moore doesn’t cover in a couple sentences back in his “Under The Hood” backup text pieces, which I’ll prove in the wrap-up to this review (no skipping ahead). What’s even worse, Wein hasn’t even bothered to disguise the fact that he’s completely mailing in his effort here. While playing college football for Dartmouth, for example, Brady suffers a career-ending injury, and his team then “declines an invitation to the Rose Bowl,” because they know they have no chance to win without him. Excuse me? No college football program has ever turned down any invitation to any bowl game for any reason, even if they know damn well they’re probably going to lose, and sorry, but even in the “Watchmen Universe” it seems unlikely that an Ivy League team would play in the Rose Bowl — that’s been strictly a Big 10-vs. Pac 10 (now 12) affair from day one. And while little touches like naming the three executives who run National Bank Misters How, Dewey, and Cheatem, respectively, is a clever little touch, it also shows just how “seriously” Wein is treating this assignment.

The same, fortunately, can’t be said for Steve Rude (who also, for the record, handles the lettering chores on this book). Ever since his days drawing Nexus, “The Dude” has been, well, the man in my book, and he absolutely knocks it out of the park here. For proof of how far and wide this guy’s artistic influence has been, look no further than the work of Minutemen writer-artist Darwyn Cooke (who just so happens to be responsible for the second variant cover, shown directly above, for this book, the first — at the top of the post — being by Rude himself, and the third — reproduced below — being the handiwork of Jim Lee), whose style owes a very heavy debt to Rude’s retro- visionary stylings.

As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of the mainstream comics industry in 2013 that Rude has to stoop to this level to find work. If this were a just world, he’d still be ranked among the top talents in the business and names like Jim Lee would be forgotten to history. He hasn’t “lost a step,” “fallen behind the times,” or any of those other quasi-polite ways of saying “this guy just plain can’t draw anymore.” His work still looks as crisp, fresh, and vital as ever. Seeing him waste his talents on a project like this is, frankly, depressing.

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And now for that wrap-up I talked about earlier that will prove the utter pointlessness of this one-shot beyond any shadow of a doubt — Bill Brady was a star college athlete who was hired by a bank chain to be its resident “super hero” as a PR stunt. He got shot by some robbers when his cape got caught in a revolving door. That’s what we knew about Dollar Bill going into this book, and that’s what we know about him going out. We get some very pretty Steve Rude illustrations here to accompany these two sentences’ worth of information, but that’s it. Waste. Of. Time.

 

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.