Friday, July 5, 2013

Review- BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/ SILK SPECTRE

Alan Moore was screwed over by DC, without question. His anger is not misplaced. Unlike Kirby or many other creators, though, DC has actually paid him over the years. He has made a nice, tidy sum in royalties off of twelve comic books. Many fans admire Moore with a cult-like regard, taking his every word and wish to be law. While Moore is one of the greats and a true artist, I'm of the mindset that there are no sacred cows. The announcement of these prequels raised his ire, and his loyal followers were extremely vocal in their condemnation of these books without having read a single one.
Lo, our Lord and saviour, Alan Moore has spoken. Never mind that Moore based every one of these characters off of Steve Ditko's 1960s Charlton creations, or that he appropriated other people's creations again for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or that he did a radical reinterpretation of Len Wein's Swamp Thing in the '80s. Nope, this was someone else playing with his toys, and he cried foul. Glass houses, sacred cows, etc. Whatever. I am a comic book fan, and the business end of the spectrum is for creators and lawyers to haggle over. Of course I want creators to be fairly compensated and companies to do what is right, but at the end of the day I am just a fan.
If you're still with me, let's proceed...


BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/ SILK SPECTRE (DC, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Before Watchmen: Minutemen Nos. 1-6 and Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre Nos. 1-4 (cover dates August, 2012- March, 2013)

Writers: Darwyn Cooke (Before Watchmen: Minutemen) and Amanda Conner (co-writer Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre)

Artists: Darwyn Cooke (Before Watchmen: Minutemen) and Amanda Conner (Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre)

Colorists: Phil Noto (Before Watchmen: Minutemen) and Paul Mounts (Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre)

The creators who chose to participate in these mini-series put their necks on the line. Raising the ire of the Alan Moore faithful, the potential for a backlash and lifelong boycott from fandom, the prospect of being part of the Ishtar of comic books...well, none of these things happened. I predicted, wrongly, that these would be best sellers in spite of everyone claiming that they wouldn't buy it. They weren't. Still, I have long wondered what else could happen with these characters. Admit it, so did you.


The Minutemen mini-series is spectacular. Darwyn Cooke's love and reverence for the original series is apparent in every word, panel, and brushstroke. There is an air of authenticity to it, and I was completely blown away reading it. The Ditko-esque nine panel per page layout is maintained throughout much of the book. Those worried about a series a splash pages and double page spreads can rest easy. The final issue is great.
The Silk Spectre is less effective. Rendered in a more modern coloring style, this 1960s-set adventure tries too hard to be like the 1960s. I'm sure that people who lived in the 1960s weren't this 1960s. It borders on being unintentionally funny at times. Fauxstalgia, nostalgia porn, call it what you will. Like the Minutemen mini-series, it tries to connect the dots and tie up the plot threads, both hinted at and implied, in the original series. Unlike said mini-series, though, I didn't feel like they pulled it off. 


So Minutemen would get a 5 and Silk Spectre would get a 3. Do these comic books “ruin” Watchmen, as everyone feared. No, I can go back and re-read my trade paperback at any time and it will still be great. Will this go down in history as a colossal failure or a worthy follow up that will lead to still more mini-series? That is up to fandom as a whole. I am one man with one wallet and one opinion. Survey says:
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Aside from the warped paper (see below), these DC Deluxe Edition hardcovers are really nice. The image is printed on the hardback itself, with no dustjacket included.
Extras include all variant covers as a cover gallery in the back and character studies and some raw artwork as well as an Afterward. 


Paper rating: 4 out of 5 for 2/3 of the book. This book is made in the United States, which is a huge part of the problem. US paper mills use trees which are not allowed to cure properly once cut, which means that the trees are green when they are made into paper. The result is shitty, warped paper like the stuff found in very front and the very back of this book. My books are all stored in a climate controlled environment, and yet this one has warped paper all over. Books made in China from virgin Amazon rainforest trees do not have this problem. 



Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Glued binding in hardcovers this thin is not a deal breaker. The book lays reasonably flat.
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. This has a super thick waxlike coating which is impervious to damage when handled as the product is intended. The black Beyond Watchmen band, spine, and section of equal measure on the rear cover have a different, dull texture which is really nice.




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