Confession: I am not a fan of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. I don't dislike it — there's much to admire in its furrowed-brow po-mo perambulations — but I've never been blown away by it, the way so many readers seem to, because — Holy Henry James, Batman! — is it ever wordy. And this is from a guy who loves to read.
Watchmen isn't just
wordy, it is also cluttered. And static. And pretentious — which I
actually kinda like, so let's get back to the other faults.
Wordy, cluttered and static —
generally these aren't terms I want applied to sequential art. A
little flow and zip go a long way toward the successful seduction of
the innocent. Watchmen had
just enough flow and zip to keep me reading to the bitter end, but
not nearly enough to make me swoon.
So when DC launched its line of
Watchmen prequels, and
Moore vigorously protested, I had no dog in the fight whatsoever. DC
could transform the Watchmen into Baby Muppets, or make a Lucasian
mess out of continuity — me, I was all, “What me worry?”
then Darwyn Cooke
on board. I've long admired his approach to other people's
intellectual property: against all odds Richard
the Justice League
Cat-Woman — even
Will Eisner's The
have been well served, even reinvigorated under Cooke's attentions.
There was no question whatever Watchmen
Cooke took on was going to have flow and zip to it. Could he bring
anything else to the project, or would that be enough to ignite my
interest in this property?
are the forebears of the Watchmen, and he focuses on the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason. Cooke renders
Mason in mid-life, struggling to get his memoirs into print. Watchmen
are familiar with the work (Under
as it was finally published: Mason recounts a giddy era when
Super-heroes were just beginning to imprint themselves on public
consciousness. In Moore-Gibbons' Watchmen
Mason's memoirs are a source of amusement and derision, to be read
ironically. Cooke's post-Golden-Era/pre-memoirs Mason, however,
reveals that the impetus of his project was to unburden himself of a
wants nothing less than to tell The Truth.
are well aware of the naivety of this enterprise, even if they
possess (with only one gruesome exception) vague intimations of what
Mason might have been privy to. As Cooke's story progresses, it
becomes clear Mason's confessions compromise every one of the the Minutemen — himself included, of course, although in this regard he
is not at all aware of just how damning the full story truly is until
it is brutally laid out for him in the final pages.
Mason's choice to reinforce the Official Version of events while he silently
shoulders the burden of The Truth can be seen as the existentially
heroic deed of a sweet-natured man, or an act of abject cowardice
from a gormless doofus relieved to have finally met his match.
Cooke's portrait allows the reader's needle to swing freely from
either extreme — Minutemen
Cooke's darkest work to date.
The artwork, of
course, is vintage Cooke — excellent, as always.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke (A) Next post: tripping out on Amanda Conner's Silk Spectre!