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Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 – Review

by Darwyn Cooke (writer & artist), Phil Noto (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer)

The Story: Getting to know the Minutemen…

The Review:  Well, it’s finally here, the moment you’ve either been looking forward to or dreading but are, most likely, at least highly curious about.
After reading this first issue, I’m left feeling that a Watchmen prequel, or more Watchmen comics in general, actually isn’t a bad idea.  It’s not so much the characters that necessitate returning to so much as the Watchmen universe.  Cooke’s artwork really hammered this point home.  Not only is it gorgeous in Cooke’s usual stylish, retro way, but it’s really immersive and creates and establishes a unique world that is evocative and characterful in its own way.  Cooke legitimately gives us a world that feels like a different time and, well, just flat out different.  Minutemen is a book that is, more than anything else, an escape, or a trip, to another world and another time.  In that sense, Minutemen #1 is an easy book to get lost in, in the best way possible.

Cooke devotes almost the entirety of the issue to introducing each member of the team individually.  Overall, it’s extremely well-executed.  In 2-3 pages, we get a firm handle on the core essence of each of these characters, that is, their personalities, their backgrounds, their motivations, and their physical presences.  Speaking on this last point, I loved how Cooke distinguished each member’s unique fighting style; each battles the baddies in an entirely different way, even if it always involves fisticuffs.  Each also has an entirely different persona and by the end of the issue, you feel like you know each of them and can see each as a distinct piece that slots into the team in its own way.  Guiding this all along is narration by Hollis Mason from his book “Under the Hood,” which gives the book a controlled, structured feel that also makes everything seem significant.

Overall, the best I can say about this comic is that throughout, it’s amazing well-crafted.  More than most comics I read, it felt like a tremendous amount of thought, and labour, went into each individual textbox and each individual panel.  Everything is well-considered and you can tell that Cooke, and his editors, presumably, have put a lot of time into making the best comic they can.  The end result is an issue that feels tremendously polished, one that feels a cut above the usual weekly morass.  It feels well-crafted, with an effort to make everything just right.  This also leads to a comic that is very structured with a clear, methodical pace and plan in mind.  You can tell that a lot of work went into preliminary outlines and such long before Cooke ever wrote a single line or drew a single panel of it.

The one complaint that I expect to hear a lot regarding this issue is that there isn’t an actual story here.  That’s true.  The entire issue is devoted to introducing the character and, as such, no plot is truly introduced.  That said, given how well thought out and structured this issue is, it’s hard not to just forgive this as being a clear part of Cooke’s master plan.  It’s obviously his intention.  That said, I do wonder whether the lack of a cliffhanger and big development will impact people coming back for a second issue.  At the very least, devoting an entire issue to introducing the characters does make me feel that this comic may be one that is written more for the trade.

Conclusion:  No effort was spared on this book and the result is a very fine product.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans

A word on the Crimson Corsair… It’s hard for me to really say much about this, positive or negative, given that it’s only the first two-pages.  For what it’s worth, the art is fantastic and Wein’s narration really sets the mood (lots of dread, basically) and the time.  But really, that’s all I can say about it at this point.

 

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