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Before Watchmen ...

I got a look at some of the Before Watchmen comics.

I have to say I'm disappointed and I'm no the guy you want to disappoint. There's not even a little of the fan-boy in me. I love Watchmen. I really liked the movie. I liked the DC Supers expansion that gave some backstory on the characters. I was impressed with the little touches the movie added (although not the fortunately cut scenes from the Director's Cut). 

I am down with arguing about whether Ozymandias or Rorsach is the villain. 

All of that.

So when I heard they were making Before Watchmen--several 4-issue comics, one for each major character (do they do Dr. Manhattan? I think he already got his story) I was like "Okay--if they do it right it'll be awesome! I look forward to seeing more Watchmen-verse."

The did do an adequate job on most fronts. The artwork is good. The guys they got to write them are okay--I mean, you're following up Alan Moore so you're going to suck in comparison--but, hey?

The problem is that as far as I can tell they've gotten the characters mostly wrong. Rorsarch shows up better in Nite Owl's comic than he does in his own. Ozymandias is unlikable as a cold super-genius. One of the things about his uber-genius was that he knew how to be uber-likable. Rorsach swears in his journal which I don't remember and don't think is right.

We get to see Nite Owl beat up as a school boy and his unhappy childhood wherein his father beat his mother and when he had a heart attack the young Owl-to-be and Owl-mom sat outside by a fire going "you know ... at some point we should call someone."

Now, let's be clear--by itself this isn't bad. Giving the Nite Owl a rough childhood isn't out of character--we don't know exactly what happened from his Watchmen story but it sure could've been something. And watching him play off of Rorsach is actually one of the high points of the series.

The problem is this: Watchmen was a deconstruction of supers in the 80's before it became its own stereotypical genre. It came out next to Dark Knight which gave us today's Batman in proto-form. It was shocking. The fact that these heroes all had to be slightly crazy ... for 'real' as opposed to "batman crazy" which is, to be frank, not all that crazy was an eyeopener. The fact that we saw the aftermath of their careers--which was not happy--but was also not ham-handedly tragic was startling.

Moore had a lot to say about superheroes and none of it was in simple little sentences. 

The problem here is that what these authors have to say about their characters is: And then Alan Moore Said 'X.' There is precious little room to surprise us (and, to be fair, telling a prequel removes some of the best tools). There is also little room to be ironic: Specter and Nite Owl get a pretty happy ending. Ozymandias gets the best line in comic-dom, a victory, and then a lifetime of wondering if he did the right thing ... everyone else? Not so much. It's hard to be ironic with that (we can't find out that The Comedian was really a nice guy, for example).

It also lacks the perspective that Watchmen had. In the 80's Watchmen was writing about the 60's and 70's (and, okay, earlier with the minutemen). Today it's also writing about the 60's (or so) but that's ... what? An extra two decades ago.The hippie movement that Silk Spectre teams up with has been "infected" with a little Occupy Wall Street--that doesn't fit. It needs to have counter-culture relevant to the 80's to fit in.

So, hey--looks good. Not that exciting.     

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