Looks like midnight EST was the embargo point, for certain comic book journalists to be allowed to talk about the Before Watchmen comics they’ve seen. And a secretive project it was too!
Joey Esposito (IGN Comics): Earlier this week, I was privileged enough to head over to the DC Comics offices in Burbank, California (which are awesome) to be given a “Green Book” tour of Before Watchmen.
Jonah Weiland (CBR): CBR News was recently invited to the DC Entertainment offices in Burbank, CA to get an early look at “Before Watchmen.” Over two visits, I reviewed hundreds of pages of pencils, inks, a handful of colored pages, and even some lettered pages. Below we share some early impressions on the series, but note these aren’t full reviews as complete issues were not available.
Valerie Gallaher (nee D’Orazio, congrats on that by the way) (MTV Geek) Several months ago, DC Comics invited us to travel up Broadway and get our very first look at “Before Watchmen.” Placed in my hands was the “Green Book,” the binder that collected — in various stages of production — the latest covers and interior pages as they came in. While not as comprehensive as reading the actual issues, viewing the collection of art and words provided me with a certain baseline as to the quality and content of the “Before Watchmen” collection of miniseries. Now that the official press embargo has lifted on “first impression” pieces, I am free to give you mine.
Anonymous (Comic Vine): Upon receiving an invitation to visit the Burbank office of DC Entertainment to check out BEFORE WATCHMEN, it didn’t take us long to start making plans to fly down. That’s right, we flew down to LA just to check out the comics. Let me tell you, it was well worth it.
After our remarkable tour of the office (more on that later), we were left alone with a giant oversized binder containing all the first issues of BEFORE WATCHMEN along with some of the second issues all in various stages of development. Some of the issues were complete while others weren’t available for viewing in color, etc.
Alex Zalben (CBSLocalChicago): We had a chance to sit down, secretly, in the DC Comics offices to flip through the “Green Book,” a collection of pages and scripts from the BW series, some finished, some without dialogue, and some just rough sketches. But it was enough to give you our impressions of the upcoming series. The main takeaway? Whatever you think about this project, the art is really frickin’ good.
Bleeding Cool, naturally, was not invited. But curiously it seems, neither was Newsarama, Comics Beat or Comics Alliance. Maybe they’re just waiting till they wake up to post.
And with Valerie Gallaher (nee D’Orazio) being invited, considering she accused current employees of DC Comics of serious sexual harassment when she worked there, it’s a interesting step on both her and DC’s part that she has gained such access.
Now, no one really touches on the oft-raised ethical issues of publishing Before Watchmen aside from Joey Esposite who says “if you are dead-set against this project existing in the first place, the quality of these comics is irrelevant. That being said, you’ll be missing out on some truly solid material.”
So, what do people think of this sold material? Here are some snippets.
IGN: The prize winner – as I expected – was Cooke’s Minutemen, which brings his patented Golden Age influenced cartooning style to the era of the Watchmen Universe’s earliest heroes like the original Nite Owl, Hooded Justice, the original Silk Spectre, and Captain Metropolis. Cooke’s work delivers the same remarkable storytelling that he’s showcased in so many projects previous; think of Minutemen as The New Frontier for Watchmen. What’s the most impressive about the first issue that I read was how Cooke kept many of the visual motifs from Dave Gibbons’ original work while maintaining a unique voice.
CBR: The story begins with Hollis Mason writing “Under the Hood” and he begins to tell his story when he pulls from a storage box the now iconic team picture of the Minutemen. This moment instantly connects the reader to “Watchmen” while transporting you back in time to the creation of that first super team. Cooke’s artwork is a perfect fit with the setting and time period “Minutemen” exists in and is filled with homages to the original series.
Of all the “Before Watchmen” books, this is the series to watch.
Vine: Beautiful book. Darwyn captures the era and time period brilliantly.
MTV: Cooke’s “Minutemen” was classic Cooke — the meta-textual resonances with his “New Frontier” miniseries giving the story a subtly added dimension.
CBS: Given that these characters didn’t really appear in the original book anyway, this is probably the one book a guilty comic book fan can pick up, with no problem. For non-fans, you’ll just want to see Cooke’s superb sense of perspective, connected layouts, and knock-out handle on the comic book form.
IGN: My favorites were the aforementioned Minutemen, Comedian, and Ozymandias
CBR: Azzarello has made the Comedian a player involved in the middle of the biggest news stories of the ’60s and the cast of historical characters that make an appearance in this book reads as a Who’s Who of the time. The presence of the Vietnam War hangs over every page of this book as the Comedian’s role in politics and war is played out, beautifully rendered by artist JG Jones.
Vine: The use of so many iconic figures in this book makes it feel forced and over saturated; like the writing is trying too hard to make the character seem relevant to the time — the result is that the story felt a little flat.
MTV: Nothing short of amazing. Jones, strongly channeling Dave Gibbons on “Before Watchmen: Comedian,” has never looked this sharp, ever.
CBS: Jones art is solid, but this is the one book where it felt like the artist was stepping back to let the writer go nuts… And those familiar with Azzarello’s writing know he can go totally, totally nuts. Whatever happens, this looks like the series that will take the most chances.
IGN: My favorites were the aforementioned Minutemen, Comedian, and Ozymandias
CBR: The story clearly gives a look in to the enigmatic personality of Adrian Veidt and his early life as a child prodigy, setting him up for decades of personal success. Lee’s pencil work looks spectacular, as one would expect
Vine: This issue is like one big Norman Rockwell painting. The art is absolutely breathtaking. The visuals are amazing.
MTV: What I saw of Jae Lee’s “Ozymandias” was so trippy it looked like it was smoked out of somebody’s magic pipe, the images a fever-dream that literally bent and swayed across the page.
CBS: his does seem like another “fill in the plot points” type book, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. Jae Lee’s art though, is lovely – it looks like what would happen in Norman Rockwell and H.P. Lovecraft decided to have a baby together. And then that baby drew a comic book prequel to Watchmen. That’s one talented baby, you guys.
Nite Owl #1
IGN: Nite Owl is plodding with uninspired interiors
CBR: The second reading with some text reveals more story, depicting Dreiberg as something of the ultimate fan boy, with the original Nite Owl Hollis Mason playing the role of father figure and mentor, depicting Dreiberg’s journey from fan to hero.
- Feels like a Batman story in part because of Kubert’s art, and also because the story is so tragic.
- Looks great. Definitely a different feel from the other titles.
MTV: “Nite Owl” was classic Joe Kubert come to life — like reading a comic from another era, but without all the self-referential “irony” and Ben-Day dots.
CBS: Just by it’s nature, this is a bit of a Batman riff, in case you couldn’t guess. But the real thrill here for comic fans is seeing classic artist Joe Kubert ink over his son Andy Kubert’s pencils. Seeing their two styles mix is a spine-tingling thrill, albeit a thrill for comic book nerds like us.
Silk Spectre #1
CBR: Enough can’t be said about the personality Conner imbues each character with. You can tell from every expressions on the faces of the cast in this book their emotional state and point of view. Cooke and Conner appear to be a match made in comic book heaven.
- Conner delivers animated panels that give the reader insight into the mind of an adolescent Silk Spectre who doesn’t get along with her Mother.
- There’s an interesting parallel in this issue between the older Silk Spectre reminiscing about her past as a crimefighter, and her young daughter who is daydreaming about the future.
MTV: Amanda Conner’s “Silk Spectre” was a beautifully-rendered — but unflinching — look deeper into the character and the familial relationships in her life.
CBS: For everyone else, what makes this book so surprising is how ridiculous funny it is. That’s right: a funny Watchmen book. Conner has said she based the book on the nine panel grid structure Dave Gibbons used for the original series, but it also feeds nicely into what Silk Spectre is: a throwback romance comic, but with way more moms beating up their daughters.
CBR: Bermejo’s artwork fully realizes the grimy, seedy side of 1970s New York City and the story Azzarello has crafted captures Rorschach’s essence exactly as he’s depicted in the original series — one nasty dude you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of.
- Dark, grim, highlights the seedy, dirty underbelly os a society engulfed in pornography and drug addiction. Bermejo’s usually angelic visuals capture the grit and grime of this story.
- Is Azzarello capturing the sheer essence of Moore’s Rorschach, or is he simply playing with the audience by attempting to shock them as much as possible?
MTV: Lee Bermejo’s “Rorschach” was publication-ready in simply the pencils, continuing the high bar set by him in books like “Joker” and “Batman: Noel.”
CBS: If you like to feel dirty, you will love this book. Artist Lee Bermejo is an insanely good visual storyteller – the script was separate in this book, and we understood everything that was going on. The opening page is Rorschach’s mask depicted in the clouds over New York City, and it only gets better from there.
Captain Manhattan #1
CBR: the story jumps around constantly from one time period in Jonathan Osterman’s life to another, utilizing clock pieces in the artwork throughout to reflect the journey through time Straczynski takes his readers on. Hughes’ artwork is gorgeous as always and yes, the big blue guy does show up naked in the first issue.
Vine: The issue really captures a sense of sadness, loneliness and complete isolation that the character exhibited in the original Watchmen series.
MTV: And you have the first sequential art drawn by Adam Hughes in quite some time in “Dr. Manhattan,” which is no small feat; I would imagine it involved a rather talented Hughes-wrangler.
CBS: like most of the rest of these books, this seems to be straight up prequel/biography, and we’re not as interested in books that just fill in the blanks.
Curse Of The Crimson Corsair back up strip
Vine: As beautiful as John Higgins’ art is in this story it, of all of these books, this story seems the strangest to read. This, more than any other, feels too much like Alan Moore and thus, felt like a violation of Moore’s ideas more so than the expansion of the Watchmen Universe.
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