Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1

#1 Posted by No_Name_ (12593 posts) - - Show Bio

The Good

It's not easy to review the BEFORE WATCHMEN titles. I sometimes feel as though I am scrutinizing every aspect of these books, partly because these books are so significant. The decision to bring these characters back to current comics and to tell more of their stories is something that prompted a lot of backlash and wasn't at all a decision that the DC executives made lightly. At least I hope not. At this point I have read every first issue of DC's BEFORE WATCHMEN titles and I have to say, this one is by far my favorite of the bunch. Could it be that I am blinded by the sheer overwhelming talent that drips from the pages of BEFORE WATCHMEN: DR. MANHATTAN? It's possible. But it's also not everyday that we have Adam Hughes on the interiors of a comic book. Pair his incredible pencils with Laura Martin's skill of capturing the tone of the book brilliantly, and it is sheer perfection. Martin sets the tone brilliantly on every page. Not only do Laura's colors capture a spectrum of emotions, but her work compliments Hughes' pencils brilliantly. Some great comic artists sacrifice their interiors due to the time constraints on their work, but Adam obviously doesn't do that here. He takes his time. He adds perspective to every panel. He doesn't cut corners with his interiors and puts the same effort into every panel on every page, and it shows. The art sucks you in immediately and pulls you into the story. The art is absolutely what pushed the envelope and is an enormous reason why this book received the score that it did.

I think Straczynski does a really good job of capturing the existential thought process of Dr. Manhattan in this issue. Reading it you really get a sense for what its going through his mind, and I felt it was significant to write the issue sort of internally. The central character is the narrator and it feels like he's thinking out loud, analyzing each and every one of his decisions. Most of what we saw in this issue are events we read about in Moore's WATCHMEN. Straczynski takes us down the path of Dr. Manhattan's life events. It's obvious the writer really tried to capture the essence of the character in this issue, and for the most part, he seems to do a decent job. The pacing of the issue is good, and the way the story unfolds is interesting. Regardless of how I might feel about the fact that these books are being published, I can absolutely say that the writer does a good job capturing the tone of the character in this issue.

The Bad

When you take a character -- like one of the original WATCHMEN characters -- and bring them into current comics, you might encounter that certain attributes of that character have been altered. The one you see in this issue seems to be a big one. In the original WATCHMEN series Dr. Manhattan had a "unique perception of time." He had the incredible ability to see all of the events that had transpired in his lifetime and see them in chronological order. I don't think, however (and I could very well be mistaken) that he had the ability to alter the timeline to change the outcome. However, this version of Manhattan does that here -- or so that is the implication. There is a very specific scene in BEFORE WATCHMEN: DR. MANHATTAN where Jon states that "perspectives can be changed with the slightest nudge," implying that that "nudge" created a whole new outcome. I don't believe that the character had that ability in his original appearance -- I thought that he was bound by predetermination and destiny. But I could be wrong. I also could have read the panel wrong, although I don't think that I did.

The Verdict

This is a good story and it is a great first issue. It's well organized and the narration of the story is very complimentary to the Dr. Manhattan's character. It's interesting to see Straczynski's perception of the character. I personally thought he did a pretty good job. I do wonder about the changes made to the character, however, and something about that (if I read that correctly) does feel a little bit off. Adam Hughes and Laura Martin do a fantastic job with the art on this issue, and it's great to see Hughes doing interiors again after 15 years. This issue is a great introduction to Dr. Manhattan's character and good look at the way his mind ticks.

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