Minutes to Midnight,
Minutemen #1 brings us the debut of DC's Before Watchmen project, and of the titles announced I was most excited for this, which seems to be the general consensus of most people willing to give this event a chance. And this issue really gives them a good reason to put their faith in this project.
Cooke decided to spend this issue setting up the cast in a rather simple way. Rather than counting on us having read the original graphic novel, he uses the frame of the original Nite Owl's book, Under the Hood, to introduce us to each character one by one. It's not the cleverest way he could have done it, but it works really nicely, and never feels like we're just reading one long bit of exposition. Each character is given a chance to stand on his or her own for a bit, and each one is given a lot of respect. Hooded Justice is downright terrifying, Silk Specter is very posturing, but at the same time strangely likable, much like Nite Owl himself, who serves as a great every-man. The Comedian is just as maniacal as the original, and even a relatively unimportant characters (at least, unimportant to the main Watchmen story) like Moth Man were given a very sympathetic interpretation. I truly felt myself caring about the Silhouette by the end of her 4 pages, which is saying something, and while Dollar Bill and Captain Metropolis were left vague enough, they were adequately introduced, and I still feel like I this was a great set-up for the characters. In fairness, Cooke does operate under the impression that we have in fact read Watchmen, which is required in order to fully understand certain subtleties about some of these heroes, but that's to be expected, considering how this story is in fact heavily marketed as a prequel. At the same time, he doesn't just use that as an excuse to just gloss over the characters, he gives them all their due, and the story is very readable without ever having flipped through Moore's original story.
The only real downside to this issue is that there's no real story so far. We know that something bad is coming, and we see the first act that starts the eventual downfall of the Minutemen, but at the same time we have no idea what it is that's going to happen based on what we've read (but again, Watchmen gives us a good idea about what happened), we just know that it's on it's way next issue.
That said, This book does a great job setting up the characters, and in a way the entire Watchmen universe, and it makes sense that this is the first issue DC put out. The art is just a great thing to behold. It has a very old-fashioned, almost noire style, in the vein of Batman: TAS, which fit really well with the overall tone and purpose of this book. But as much as I enjoyed the pencils, it's the coloring that makes it work, really pushing driving the stylized artwork to a new level.
Of course, I have to address the elephant in the room: The controversy. Really, my opinion won't sway you if you're against it on a moral level, but I can say that for what it is, it doesn't damage the greatness that is the original 12 issues of Watchmen. This isn't a Star Wars prequel, it takes nothing away from Moore's work, and as long as it continues like that, I'm comfortable with this project going on. Minutemen #1 is a very readable book, and I'm liking it a lot. Hopefully if you were on the fence, you'll give it a try also.