Comic Vine Review


Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1 - What's in the Box?; The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Evil That Men Do, Part Two Review


Straczynski and Hughes team up to tell the story of Dr. Manhattan.

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.

Posted by InnerVenom123

No, he did not have the ability to change the timeline. Watchmen made a very big deal out of that.

Remember when Comedian shoots the pregnant woman, and then tells Manhattan that he "could have turned the bullets into steam", but didn't? Comedian didn't know this, but Manhattan just couldn't.

So if that's the error this book made, it's a pretty freaking big one.

Posted by kennybaese
@InnerVenom123 I always got the impression that Manhattan just didn't think to. It didn't seem that big of a deal to him in the larger scheme of things, and served to highlight his slow loss of his humanity.

That said, it is kind of implied that he isn't capable of changing the timeline. The way he descibes his perspective on time in the original work always felt kind of helpless to me. In that, Manhattan could see what was coming but could only do what was already going to happen.
Posted by They Killed Cap!

THat is a big change, kinda disappointed in that. I also do think that DC kinda decided to do these sithe boost in simply for the boost in sales. I don't really think they care to much about the affect they have on the Watchmen Legacy. Reguardless, I am buying them because I am excited to see how the universe expands. Can't wait to read this.

Posted by No_Name_

@kennyshat: @InnerVenom123: @They Killed Cap!: If you guys get a chance to read this issue, let me know if you interpreted the scene the same way I did. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. :)

Posted by Mizz_Coconut

Thanks for the review!

I am interested to read these, as it seems that they had a pretty complete story to begin with.

But as these didn't come out right after Snyders Watchman movie, I have a bit more faith that they actually cared what direction this took

Posted by batmite0178

@Babs: I just finished the issue and interpreted it the same as you. Based on that panel he had the ability to influence reality.

Edited by benhoot

I read the issue a couple times today. It seemed like both themes of predeterminism and choice were shown in this story.

My take is that Doctor Manhattan has not yet come to fully understand what he is. (This was the question of the book) He is not yet at the point of the character that we hear from while on Mars in WATCHMEN.

It was shown in the source material that Doc didn't know his full potential right when he became. He was "being shaped into some gaudy" by the government, his abilities, along with his perception of himself were still evolving. I think it's is entirely likely that Doc is still growing and learning.

This story is supposed to make you question what Doc can and can't do because Doc, himself, doesn't know yet.

Like if he can see the past and future at the same time, why doesn't he do something about it.

That's my take there Babs. We'll get answers in #2

Tough, I didn't like how they showed Doc visiting his father on his deathbed and trying to tell him he was actually Jon.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

BW turned out better than expected. Rorschach, Silk Spectre and This are great stories.

Posted by Jobbeybob

If Jon can to disassemble nukes, build huge floating castles and create life, surely he should be allowed to change the writing on a scrap of paper.

Posted by SavageDragon

Im sorry but that cover is pretty funny. Maybe im just immature...

Posted by Rise2Ragnarok

I honestly just enjoyed looking through it without reading any of the text =)

Posted by LordRequiem

I thought what he saw was only what will or has happened to him.

Posted by Scarlet_Spyder

@Babs said:

@kennyshat: @InnerVenom123: @They Killed Cap!: If you guys get a chance to read this issue, let me know if you interpreted the scene the same way I did. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. :)

Alright, I have yet to read the issue, but it seems most agree with your assessment. In the original Watchmen series, you are dead on, they painted the picture as if he could not change what he sees/lived.

Some examples, Watchmen #4, page 12: "I can't prevent the future. To me, it's already happening."

Watchmen #9, page 5: "Everything is preordained, even my responses." "We're all just puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings."

Without having read the issue, it does sound to be against what the original character of Manhattan was originally supposed to be. Some thoughts though: While it could still be seen as a bit of a continuity error, as someone said, it is still early in his career, and maybe they are playing it as he doesn't know enough about his powers at that point. Although...due to the nature of his powers, he should technically already know all about his abilities, since he should also presently be living what happened in the original Watchmen series.

BUT, we can also go back to the "preordained responses" bit. Maybe at that point for whatever reason, that was just the correct response to make due to events happening, and he already knows the truth, that he can't change what he sees, and for whatever reason has to continue on the path of the "learning curve" as it were with his powers.

Posted by DDangelico

I was thinking that he wasnt really changing things, but moving from one reality to another. We even see the following sequence of "split" panels of what he calls "what might have been and what now is." Perhaps they both are. Perhaps he didn't change anything, but created. He says that "in that instant, the future me that would have worked with Rorschach ceased to exist and became the me that worked with Laurie." But what if it didn't cease to exist...perhaps this is what this storyline is about. Dr. Manhattan learning that existing in one reality is the only way for him to truly live.

I dunno maybe I am just trying to think too much into it. Thoughts?

Posted by Whisper_NO

I agree with you, its like how he knows about Dan and Laurie being together, but he still has to learn about it later on.

Posted by 3rdrocket

When I read it I didn't see him as changing what happened, just witnessing a different outcome that could have happened. I remember him talking about how there are different realities where different choices were made. I thought he was just witnessing an alternate reality here. Ill have to read again though to be sure, but that's how I took it.

Posted by sswang

Great writing and amazing art, only if there is a 6 star rating.