Week Four of the “Before Watchmen” era is upon us, and we are greeted by the first of two books written by J. Michael Staczynski, or JMS, as we will refer to him from here on out. After last week’s “The Comedian” leaving us cold, would “Nite Owl” be the light in our darkness?
Written by J. Michael Staczynski
Illustrated by Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert
“The hero known to the public only as Nite Owl announced his retirement today.”
David: So Brian, this week brings JMS and The Kubert to the world of “Nite Owl.” After a downturn last week with “The Comedian,” did you feel like this was a return to form in the Before Watchmen endeavor?
Brian: Egads, no. This is the second straight clunker from the Before Watchmen line. For every nice piece of business (and there were a few), there was something so laughably bad or out of character that completely undid any forward progress made. Do you concur?
David: This comic had so many problems it was really hard to track down what were the biggest. It was a fast forward story of basically ever meaningful moment pre-“Watchmen” for Nite Owl II, including one important scene that was actually in “Watchmen” itself. It felt lazy, trite, generic and just…meh-tastic. Basically what I expected from JMS, to be honest. I think perhaps the worst part was the way Nite Owl and Rorschach met though. That was so clumsy and thrown together that it even stood out amongst the rest. It almost made me want to read Crimson Corsair to wash my brain out.
So what parts did you like?
Brian: Well, I thought that there were some nice character moments for Dan; basically, if you isolate just him, the comic isn’t terrible. But the second you add a second character in, all hell breaks loose.
Let’s start with the gun-toting Hollis Mason. He gave off this reek of desperation that I just never saw in “Watchmen.” He was always described as being like a Boy Scout, not a guy who would show a kid his gun and threaten him, or the type to not take his ward into consideration when announcing his retirement. It just doesn’t make a lick of sense to have Mason be this conflicted character, especially because in “Minutemen” he seemed to be anything but.
David: Yeah! Exactly! Hollis Mason was like an entirely different person in this book. Granted, we never experienced him towards the end of his career, just after he quit and had trained and worked with Dan for some time and at the beginning, so maybe he was jaded and burned out in a way we hadn’t seen previously, but it was like he was a completely different person. Basically, he came across as a low grade Batman in this.
Maybe the weakest line of the book was when JMS shoved that line about “maybe writing a book” into his mouth too. Good god.
Dan was handled well in those isolated moments, although his representation as a crazy huge (emphasis on crazy) fan of Nite Owl was a bit past fandom and a step into psycho. I mean, that was a lot of Nite Owl gear.
Here’s a question for you: how old was Dan supposed to be when we first saw him? He was pretty young right? And he had already designed/named Archimedes?
This comic annoys me.
Brian: His father, on the first page, suggests that he is 17. So, presumably, he’s 18 or maybe even 19 when Mason retires, and 22 or so when he takes over as Nite Owl. It is weird, because Dan seems so much younger earlier in the issue, and then doesn’t at all seem 22 when he’s on his first mission.
The book is just incredibly inconsistent, from page to page or even from panel to panel, in terms of tone.
But it isn’t just Mason that wasn’t his usual self. The pull-string “Taling Rorschach Doll” that was standing in for Rorschach and said “Hurm” every 3 words was grossly mischaracterized and seemed shoehorned in here. And the entire Crimebusters scene was completely unnecessary, except for Rorschach to make a boner joke and for Dan to lay on some super intense foreshadowing of his eventual tryst with Laurie, despite Moore painting Dan as a guy who never thought he’d have a chance with her. Here, he appears to be trying to put the moves on her from the beginning.Continued below
David: Rorschach was extremely terrible. He basically reads like a “Hey reader! You can write Rorschach like Alan Moore!” guide. The Hurming was out of control, and perhaps JMS really wanted to spell out that even he knew that as he had Dan make fun of it later in the book. I don’t know. For me, this book was way worse than “The Comedian” because say what you will about that book, this one at least tried to break new ground and take the book in surprising ways. Everything about this read as pretty paint by numbers.
But that’s enough about the writing. Did the Kubert team give you anything to push this book up a notch? They didn’t really for me, as I feel like their styles don’t blend perfectly, but I also was actively disliking this book.
Brian: The Kuberts did what they could, but this would’ve been a mess with anyone drawing it. I’m not the biggest fan of either Kubert, but they managed to evoke the feel of the original “Watchmen” well enough. To me, this was (besides “Minutemen”) DC’s “safest” bet – an art team they could would deliver and an writer that loves the time period he’d be writing in, and this just fell flat on its face. After the one-two punch of “Minutemen” and “Silk Spectre,” these last two weeks have been pretty bleak.
But I agree with your assessment that this is a much worse comic than “The Comedian.” While I didn’t love “The Comedian,” there was an original idea explored in it; this reads like a shitty novelization of the “Watchmen” movie
David: Well, that’s enough about that. Brian, what would you give this scorcher of a comic?
Brian: I give this a 3.5 out of 10, mainly because I don’t think I can hold the Kuberts liable for any of this, and they did admirable, if not fantastic work. How about you?
David: I’m going to give it a 2. A 0 for JMS for doing (bad) JMS things throughout and a 2 for the Kubert’s doing what they can but ultimately being pretty meh. I feel like this makes me retroactively more of a fan of The Comedian. At least it tried. This was a lazy money grab and I hate it. Still not the worst comic of the month though!
Brian: What would that be?
David: You’ll see on Monday on your choice of 4 Color or The Month in Review!
Brian: David Harper, king of the tease! See you guys next week when “Ozymandias” drops.
Final Verdict: 2.75 – Pass