Review: Before Watchmen- Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

Before WM
DC Comics has released another collection of its Before Watchmen series entitled BEFORE WATCHMEN: Nite Owl/Dr Manhattan. Writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon Five, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man) wrote all of the stories in this collection, with art by the late Joe Kubert (Sgt Rock) and son Andy Kubert (Marvel’s 1602, DC’s Flashpoint) on the Nite Owl portion, and Adam Hughes (Superman/Gen13).

Nite Owl follows the adventures of Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl. After teaming up with Rorschach after the initial meeting of the Crimebuster’s team, Nite Owl investigates a series of violent murders against woman, mostly hookers. Compelled to act due to witnessing his own mother being beat up by his father, he goes to the dark underside of New York, guided by a mysterious dominatrix know as the Twilight Lady.

Dr. Manhattan gets into the mind of the omnipotent hero. Able to see all of his life, both the past, present and future all at the same time, Dr. Manhattan knows the outcome of every decision and can avoid making the wrong one, But when he chooses to make a different decision in his past, he realizes he can see different timelines resulting from his choices. But with every possible timeline seemingly ending with the death of the world, Dr Manhattan has to choose which path to take to save all of humanity.

Like the other Before Watchmen books, the story is constricted by the event of the original Watchmen mini-series. J. Michael Straczynski’s writing is solid, but adds little to the characters.. In Nite Owl, the inclusion of Dan’s exposure to domestic violence as a child may have driven this story, but really has no bearing of the main series. Even the Twilight Lady was a reference to a panel in the Watchmen book. This series now gives that photo more context, but it is still inconsequential. Dr Manhattan was bit more interesting, as you got to see things from his perspective. The story gives you an idea of why Dr. Manhattan let thing happen the way they did in Watchmen. His main concern was the survival of the world and in the end, he got that. You even get a glimpse of what happened to him afterwards, as it is all happening to him all at once.

The art is well done. The Kubert’s art on Nite Owl is good and is well suited for the tome of the series. Adam Hughes’ art on Dr. Manhattan is also well done. While Mr. Hughes is most known for his pin-up like depictions of curvy super-heroines, his art captures the various timelines that Manhattan experiences well.

The book also includes the two-part Moloch series, depicting the life of one of the Minutemen’s old foes, his rise and fall and eventual employment by Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. It is also written by Mr. Straczynski, with art by Eduardo Risso.

Like my last review, these are good stories that add to the backstories of the Watchmen characters. Fans of these characters may like this collection, as it pays tribute to the classic series.

The book retails for $29.00 US/ $35.00 CDN and IS SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS

Movie Review: Watchmen (or A Clear View of Lower Manhattan)

It has long been seen as being unfilmable;  director Terry Gilliam said it couldn’t be done in 1989.  It was one of the first comic book mini-series (later collected as a graphic novel) that elevated comics from kid-lit to pop culture narratives.  The book is Watchmen, and 24 years after it’s publication, it has been adapted into a movie by 300 director Zach Snyder.

The movie is set in an alternative 1985, with Nixon as a popular five-term president and the Soviet Union strong as poised to start World War III.  Superheroes are real, but they have been outlawed for over 8 years.  They either work for the government, the the Comedian and Dr Manhattan, revealed their identity and used their fame to become successful like Ozymandias, retired to obscurity like Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre or have become outlaws like Rorschach.  It is Rorschach’s who discovers that a murdered man was the Comedian and he suspects a plot to murder superheroes and warns his former team-mates.  They at first dismiss his paranoid ramblings, but as the film progresses, Dr Manhattan is forced off-planet, Ozymandias is attacked and Rorschach is framed for a murder he did not commit.  Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre, thinking Rorschach was on to sometime, spring him and try uncover the plot and its connection to the worlds march to nuclear Armageddon.  The true plot, however, is beyond anything they expect.

The movie comes in at about two hours and totally cuts out the sub story of “The Tales of the Black Freighter,” a comic within the comic that a background character reads.  This story, however, has been lengthened and turned into a animated movie to be released later in March.  With this is an adaptation or Hollis Mason’s (the first Nite Owl as mentioned in the story) autobiography, Behind the Mask, which excerpts from were included in the graphic novel.  Other scenes were filmed for the movie but cut, with Snyder promising a Director’s cut on DVD/BluRay or at least deleted scenes.  Besides this, and a change to the ending (yet the overall result is the same), the movie is as faithful to the original book as they could be.

That, however could be considered this film biggest flaws.  The adherence to the book could turn off those who have not read the Watchmen book.  The movie assumes (much like the book, mind you) we will accept these characters as they are, without getting into the origin other than that this world allows costume heroes.  The exception to this is Dr Manhattan, the only hero that is really super, with actual superpowers (all the other heroes are skilled athletes, some with gadgets and fancy costumes.).  The film is faithful to the books Doctor Manhattan, with actor Billy Crudup voicing him almost emotionless.  He even spends most of the movie naked, with the film not shying away for glimpses of his “lower Manhattan.”  Yes, there is digital, CGI, glowing blue wang.  It’s not front and centre, but it is there.

Is it good?  I say yes.  It not the greatest of superhero movies.  I never thought it was the greatest of superhero stories to begin with.  The movie left me with the same feeling of indifference as the book did.  The change in the ending did not bother me (since I am not a rabid fan, I wasn’t against this, unlike the changes made to Catwoman in that movie) and I though made more sense than the…let’s call it the space squid ending.  I always thought that Alan Moore’s (the author of Watchmen) writing was a bit pretentious, especially his later stuff.  This isn’t so bad, but some may not like this movie

Watchmen is rated 18A in British Columbia, Canada (the equivalent to the U.S. R rating).  It has strong violence (in the book), nudity (again, it’s in the book), language (book), and sex scenes, also in the book, but more…expanded in the film.  Malin Akerman’s body (or that of her body double,) was the perfect antidote to doses of Dreiberg’s butt and Manhattan’s member.

3.5 out of 5