Monday, January 20, 2014

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 1-4 (2012)

Don’t worry everyone. I didn’t actually buy any of these Before Watchmen cash-ins. No, like any good-hearted comic fan, I checked out the hardcover from my local library. I’ll be splitting these mammoth tomes up into separate reviews. Each of the collections has multiple limited series combined inside, but they are so thematically and tonally different that I think they need their own review. The first Before Watchmen product I started with is Nite Owl.

This is a good opener for me, since I was always a fan of Nite Owl. He’s basically supposed to be Blue Beetle, right? How could he go wrong? And to be honest, J. Michael Straczynski doesn’t actually ruin the character here. Dan Dreiberg has the same mix of self-doubt and confidence that made him so entertaining in the original Watchmen film. And more than any other character in the mythos, I think Nite Owl can survive having new layers of story added into his history. This guy is essentially Batman, so he can handle it, right?

I must say that I absolutely hate the characterization shortcut of having Nite Owl constantly dropping predictions about future technology. I don’t care about predicting things like the GPS, dude. It is easy to go back and give a character those types of precognizant abilities when writing a flashback. That is a trick used by bad sitcoms. It is just lazy writing.

JMS’ approach is to show the early team-up of Nite Owl and Rorschach. It’s a nice moment, and the budding friendship is entertaining when it is on-panel. It gets glossed over a tad, which is disappointing, but I can see that DC needed to spend those pages on adult content. There is a fair amount of nudity in this book, most of it gratuitous and unnecessary, but that is what makes this a Before Watchmen comic, right?

JMS plays up Dreiberg’s awkward side in his interactions with… I don’t know what to call her. Super-prostitute? I guess? Anyway, Twilight Lady wears a mask, but it seems more for her work than any actual super-heroics. The scenes do show off Nite Owl’s good heart, but they also really play up what a doofus he is.

There isn’t exactly a through-villain for the series, but an evil priest makes for a good foil for an issue or two. It does show off the strongest part of these four issues; the friendship and partnership of Rorschach and Nite Owl.

Andy Kubert’s art is solid. His father Joe’s inks give the art that nice scratchy look that makes this seem older than it really is. I never noticed anything tremendously unique, in fact, I’m not sure if Rorschach’s face mask was changing throughout the issue or not. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t notice. I do really like the design of Twilight Lady’s costume (when she wears it). Mainly, her 60’s beehive hairdo really establishes a time and place for the story.

So I don’t regret reading this, but it certainly isn’t required reading, even for Watchmen fans. If you are a Nite Owl fan, I guess this could be considered FAIR. 

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