Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Before Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan #1 of 4
Straczynski & Hughes
Doctor Manhattan is the final first issue of the Before Watchmen event and it offers a beautifully drawn, eloquently written recap of what came in Watchmen #4 some twenty-six years ago. The comic book spends almost all of its space recapping (with updated art and monologue) a story that was already told. It does this to set up the cliffhanger at the end. It’s an entertaining read to be sure. Straczynski does an amazing job of capturing Alan Moore’s style from the original Watchmen. Hughes does a great job on art. However, the book isn’t original, even a little bit, until the very end. Unfortunately, the ending just isn’t enough to get me to buy into three more issues of this type of story.
The familiar story is almost entirely there. The watch, the accident, the first meeting of Laurie, Mars, some childhood, his bright future. There isn’t a whole lot different. Basically the book is an adaptation of the origin of Doctor Manhattan. It’s a well done revision of the story but it is a retelling of issue number four nonetheless.
This brings us to the ending of the comic. This is different than the other Before Watchmen comics because it doesn’t really add to the lead up to the Watchmen book, but it offers up an alternate timeline. Basically, Straczynski is taking a “What If?” perspective on this mini-series. Watching Straczynski break things up and put them back together doesn’t really excite me too much. I would have preferred understanding why Manhattan stayed so closed aligned with the United States when it clearly went against what he saw in the future.
Hughes does a fantastic job on this issue. He stays away from the standard Watchmen layout and manages to offer somewhat of an original look. With this issue being so monologue heavy, the visuals are relied on heavily to set the tone and they do so perfectly. The book is a darker look in terms of color and I think it actually works though it wasn’t something I would have expected. Overall, Hughes does the superb job you would imagine from him.
Doctor Manhattan was always going to be a tough sell. There just isn’t a ton to go on here. To be honest, his personality lends itself to less and not more. I appreciate the detail that Straczynski put into the voice of Manhattan as it is seamless from the original. Couple that with the tremendous art and you have a decent read. However, DC would have been better served letting Straczynski launch immediately into the “What If?” story and printed a reprint of the original issue number four. If you want in on the ground floor then this is the issue for you.
2 out of 5 Geek Goggles