Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan: J. Michael Straczynski, Adam Hughes, Laura Martin, Steve Wands, Paul Pope, Lovern Kindzierski, Jim lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair
I loved the graphic novel, I loved the movie adaptation. Though I was never truly excited about these “Before Watchmen” books DC announced. I felt the stories were very well explored, the characters fully developed. There’s really nothing to say. But there’s enough incredible talent tied to the project to really get us fans foaming at the mouth and ready to buy.
Of the Watchmen, Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan were my favorite characters. I loved the pathetic, pining hero in Dan Dryberg, and the awesome power of the disconnected Dr. Manhattan, the only member of Watchmen who actually has any sort of powers. Incredible characters. So I had to pick up this mini-series. What’s brilliant about this book is that it’s so very able to capture the voice of the curious superhuman, and also convey the same disjointed, non-linear storytelling style the original graphic novel displayed.
The concept of this story is set up with the quantum theory of Schrödinger’s box. A closed box contains any possibility at all, and remains in a state of flux between all possibilities until opened, and one is then displayed within. There are several examples of this given throughout the story, and it’s used to great effect.
This issue doesn’t spend as much time focusing on Manhattan trying to figure out how he fits back into the puzzle of human existence, but more on him figuring himself out. Why is he? What is he? Of what process is he the product? And the whole issue is narrated in that brilliant, if sometimes frustrating, voice of Manhattan. He speaks so intelligently, and I have to give some incredible amounts of credit to Straczynski for making it work and sound true to the original character.
I made the mistake of starting to read this issue while a headache was coming on. Dr. Manhattan did nothing to stem the pain. I may have had to think too much, but I still enjoyed that.
Hughes’ art is…well, need I say anything? Hughes is a master. Not only are his characters so perfect, but the landscapes are breathtaking as well. The barrenness of Mars is what’s most impressive there. But look at Jon, and all his incarnations in this issue…they all look alike! I know it sounds stupid to be this amazed. But it’s so incredibly easy for an artist to screw up younger/older versions of a character. Hughes got everything right here in the facial structure of Jon, which is the most important aspect of his physical appearance, given that it’s the only part of him that translates over to Dr. Manhattan. Everything else is gone.
Also impressive is how true to the originals all the other characters appear. I just can’t get over how great a job was done on the art in this book.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1 of 4, the verdict: A great addition to the “Watchmen” story. Yeah, I didn’t think this was all necessary, and it definitely felt like an attempt to get more money out of a franchise in a most Lucas way…but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I still haven’t checked out the others, and I may or may not. Given the great first impression this issue provided, the blow is softened. The ending of this story presents a very cool conundrum that throws Dr. Manhattan’s very existence into question, and I’m definitely excited to read more. As long as the creative team doesn’t change. My one caveat.
(Photo Source: Everything Action)