Writer/artist Darwyn Cooke continues fleshing out the spaces between panels of ‘The Watchmen’ embellishing the times of The Minutemen. The book opens in the 1960s, on the verge of the publication of Hollis Mason’s whistle-blowing tell-all “Under the Hood”. He is once more discouraged from publishing it, this time by Norbert Veldon a friend of Nelson Gardner, better known as Captain Metropolis, the closeted homosexual leader of the Minutemen. Of course, Mason’s book outs him, along with his one-time lover Hooded Justice. Veldon tears up his manuscript and threatens to sue.
The book then flashes back t0 1940 and Mason as Nite-Owl is reading a ‘Minutemen’ comic book (the cover of which is a nice Justice Society homage). This factors in as panels from the fictional comic pop up throughout the real book to punctuate various scenes in much the same way that Laurie Jupiter’s fantasies do in Silk Spectre. It’s a fun device that throws in such absurdity as Nite-Owl having a canine, mask-wearing sidekick and Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis rescuing a cat from a tree. It isn’t the only such device. In a scene of Silhouette and Silk Spectre shooting a cheesecake propaganda photo, the two women’s verbal sparring is intercut with black and white S&M photos, shot by the same photographer.
The Minutemen debate whether or not to kick Comedian out after he attempted to rape Silk Spectre. He lashes out and threatens to kill Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis before stalking out. Later, we see him getting recruited by the FBI, leading into his role in ‘Watchmen’.
Nite-Owl, misguidedly, continues to grow close to lesbian Silhouette. This works out for her, however, when he is able to rescue her after she is nearly killed in action. The book gets a tad overly sophisticated toward the end, unfortunately. The action cuts between Silhouette’s recovery; she and Hollis having coffee; Nite-Owl and Dollar Bill making a public appearance followed by beers in a limo where they discuss their teammates; Silhouette’s mission – busting a child pornography ring and attempting to rescue a young victim; and Nite-Owl racing to save her. Honestly, it does not make sense initially. It works after a second reading, but not just one. So that could be a negative depending on how you look at it, or skillful storytelling that you have to take in all of before you can appreciate it.
The artwork of course is fantastic. The use of mostly nine static panels per page is a wonderful homage to the original book. Cooke does breakup the pattern where needed, though and the comic book panels and narration are funny and nicely punctuate the various scenes.
Overall, another solid installment!
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #3
Writer, Artist, Cover by Darwyn Cooke