Before Watchmen is here. It's up and running. There's no stopping it, there's no hope for protesting it. As skeevy as it feels to go ahead with a prequel project against the expressed wishes of the creator of the original masterpiece, the fact remains that some very top-shelf artists are writing and drawing stories based on very familiar and beloved characters, and it's hard to resist the notion of Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner working together, even if it's giving us a Silk Spectre miniseries many of us never thought we needed. Thankfully, DC has been sending me review copies of these Before Watchmen #1 issues, so I've yet to have to make the buying decision about where I stand between Alan Moore's righteous indignance and talented artists telling compelling stories.
It was wise of DC to open this whole project with Cooke's Minutemen #1, as the costumed adventurers from the World War II era are pretty much the only characters in the Watchmen saga that we've always kinda wanted to learn more about. Sure, there were details in the chapters of Hollis Mason's Under The Hood, and the occasional flashback within the main story, but by and large, the original Minutemen remained an ancillary curiosity. With Silk Spectre #1, however, we start dealing with the childhood of Laurie Juspeczyk, one of Moore's central characters, and thus, it really starts inviting direct comparisons and analysis for inconsistencies and all the things that stoke the fires of nerd rage. In his review, Iann Robinson noted the disconnect between these new stories and the original series, and that's a very salient point. The best way to get around all the baggage and the morality morass is to just consider the original Moore/Dave Gibbons story its own untouchable thing, and this new project as not really "Before" Watchmen, but an alternate reality version of these characters. It's a whole different tone – Cooke has outright said he's disenchanted with the "pervasive darkness" of the original and wishes Moore would've found some kind of hopeful note. It's not going to feel like Watchmen. Don't lament that disconnect – embrace it, and then maybe you can enjoy this.
Because when Amanda Conner is drawing a comic book series, you don't want any reason not to love it.
Conner's talent is remarkable and would even be worth a look if she was stuck drawing a Rob Liefeld script. Her work is so irresistibly beautiful and evocative. In this issue, she's channeling Gibbons from time to time, particularly with the layouts and occasional expressions, but it's definitely her own signature style, and that's something I've been in love with since I first came upon it. She is amazing at making the reader experience every single little emotion her characters are feeling, and Cooke's story gives us a lot to feel with Laurie's bristling under her self-obsessed mother Sally Jupiter's controlling leash, while also finding her first love.
I want to hate these books and be all indie-cred about it, but I can't when they're this compelling. These first two books have been really good stories on their own. As long as I keep up the mantra that this isn't a prequel, but an alternate universe where life didn't turn out quite so miserable, I can enjoy comics instead of knee-jerk hating them. With apologies to Mr. Moore, I'll just quote Abed Nadir from Community: "I guess I just like liking things."