Before Watchmen: Nite Owl examines the early days of Dan Dreiberg’s life of heroism. What did we think of issue #1? Find out below!
Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1
Young Dan is obsessed with his hero, the Nite Owl. One night in 1962, he bugs Nite Owl’s Owl Car and discovers his secret hideout. He leaves a note to meet Hollis Mason. He tries to become Nite Owl’s sidekick, but Mason leaves saying he’ll consider it – only if Dan never sneaks into his hideout uninvited again. After a particularly violent night in the Dreiberg residence, Dan’s father dies of a heart attack. Mason, recognizing Dan’s pain, begins training him for a life of crime fighting. After the surprise announcement of Nite Owl’s retirement, Dan finishes his training before re-emerging as the new Nite Owl, complete with his flying contraption, Archimedes. The very night he makes his public debut, he meets the peculiar Rorschach and soon the duo is invited to the first meeting of the Crimebusters, where Dan is taken by the new Silk Spectre…
J. Michael Straczynski returns from a brief retirement with this title. With this first issue, there are some things that are interesting and some things that aren’t so much. On the positive, Andy and Joe Kubert’s art is striking. It has a great look that puts us in that early 60s era. There are great shots of characters, and the splash of Dan’s debut is beautiful and moody in a way that is reminiscent of a particularly great Batman shot. For this character, it works fantastically. On the story side, JMS does well in those few moments between Mason and Dreiberg. It seems Straczynski really has a knack for writing tales with a younger character and a mentor. He did nicely when he first introduced Ezekiel to his run on The Amazing Spider-Man, and he’s doing it again in this first issue. It’s not something that encompasses the book totally, but that works in his favor. In the end, I found myself cherishing those scenes the most.
As for the not so great, I found myself being a little disappointed with how quickly Rorschach enters the picture. I knew he’d be here, but I didn’t expect him to show up and become Nite Owl II’s partner so quickly after he debuts – and, by quickly I mean the very first night he goes out to bust up a riot. I could tell that Straczynski really wanted us to look fondly upon Rorschach by having him quip “Hurm” quite a bit in this book. I appreciated the not-so-insane Rorschach, but I didn’t need the six times in six pages to reconnect to the character’s most recognizable quote. It felt forced for the sake of a chuckle. I also feel as though the domestic abuse angle from Dan’s father felt a little forced to help explain why he’s emasculated and impotent in the future. Dan never seemed to have an ill-adjusted childhood to that extent, so having that in here was a little off-putting.
Another thing that didn’t quite set right with me was the rehashing of the first meeting of the Crimebusters. It’s a particularly meaningful and memorable scene in the original. I don’t know if we needed to present that scene again in close detail. Dan’s reaction to Laurie makes a relationship that many of us could read in the original as being a guy who was naturally attracted to a beautiful woman in a very revealing costume, with perhaps a school boy crush on her, seem to be fated for them to end up together. It takes the potential for a sweet series of scenes throughout the story away and replaces it with a “connect the dots” sort of explanation why they end up together in 1985. That sweet series of scenes I referred to may still come along, but, in some ways, I feel we might be set up to miss out on that.
Overall, I may have some qualms with the first issue’s plot, but I want to see where this goes. I love Dan Dreiberg as a character because he felt more real than anyone else in Watchmen. I think JMS has the chops to give us three pretty good issues, and with the Kuberts along for the ride, it’s going to look pretty damn good.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|GREAT art. The Kuberts give the book a great look to place it in the 60s. Nice scenes between Hollis and Dan.||Some story elements definitely felt forced to help connect the dots to the present time of Watchmen.|