People have always kind of associated the character of Nite Owl with a pudgy, less cool Batman, plus it doesn’t help that the cover of the new series really makes him look like Batman. This new mini-series really separates him from the Dark Knight, however. If you think back to the original Watchmen story, Nite Owl is in kind of a weird place. Sure, he’s one of the main characters but his traits are not like the usual hero stereotype, which is why the character works in the placement of that story. Even after reading this prequel though, I’m not sure that this origin story works when being elaborated on.
J. Michael Straczynski is writing the Nite Owl series and I can say that I’m partially disappointed in the story of this one. First of all, the story moves way too fast for an inaugural issue. Though this series is one of the shorter ones of the Before Watchmen series with four issues, you still don’t have to squeeze almost three issues worth of story into this one which is what it often feels like. The opening is dull and disengaging, not the quality you want in the opening pages of a comic. Only when Dan meets up with Hollis Mason does the story really take off, and that is what the series should have been about in my opinion, the training and development of Dan as the new Nite Owl, because it is the best part of the story and it’s over all too quickly. From there we jump forward to his initial partnership with Rorschach and the first meeting of The Minute Men. Also, Rorschach is very poorly used in this story. Sure the character has kind of become well known in popular culture as a grumpy vigilante who grunts and snorts, but that doesn’t mean he has to be written that way. Rorschach is a highly intelligent and devious character and neither of those things show here.
When the story tries to retell a lone scene from the original Watchmen comic, you’d think it would have some success, but it doesn’t. Though it only chooses to show a portion of the sequence, it still lacks engagement with the reader and offers nothing new to the tale of these characters (which is the whole reason to even do the prequels right?). All that is really accomplished in pursuing this sequence is that sense of irony readers will get by seeing Dan talk about Laurie.
I expected a lot from Straczynski, but I expected even more from Andy and Joe Kubert for the art. Andy does the pencils and Joe provides the inks on the story and it’s some of the least impressive art of theirs that I’ve seen in some time. The best parts of his artwork are the splash pages and the few fight sequences in the story. Much of the rest of the pages have peculiar misshapen people and an over reliance on shading lines. The inks look good though. They have a much brighter and fluorescent feeling than the original Watchmen, but it does seem to match the visual tone of the rest of the prequels.
If you like Nite Owl, I’m sure you’ll like this comic, but I was rather disappointed with it all. It seems rather rushed with little time put into careful plotting and creation. I realize the story has to be set up in order to tell what will happen in the rest of the mini-series and I hope this one gets better, but for now it’s a real swing and a miss.
Rating: 6 / 10