Graphic Review: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition

Daniel Dreiberg is taken under the wing of original Nite Owl Hollis Mason and trained to take over for the aging hero. The new Nite Owl begins investigating a string of prostitute murders. He partners up with vigilante Rorschach until the two split up over differences of opinion as to who they should associate with. Nite Owl seeks help and physical affection from dominatrix madam The Twilight Lady while Rorschach turns to religion. Can the two find a middle ground and work together to solve the case before the killer strikes again?

J. Michael Straczynski penned Before Watchmen: Nite Owl. Although it’s one of my least favorite of the whole event, it still has a few surprises and a great ending. It almost feels like Straczynski realized from the beginning that the new Nite Owl couldn’t carry an entire series himself and decided to add Rorschach to pull in additional readers and make it more interesting. I might be totally off with this theory, because the two did work together extensively in the original Watchmen.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl is an important book because it’s the last truly completed artwork from the late Joe Kubert. Joe inked his son Andy Kubert’s penciling and it’s a wonderful way to capture the two working together. Andy’s classic style is perfectly accented by his father’s masterful hand.

On the other end of the spectrum, J. Michael Straczynski’s Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan is one of my favorite titles of the bunch. It explores the extraordinary character’s perception of the different choices he could have made throughout his life and how they would have affected the outcome of each timeline. Straczynski really shines as he grabs the reader and doesn’t let them go until the very end. I do have issues with some of the scientific and evolutionary mumbo-jumbo and theories, but I look past it and enjoy the story for what it ultimately is.

Adam Hughes illustrates Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan. His work is similar to what Dave Gibbons delivered in the original Watchmen book. That’s not to say it mimics that style completely. Hughes still gives each panel a personal touch and excels with a sense of realism.

As much as I hate to admit it because of some of the content, Before Watchmen: Moloch is another one of my favorites. Once again, J. Michael Straczynski pens a compelling backstory for a character we didn’t get to see much of in the original Watchmen graphic novel. He does for Moloch here what Brian Azzarello did for Ozymandias in that character’s title. Straczynski takes a one-dimensional character and breathes life into him, proving Alan Moore’s claims that there’s nothing more to these characters outside of his book are absolutely unjustified.

Eduardo Risso’s artwork definitely stands on its own merits. I can’t really think of anyone to compare it to. He’s a very unique talent that fully realizes Straczynski’s words in visual form.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition is no doubt the most “mature” of all the books in the prequel event. There’s a whole lot of unnecessary nudity throughout all the books. Before Watchmen: Moloch even has a scene of teen sex with the girl exposing her breast. I’m sure artist Eduardo Risso would explain it away by saying the characters are over eighteen. We also get the pleasure of seeing Dr. Manhattan’s big blue distraction and booty again. Violence and language would be other reasons I would give this book an “R” rating.

Nineteen pages of bonus material are included in Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition. We get variant covers for all the titles from Jim Lee, David Finch, Ethan Van Sciver, Neal Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, and others. A character study of Nite Owl is provided by Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Brad Anderson. Various cover sketches, warm-up sketches, and a layout and final page round out the special features.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition will no doubt leave readers with mixed feelings as it concludes one of the most controversial and anticipated events in DC Comics history. It’s definitely a broad showcase of J. Michael Straczynski’s talents. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl runs out of gas before picking up in the end. However, both Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan and Before Watchmen: Moloch succeed in doing exactly what they were meant to. They are entertaining stories that help fill in the backstories of these engaging and enigmatic characters while expanding on them at the same time.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan Deluxe Edition is available now in hardcover and Kindle editions.