Before Watchmen: Nite-Owl #1
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Brad Anderson
The short of it:
Dan Dreiberg is a smart kid. He’s the kind of guy who sat around a table as a teenage in the sixties and talked about, essentially, the iPhone. He dreams big, and he practically worships the hero known as Nite-Owl; but when you see the kind of life he comes from…you can understand why the kid would want to be a super hero. Not content to be a simple fan boy, Dan tracks down the Nite-Owl and finds out his true identity, not for the sake of blackmail or extortion, but because he wants to be his heroes sidekick. He’s Tim Drake. Hollis Mason proceeds to train Dan in the ways of crime fighting, helping him hone his mind and body into what he’ll need to be to do the job. At the same time, he encourages Dan’s intellect and the evolution of the persona that comes along with it. Don’t forget, Hollis wore short shorts and had a pimped out car. Dan is super tech.
Dan was never meant to be a sidekick though, and instead he was trained to replace his hero. We see the earliest days of his time out there, from meeting and partnering with Rorschach, to the first (and last) meeting of the Crimebusters. This, of course, also marks the first time Dan met Laurie…
What I liked:
- I was really taken by the young version of Dan. He’s a smart and optimistic kid in an awful situation who maintains faith in his heroes. There’s a love for what he grows into doing that really does a nice job defining the kind of man he’ll be.
- I loved the level of detective work Dan put in to discovering the true identity of Nite-Owl, the whole sequence was wonderfully done and really did an amazing job putting over his intellect. There’s more to him than the money and fancy gadgets, there’s a keen critical mind.
- I loved the old school style, and really, I didn’t even notice until I went back to check the credits that Joe was inking Andy. I honestly expected each to do their own scenes, Joe with Hollis and Andy with Dan, but what we got is so much better. One thing you have to say about that family; they can draw.
- The relationship between Hollis and Dan is great, I mean, it’s like Batman and Robin but with Robin never actually becoming Robin. The hero training his replacement isn’t seen nearly as often as the hero training a sidekick.
- JMS does a nice job with Rorschach. The dynamic between the two characters is fun, and I do get a feeling for why they would be partners. I also get the feeling that JMS really, REALLY, wanted to write him.
What I didn’t like:
- I would have enjoyed a few more pages detailing Dan’s early years, as they felt a bit too rushed through to get him in the Nite-Owl costume.
- Same thing goes for Hollis Mason’s time as Nite-Owl, I would have liked to have seen more of his later years.
- Really, the biggest issue I had with the entire issue was the pacing. JMS told a lot of story, and I can only imagine he has a lot more to come to speed through so much so fast, but the rich history being fast forwarded through before our eyes makes me want for more that I don’t expect to get.
- On top of that, I also wasn’t super pleased with the story putting as much focus as it did into elements we already knew about. Like JMS was trying to hit on as many beats as he could from the original story, but most of the scenes fell somewhat flat. They helped frame the story, but he doesn’t add too much to what we already knew with them.
Young Dan and his mom sitting at the fire could easily take a top moment spot. The scene with him walking in on his parents I initially took the right way, then thought it might be a bit more perverse, and then I was back seeing I was right the first time. Her feelings about the situation were perfect.
However, I feel that limiting Dan’s dad to just a handful of pages is a complete and total waste of potential. There’s still more story there about his childhood to be told, especially considering we pick up his story around age seventeen and then skip ahead to his early twenties after only about half an issue.
I feel like this mini should have been one of the six issues ones so that there would be three issues that this issue could have been broken into. Because unless the next three issues are just completely knock me off my ass, this book will go down for me as the one that rushed through the most interesting parts.
I wanted to like this book a lot more, and to be honest with you guys, my first draft of this review scored the book with an 8.5. However, the more time I spent writing it up, the more time I spent looking over the book…I feel the score I’m giving is a generous one, and that the score I wanted to give would have been more warranted if the book could have just slowed down for a little while and given the reader a chance to absorb Dan’s character. I don’t want the unknown cases of Nite-Owl, I want the story of who the man is and how he came to be who he is.
Tags: Alan Moore, andy kubert, Before Watchmen, Dave Gibbons, J. Michael Straczynski, JMS, Joe Kubert, Reviews, Rorschach, Watchmen