A good Darwyn Cooke story is simply a good comic book story and “Before Watchmen: Minutemen” #2 is really close to being a good Darwyn Cooke story. Close — but simply not enough.
While Cooke’s art is so deliciously timeless that it would easily be worth the price of admission, this story jumps all over the space-time continuum that “timeless” art needs to be utilized to simply fit in the variety of contexts spread around the twenty-two pages of the lead tale. That story focuses on the inner workings of the Minutemen and the cracks that develop into fissures between the team members. Cooke opens the story with a scene between Hollis Mason and Larry Schexnayder regarding a discussion of Mason’s tell-all book in 1962. From there the rest of the issue hops into 1939 and 1940 mainly to lay subplots for the remainder of the series.
Cooke has a good feeling for the eras in which the adventure is set and he crafts some comic book dialogue around those settings. The chatter borders on being heavy-handed, but props up the context of the times driving “Before Watchmen: Minutemen” #2. While Nite Owl is the lead for this story, narrating a great deal of it through caption boxes, Cooke does spread the focus around, giving all of the Minutemen a chance to drop a few lines of dialog at the very least. That said, no one character really shines, including Mason. None of these characters really offer much to follow here despite Cooke’s ability to fill this comic with subplots and personal relationships.
“Before Watchmen” as a concept attracted an astonishing amount of attention and certainly no shortage of great creative talent, but in the end, the event just hasn’t found a way to hook me and this issue is no exception. Cooke’s artwork, with spot-on coloring from Phil Noto and wonderfully functional classic comic lettering from Jared K. Fletcher, makes the strongest plea, but I think I’ll wait a while longer and find this tale in collected form later. Perhaps there the story will hold my interest long enough from one chapter to the next.