The high point of the earlier issues of “Before Watchmen: Nite Owl” was, without a doubt, the collaboration between son and father on the art in the form of Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert. With Joe Kubert’s passing earlier this year, though, it fell to someone else to step in and provide the inks over Andy Kubert’s pencils. So for part of the third issue and all of this one, enter Bill Sienkiewicz.
Comparing the art as inked by Joe Kubert versus Bill Sienkiewicz is, in many ways, a textbook example of how the penciler/inker method of putting together comics can result in a very different looking finished product by merely switching the inker. Just as Joe Kubert brought his own distinct style to Andy Kubert’s pencils, so has Sienkiewicz. In “Before Watchmen: Nite Owl” #4, the art is much more angular and sharp; a collaboration between Andy Kubert and Bill Sienkiewicz in many ways results in a look similar to when Klaus Jansen provides both pencils and inks.
The Twilight Lady’s big bouffant, for example, is still perfectly rounded no matter who inks Andy Kubert, but instead of providing darker and thicker grooves in that overall shape (like Joe Kubert added), Sienkiewicz makes those links much thinner and smaller, and the little pieces of hair curling in the wind feel almost like little knives. Reverend Taylor Stone also comes across looking a bit different here; the basic shape is once again still the same, but the harder edges to his face make him look that much more demonic and horrible. It makes him feel less like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and instead his outside is matching his inside.
The story itself is, unfortunately, mostly forgettable. The best thing that J. Michael Straczynski brings to “Before Watchmen: Nite Owl” is the new character of the Twilight Lady. She’s a bit of a cliche in parts, but on the whole she’s a fun addition to the overall picture. Of course, since we don’t actually have the Twilight Lady as a character in “Watchmen” itself, that means that she can’t stick around beyond this mini-series. It ends up actually feeling like a large flaw; not only does she leave in a slightly annoying manner that doesn’t feel like it makes much sense, but it’s a reminder that this whole prequel project is an after-the-fact idea that in trying to force itself to fit in with “Watchmen” proper ends up feeling like something that is never quite right.
In the end, fans of the artists involved will find “Before Watchmen: Nite Owl” #4 interesting. It’s a nice primer on how a comic book inker will approach a page of pencils and keep the overall look the same even while being able to bring their own particular take to the creation. But like almost all of the “Before Watchmen” comics, the story itself is skippable.