Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Minutemen #3, written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke with colors by Phil Noto.
Brian Cronin: Minutemen continues its upward momentum, quality-wise, from issue #2. Imagine how good this series would have been if this was issue #2 instead of #3 and issue #2 was #1?
Anyhow, Darwyn Cooke spotlights Silhouette in this issue, which is great, as she is likely the character that he has the greatest leeway with in doing character development (possibly Mothman). In this issue, we get to see a great examination into the sort of personality that one must have to drive oneself to such extremes as Silhouette does. Clearly, she has some major personal damage in her past that drives her, and Cooke depicts it wonderfully in this issue. There is a scene where Nite Owl and Silhouette are having dinner before they each go on their respective patrols. She practically exudes this sort of tragic sadness about her, which a compassionate guy like Hollis Mason can't help but pick up on. However, Cooke nicely shows how he can't help but have his own attraction to her creep into his concern for her. It's really a wonderfully compelling scene. As, of course, is the major action piece of the issue, as Silhouette crashes a collection of rich perverts watching a child porn film. The girl on the screen becomes real to Silhouette, and it is heartbreaking watching her basically try to save the "ghost" girl, who no doubt is, to her, saving herself as a child. Very emotional sequence with striking action artwork by Cooke.
The major artistic plot device of the issue is Hollis opening up his garage in the opening sequence (which is set years after the Minutemen broke up) and coming across an old box of comic books (I love that Hollis reads comic books). As everyone knows, the Watchmen universe is unique in that superheroes never became the prevailing form of comic book entertainment because of the reality of them in the Watchmen universe. However, Cooke suggests that there DID exist a Minutemen comic book, and throughout the comic he frames the actual Minutemen interactions around a centerpiece panel from the Minutemen comic book, beautifully juxtaposing the reality of the Minutemen with the fantasy of the 1940's era comic book (Cooke captures the style of a 1940 comic book quite well).
Cooke does a good job with the Comedian in the issue. As we saw in Watchmen (and as Azzarello is exploring in the Comedian series), the Comedian is a complex character, who is in many ways is a sadist/sociopath but also has a strong desire to want to BELONG to something, and Cooke shows those dueling impulses well in this issue, as the group kicks the Comedian off the team. You have to love Dollar Bill's defense of Comedian in the issue. Heck, Dollar Bill period is interesting in this issue, as he obviously is coming at this hero business from a whooooooole other angle than everyone else. He is very much a member of the "establishment," and the conflicts it presents with his teammates is fascinating.
Something that I think Cooke did not touch on enough is the early sequence where Hollis is accosted by a "friend" of Captain Metropolis who protests the fact that Hollis is outing his former teammate in his tell-all book.
Hollis basically shrugs it off, believing that telling the truth is worth telling everyone's secrets. He might be right, but I do not believe Cooke shows enough doubt in Hollis' mind, or in the alternative, does not show enough doubt to the reader period that maybe what he is doing IS kind of jerkish. I mean, of the group, Hollis is the one who has the least to hide and thus has the most to gain from the book becoming a hit, and yet he doesn't even really seem to take into consideration what this will do to Nelson. He gives it some lip service ("I can't blame him for being mad") but when a guy tells you that your former friend is contemplating suicide because you're going to out him in your book, and your reaction is, "Well, I can't blame him for being mad, but the truth must be told" then I think you're missing the compassion that has typically been the hallmark of Hollis Mason.
Chad Nevett: Do you even need me this week, Brian? It doesn't seem like you do...
The expulsion of the Comedian was a great scene. It's something that was never touched on in Watchmen in what reaction he provoked from his attempted rape of Sally Jupiter. Of course they booted him out and he pulls a Frank Miller "Only an idiot would wear a hood, Robin" moment with the Comedian taking Hooded Justice out with ease. Given Justice's reputation as an almost 'unbeatable' mysterious figure, it was a little shocking that that was the guy that Eddie took down. Another subtle hint that the big happenings in issue five will have to do with Hooded Justice and his disappearance?
I'm also a sucker for "You're kicking me out? Fuck you, I'm leaving, because you all suck!" scenes and that one was a doozy.
Dollar Bill made for one of the more interesting characters in this issue from his reaction to the Comedian's assault on Sally to his avoidance of the war to his discussion of Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice. He's kind of a sleazy asshole that almost comes across like the Comedian, while having a very different perspective. He's the greedy conversative elite that only really cares about his position of priviledge and wealth.
The reappearance of the Stephenson poem was surprising and, surely, must bear some larger significance than we previously thought if it's going to recur like this. I also wonder if the recording of the Silhouette's 'debriefing' will come back to haunt her.
I hadn't consdered how Mason's unwillingness to be silent goes against his usual compassionate nature. Again, it makes me wonder if the big moment involves Hooded Justice and, maybe, Nelson doing something that betrays his lover? Maybe the entire team betraying him somehow in a way that's expedient but haunts Mason? That's the only thing that makes sense -- Mason wants revenge against the entire team, himself included.
BC: I really don't get the Stephenson poem stuff. It really HAS to play a major role now that he's used it twice but I fear that it will not.
And yeah, I guess it is not fair to fully judge Mason until we see what broke the group up. It must have been something pretty major, though, to get a decent guy like Mason so willing to not only turn on the rest of them but turn on them without any real remorse.
Here's something I am unsure of. What, exactly, is Sally Jupiter's goal with the Minutemen? Is it strictly to be famous? Or does she want to do some good? It just confuses me when we see her wanting to push Silhouette out of the group when she MUST know that SIlhouette is one of the few competent members of the group. It seems strange to me that Sally would be that selfish. But perhaps I'm just misreading her and the fame was the only driving motivation for her.
I gave some lip service to Cooke's art in my last post but I think it is important to note how good of a job he did on this issue. Not just the framing bits with the Minutemen comic book (which were excellent) but also in his expert mixture between the character moments and the action sequence. He also is using the panel grid in an impressive fashion. Only Amanda Conner seems to be using the panel grid as well as Cooke has so far.
The back-up story actually moved forward a bit! After a couple of weeks of just plot recaps, John Higgins moved the story along, although I can't say that I was too impressed with the Ju-Ju lady. Still, the art remained excellent as always.
CN: What are many of their goals? That's a question I've never asked before. What does Hooded Justice want? What does the Comedian want actually? What did he hope to gain from the Minutemen? Even Silhouette doesn't seem to have much faith in the group and what good it can actually do. Part of the series is about the futility of the group, the bad joke that it actually is... But, what each of the members actually want is interesting. And, if all Sally wants is fame, why push her daughter into crimefighting? Suddenly, I'm far more interested in those questions than anything else...
Cooke's storytelling is interesting and he handles it well visually. The use of cuts and intersecting narratives is a little unusual. I think he goes a bit too far in this issue at times, trying to be somewhat obtuse about where Silhouette is after her 'adventure' and who she is talking to. It's obvious from the outset to a degree, so why attempt to hide it through purposefully vague close-ups of the bathroom? It's to his credit, I guess, that the story is so simple that even an attempt to 'complicate' it doesn't actually do anything other than create questions about Cooke's motives. Less a "What's going on?" than a "Why is he telling the story like this?"
BC: Oh yeah, even if we didn't already know Silhouette's background from Watchmen, who could we possibly think was in the bathroom with her? Hollis? There's no way. So yeah, that was a silly idea.
As for the motivations, here is what I figure...
Dollar Bill is the easiest. He's there for the fame and fortune. I love him. He's such a jerk.
The Comedian is there because he wants to kick the shit out of people and he likes the idea of others accepting his shit-kicking skills. It makes him feel less depressed to see other people condoning his sociopathic tendencies (which is why he loves working for the Army so much).
Captain Metropolis legitimately wants to do good but not if he has to do anything too strenuous.
Hooded Justice is a mystery. I really don't know what motivates him. Hopefully we learn the answer in this series.
Mothman, Nite Owl and Silhouette honestly want to do good and are dedicated to doing good in whatever way is necessary, but you can tell that doing good takes a great toll on all three of them. If Silhouette survived, she likely would have ended up in an asylum herself. Hollis is the most "normal" of the three, so he adjusts the best. And the fact that two other heroes (especially Nite Owl) match her own views on doing good I think is the reason Silhouette is willing to put up with this shit.
That leaves Silk Spectre. Right now, she seems to be strictly motivated by fame. But yes, by the time of Watchmen, she is also motivated to do good. So perhaps we will see something that makes her attitude change? I hope so, because right now Cooke is writing her as strictly a fame whore.
CN: I can't disagree too much with your assessment of the different members. I guess where I'd push back a little is by asking how realistic their desires are within the confines of the Minutemen? So far, the only person who seems to be hitting their goal 100% is Dollar Bill. Everyone else either faces compromise/failure or is mysterious. Can a group that acts as the combined desires of so many people actually succeed? It's looking like it can't -- and is that because of the conflicting motives/desires or something else?
BC: Oh yeah, I meant to respond to that point. Sorry. So yeah, as to whether the Minutemen ever had a chance of working...probably not. I do like the way this is being framed is not as the destruction of a once-great group but rather a stupid idea that never really went anywhere.
As to whether people are getting their goals in the Minutemen, well, Sally is becoming really famous, right?
The three main heroes have met each other and if not for her allegiance with Nite Owl, Silhouette would be dead right now (as opposed to, you know, later on) so I think the three real heroes have been helped by working as a group.
But yeah, Captain Metropolis is a total failure. It is pretty funny when you think about how Watchmen #2 made it out like this old has been's attempts to replicate his past ended in failure when he NEVER really succeeded. I like that. It's fucked up, but I like it. It really works for me.
CN: It really puts the whole Crime-Busters thing into a new perspective -- and Metropolis with it. The group never actually amounting to anything beyond some PR and smalltime bring downs seems appropriate.
Of course, we aren't seeing anything other than the failed moments and the cracks in the team. PR is strong, but I hage to imagine that the team is somehow more than what we're seeing in this series. If the group was such a joke, I can't imagine Nite-Owl and Silhouette giving it much of their time, especially when they can simply do good outside of the group. Cooke's view seems too narrow in that regard. There isn't much in Watchmen to portray this team as something great or something failed, but Cooke seems to be so focused on the latter that he ignores the elements of the former. It wouldn't last if there wasn't SOMETHING there. So far, the only 'good' thing the group has really done is condemn an attempted rape, albeit with a few mild objections.
BC: Yeah, that's fair enough that unless there was something there that was worth holding on to than the team breaking up would not have any sort of force to it, right? So yeah, I suppose Cooke really ought to have the team achieve SOMEthing next issue. We shall see!