Before Watchmen Review: Minutemen #3
Insert the standard-issue kvetching about Before Watchmen doesn't need to exist here.
Now, let's get on with how great Darwyn Cooke is. His art is so damn lovely and emotive, and the story he's telling in Before Watchmen: Minutemen is so disconnected from the original narrative we know so well that it's the most enjoyable read in the entire project. Comedian and Rorschach are sad and Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl are dull retreads, but Ozymandias is solid stuff, and Cooke's work with Amanda Conner on Silk Spectre is just as lovely and emotive, but in a different way from Minutemen, which is the only story that many Watchmen fans would agree could make any sense to have more of it told. He's also wisely focused on the one member who had virtually nothing of her character revealed beyond the lurid circumstances of her demise.
Ursula Zandt, aka The Silhouette, has proven to be the heart and conscience of the Minutemen, and pretty much the only member of the team actually concerned with the ostensible task of crimefighting. Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, understands her, but has found the whole life far too complicated, so he's retired from both the costume game and the police force to focus on his repair shop. "Ursula used to say that the problem with men is they think people are like cars: if we just know what's wrong, we can fix it… I've decided I'll fix the cars and let someone else worry about the people." Of course, he's also written a book about his time with the Minutemen, and the manuscript has made some people very unhappy. Last issue, it was Sally Jupiter's husband Larry. With Minutemen #3, it's Nelson Gardner, aka Captain Metropolis, whose "friend" has come to take personal issue with it and forbid Mason from publishing it and revealing the lurid nature of Nelson's "special relationship" with Hooded Justice.
So Nelson's all about image, the Comedian gets kicked out for being an asshole, Silk Spectre is all about fame – to the point where she's territorial and so utterly threatened by the mere presence of another woman that she's a completely nasty jerk to Ursula, and Dollar Bill is a corporate spokesperson and a Godful guy who actually suggests that Sally perhaps deserved the Comedian's attack because of how she dresses. One can understand why Mason would withdraw from that mess of conflicting self-interest.
Ursula, however, is about the job, even out-pacing Mason's dedication to trying to do what's right, with a focus on protecting children from predators – and here, she comes across a lurid pornography clatch, sees the ghost of a dead girl and goes ballistic on the creeps, bloodying herself significantly in the process. It's a dark and moving look into her state of mind, as well as her relationship with her partner, a woman named Gretchen who seems to have a Night Nurse sort of talent with patch-ups – and who seems to be recording Ursula's words while doing so? I suspect whatever that tape-recording device is in the blood-stained bathroom will come into play later.
Cooke's illustration is as beautiful as always, and the stories unfolding in Minutemen are the most compelling of all of the Before Watchmen efforts. If you're going to read any of it, this is what you should read.