Before Watchmen: Doctor Manhattan #2
Wow! What a week for comics this has been. In one universe the Before Watchmen books were a bust, boring, but that’s certainly not the one that we live in; though I was worried it would be after issues like Nite-Owl #1. By the time that this issue started though I was thoroughly on board and the fact that it began in such a brilliantly brainy manner only helped to hook me further. Then came the cliffhanger and I was as compelled as I was confused.
Since these comics are prequels the characters are essentially all immortal – this one especially – so shocks and suspense are both to script into their stories; with a single smart idea though Straczynski managed to not only provide both but blow the minds of anyone reading. The biggest shock though came this issue when he not only continued on with but even expanded the cerebrality of the concept.
“What idea is this?” You might be wondering, if you havn’t yet read the issues of Doc Manhattan that are available. What if Jon didn’t die, what if he stepped out of the test chamber seconds before the door locked, what if Manhattan was to see this happening using his omniscience And how would that be possible. Essentially what JMS has created here is an alternate universe, a story that’s not set before or after Watchmen but beside it; something that makes perfect sense given what and how Doc see’s reality.
The way that this is written though would impress even Alan Moore since the strange doesn’t end there. On top of this the issue also shows us a splinter universe that exists inside of this one with mirrored pages presenting the two possible outcomes parallel to one another. On top of this the issue also shows us a splinter universe that exists inside of this one with mirrored panels presenting the two possible outcomes parallel to one another; the web getting larger and larger before blowing up in synchronicity with our straining minds.
So yeah, the first half of this book is pretty amazing and at least half the praise for this should go to Adam Hughes whose page layouts not only make this idea possible but present it in a way that it almost easy to follow and plenty pretty to boot. His characters are evocative – if a little too busty – and his settings strongly detailed but it is the grand spectacle of his spreads that stun, the shots of splintering reality and our solar galaxy are simple sensational.
Unfortunately though there is a split in the issue as important as those shown in the story and everything after this shift is a bit of a let down. Straczynski stops the forward momentum of the book to step back and explain the science of Schrodinger to those unfamiliar. There is perhaps a place for this – a back up maybe or perhaps an appendix – but I didn’t love the lectured lesson coming here. Really stories should show and not tell their big ideas, that is their job, it’s what makes them better than a textbook.
This is a shame, I would have loved an entire issue that was as strong as that first section, but it doesn’t cripple the comic in any way. As in the case of that flittering feline a book can be both good and bad at the same time, when observing this one I choose to focus more on the former than the latter and the former is about as good as they come. I can’t wait until my consciousness is contained in a time where I have obtained the third issue, or maybe I simply wish that I was in an alternate dimension where that was the case now; either way I want to read what comes next.