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CSBG Archive

…And the Superhuman Review – Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3

Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Nite Owl #3 by J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Andy Kubert (pencils), Joe Kubert and Bill Sienkiewicz (inks) and Brad Anderson (colors).

Brian Cronin: Before we say anything about this issue, we must of course pass on our condolences again to Joe Kubert’s family. Kubert must have been in the middle of this issue when he first took ill, since Bill Sienkiewicz inks the last third of the issue. While I imagine Andy Kubert had already finished his pencils for this issue before his father became sick (and I would not be surprised if he very understandably skips the final issue of the series entirely), he must have had some indication of his father’s failing health, so it is very impressive that he was able to soldier with the artwork under such stressful circumstances. We have all spoken seemingly endlessly about the loss of the great Joe Kubert, but it is worth mentioning again. Kubert’s inks have been one of the highlights of this series and they continue to be strong in this issue. If this was, indeed, the last comic book that he worked on, he should be proud of the work he did.
As to the book itself, I Felt that it was an improvement over the first two issues, especially in the scenes between Nite Owl and Twilight Lady. J. Michael Straczynski clearly enjoys writing her and it shows.

The chemistry between Nite Owl and her was strong. Also, my goodness, Bill Sienkiewicz inking Andy Kubert is not something I believe I have ever seen before but it worked really, really well. The whole sex sequence was beautifully illustrated by Kubert and Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz’s inks added a certain charm to Kubert’s figures that really shone in the work.

Sadly, the Rorschach plot continues to be a problem in that A. it shouldn’t be here period and B. it is really not particularly good. Very over-the-top but not in a cool way, more in a hackneyed way. Luckily, the Rorschach stuff was not a major part of the story.

Overall, even with an improvement the overall issue did not add up to much more than a slight enjoyment. Here’s an interesting question for you – from what I’ve seen in the comments, it seems that people are misunderstanding “I enjoyed it” with “I recommend it.” I don’t know about you, but unless I specifically say “I recommend this comic book,” my reviews should not be taken as a recommendation. Like Rorschach #1. You and I were complimentary towards that book, but it was basically just a decent comic book story, which made it seem better in comparison to some of the poorer Before Watchmen stories bu that certainly was not intended by me to be a recommendation of that comic. I don’t believe I would recommend any of the Before Watchmen books so far. How about you?

Chad Nevett: I was watching for the switch between Joe Kubert and Bill Sienkiewicz on inks and was glad to see that Sienkiewicz seems to (in this issue at least) trying to maintain a consistent look. Both men’s inks tend to overpower the pencil art and it’s nice that Sienkiewicz is trying to ‘overpower’ in the ‘Joe Kubert way’ for the most part here.

I actually didn’t really like this issue any better than the previous two. The stuff with Twilight Lady wasn’t particularly good and suffered from the same obviousness and tin ear as the previous two issues. It reminds me a little of the way that Brian Azzarello writes dialogue, but without the clever bits. The sex scene was fairly brutal to have to get through. The trading captions thing felt unearned for the characters and just came off as silly. Not to mention the awful, awful, awful Rorschach subplot.

I’ll let people decide if my words suggest that they should buy something. My taste and their taste aren’t the same, so, even if I don’t say “Buy this!” I could easily write about the comic in a way that appeals to them and makes them want to give it a look (or not). Would I recommend any of the Before Watchmen books? Sure, but it depends. If someone is an ‘art first, writing second’ sort of person, I think all of the titles so far have more than succeeded on that level. These are very good looking comics and I think that would appeal to some readers. If we’re considering the writing, too, I wouldn’t have a problem telling people to try the Silk Spectre or Comedian minis… maybe Minutemen despite its first issue bore. Hell, Dr. Manhattan #1 was interesting enough to be worth a look (again, depending on how far someone is willing to go for an ‘interesting’ comic like that). But, fuck, I’ll just say what I think and people can judge if that sounds like something they want to check out.

BC: Good point about art-first people. Yeah, if you’re looking art-first, a lot of these series have been excellent. Amanda Conner has been killing it, Jae Lee is amazing, Adam Hughes did a really good job and Darwyn Cooke is excellent like always.

I think that’s a fair description of our differing approaches. I do push books more than you do (Hey, everyone! Go read Shooters by Eric Trautmann, Brandon Jerwa and Steve Lieber – it’s really good! Here‘s my review of it). You are more of the “this is what I like, do what you will with that information” approach. Which is fair enough, of course.

The captions on the sex scene were, indeed, poor, but the sex scene itself I think was drawn well. Also, I think I enjoyed the chemistry enough between the Twilight Lady and Nite Owl that I think it sold some of the dialogue that otherwise would have fell flat. I especially liked the twist on the whole “what are the odds that we actually know each other?” trope. Although, once again Straczynski did something I think we’ve discussed in the past, where he seems to be writing for actors – the problem is that these are not actors, and while an earnest actor can sell a line, a two-dimensional drawn figure cannot.

CN: I dug the art, sure. It didn’t blow me away, but it was decent. The idea that JMS is writing for actors always seems correct, like he’s used to having his dialogue ‘saved’ by people. Stuff that reads a little poorly on the page suddenly seems a lot better with a strong performance (and he had plenty of those on Babylon 5 as the show progressed). I wonder how this would have played if done by actors. I mean, that’s the next logical step, right? Before Watchmen the comics finishes and, then, Before Watchmen the movie gets made? JMS doing the screenplay? Am I the only one excited?

BC: It has to be on HBO, so we can fit in all of the nudity. Honestly, could it be any worse than True Blood?

Also, has a series fallen from grace as much as the Crimson Corsair back-up? Wow, it is just ponderous now. John Higgins’ art is still excellent, though. Maybe they should give him a new writer to work with. Although it sure seems like DC has just given up on the story. “Let Higgins do whatever he wants. It’s just a back-up.”

CN: That strip has fallen so much. It went from making my ‘top 10 of the first half of 2012′ to being something I kind of read because it’s there… And the writing isn’t that bad, it’s just a horrible plot. Nothing but randomness and pure chance. There’s a lack of agency because the protagonist is not in control and then there’s this where nothing seems to happen because of the main character. It’s just random disease and natural disasters. The character tossed around and we’re supposed to care, because…

Why are we supposed to care?

BC: I can’t think of a reason. It just meanders and things simply…happen.

CN: Much like this week’s review post… Never have we struggled so hard to discuss something so unworthy!

7 Comments

see, that’s the main problem nowadays. comic books have now art better than ever, but the writers aren’t that good anymore

Quoting Chad:
{
“And the writing isn’t that bad, it’s just a horrible plot. Nothing but randomness and pure chance. There’s a lack of agency because the protagonist is not in control and then there’s this where nothing seems to happen because of the main character. It’s just random disease and natural disasters. The character tossed around and we’re supposed to care, because…

Why are we supposed to care?”
}

You know, that sums up the full extent of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” to me, only replacing disease and disasters with Ozymandias. It’s always been the weakness of the property, in that we never got to see what drove Adrian to his level of sociopathy, so it seems pulled out of Moore’s arse when his plot is revealed. No one has any real effect on the plot, and in the end, you have that statement to the effect his plan’s already happened by the time the heroes get to the villain.

In that aspect, “Corsair” is holding more true to Moore than one would expect.

Oh, and Chad, in reference to your “Random Thoughts” and WordPress. I learned LONG ago that if I was going to write anything long-form for WordPress, etc. to do it in a word processor that makes timed backups every 3-10 minutes, then PASTE IT into WordPress to do the final formatting.

Browser interfaces are WAY too unreliable to be typing more than a couple hundred words into directly.

Basara: I recommend a Firefox plugin called Lazarus, written by a friend of mine from New Zealand. Basically remembers everything you’ve typed into comment boxes and lets you recover it after you accidentally close a window or tab. It’s the second extension I install any time I set up Firefox for anyone, right after AdBlock Plus.

see, that’s the main problem nowadays. comic books have now art better than ever, but the writers aren’t that good anymore

I wouldn’t say the art is better than ever. Just good in a different way. Like, if you’re big into photorealism and neo-Image stylization (by that I mean the modernized, more tasteful style that the 90s Image style evolved into e.g. Ivan Reis, Shane Davis, the artists today are better. However many of us prefer things like the storytelling, panel-to-panel flow, conveying of emotional range that was found in old school comics. For me the art is not better than ever in the least, although I could see how for some that would be the case, depending on the areas one likes when it comes to art.

On the other hand, I totally agree that the writing is worse than ever in every area.

Man, I understand that you wanted to fix the issue with T’s comment that he hit publish on too early, but it just seemed so appropriate for this post, right? If any post is going to have a…premature conclusion, Nite Owl is the one.

Anyway…

Just in the 2 pages you show here, the innuendo is SOOOOO bad. I mean, even worse than mine above! Is this typical of the issue? Ugh.

Given that the BW books are as controversial as they are, I’d say that many of us read these reviews as a certain acceptance or endorsement of the books in the first place, and then when you don’t rip them to shreds (because you’re entirely too nice, Brian [at least on the blog ;) ] and Chad likes a lot of these writers, it seems), it reads as a recommendation.

Is this unfair to you? Of course. Suck it up. ;)

No, seriously, I’m glad you did make explicit that there is a difference between you enjoying these books and you recommending that people buy them. I think implicit in this blog’s name, anything featured here is worthy of an intelligent person’s time to read it, so again, if it’s not ripped to shreds, it can read as an implied endorsement.

But I could be dumb, and way too literal, and talking out my ass. I’m sure Chad is thinking that any time he gets an email from me. (But he WAS totally wrong about Wonder Woman 0, man!!!)

Looking at Twilight Lady again, I wonder: does she break in to “Rock Lobster” at any point in the book? “Motion in the ocean!”

Just a question … so do ANY reviews on this site mean anything? When someone gives a comic 4.5 stars out of five, is that an endorsement? Is that a “RUN DON’T WALK AND GET THIS BOOK! NOW!” Or is it “Well, I liked it. You might too.” I actually enjoyed the first two issues of this title (thousands didn’t, including you guys) and THE COMEDIAN (which I bought because I was curious to see how bad it could get and I needed a comic book fix like Speedy needs his China Cat) was TERRIBLE. Just AWFUL. But IT got good-to-reasonable reviews. I realize reviewing is subjective – I used to be “art-first” but good art can’t save a bad story and a good story is brought down by bad art (not “bad” but rather “art-I-don’t-like-for-whatever-reason”).

I’ve bought comics that received the 4.5 review and been intensely disappointed by them. Do you guys have some kind of bible for reviewers? IS there any criteria or do you just accept reviews from regular contributors whose taste you share?

I’m not expecting you guys to tell me what comics to buy (because I will NOT support DC’s Nu52, in any way. And Marvel’s pretty much lost me as well. Once THE BOYS wraps up, I dunno what I’m gonna buy anymore. WALKING DEAD?)

I ACTUALLY like the Silk Spectre book and think it’s the stand-out of the Before Watchmen titles. (The art is FANTASTIC and I like the insight into Laurie’s character.)

Comics SHOULD BE Good. They aren’t always, though. (ESPECIALLY DC Comics. The much-ballyhoo’d Nu52 is wretched, from what I can gather. I can’t read Batman anymore because he’s turned into Mary-Sue of the Dc universe. Superman has knee-pads? For the luvva Pete Ross, WHY?)

Yes, a 4.5 review would be a recommendation. Heck, I’d say 3 stars out of 5 would be a recommendation even. If I ever give a book 3 stars out of 5, feel free to take it as a recommendation.

That said, me saying “Recommended” would be the best indication that the book is recommended.

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