Review by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

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When DC Entertainment announced that it would be releasing seven interconnected Watchmen prequel miniseries this summer, the Internet nearly broke in half from a tidal wave of angry message board rants and editorials. The mere thought of the company expanding upon the most popular story in the history of comics without the involvement of the original creators, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, was mind-boggling to most fans. There is no way this could work, right? Well, after reading Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1, we’re confident in saying that this whole experiment could wind up being a stellar addition to the Watchmen universe.

As the debut issue of the first miniseries of Before Watchmen, Minutemen #1 has the herculean task of setting up an entire universe for readers who are new to this property. There is a lot of exposition in this opener, so it reads like more of a prologue than anything. We begin with a narration by Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, as he talks to his agent over the phone about his new tell-all book, which eventually becomes "Under the Hood." As he relives memories from his past, he introduces readers in a flashback to the individual heroes that ultimately formed The Minutemen, the world’s first masked crime fighting team.

From there, writer and artist Darwyn Cooke brings us through the history of these Golden Age vigilantes at rapid-fire pace. As they fight crime and mug for the cameras, he reveals that these heroes aren’t the well-adjusted, upstanding citizens we expect them to be. Some are glory hogs, others are borderline sociopaths, and some simply crack under the pressure of a life of fighting the bad guys and jump off a rooftop. This ongoing theme of "realistic" heroes was the backbone of the original Watchmen, and Cooke continues that thread perfectly here.

What really works so well in this issue is Cooke’s art. He has a classic way of rendering these characters that is very reminiscent of the early days of comics when all of the males had square jaws and the females were all knockouts. These pure, nostalgic visuals work as a great counterbalance to the underlying seediness of the story. Like Gibbons did in the original, Cooke also uses the panels and composition to their fullest. Visual motifs are everywhere in a way that bring depth and symbolism to each bit of art.

Taken on its own as a story of Golden Age heroes, Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 is a terrific read from a creator who has dabbled in this time period before. Of course, it’s a prequel miniseries to the most successful comic of all time, so there is no doubt that some people will be turned off by it. Still, if you can put aside all of the noise surrounding the project and take it for what it is, Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 might just surprise you as a solid table-setter for a much larger story.

Review by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Follow @ComplexPopCult