The 4th title in the current Before Watchmen run, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl also has to follow in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Watchmen. That said, is it any good?
First of all, the official description from DC:
The hero known to the public only as Nite Owl announced his retirement today.
Plus: Don’t miss the CRIMSON CORSAIR backup story by writer LEN WEIN and artist JOHN HIGGINS!
As an origin story of sorts, it certainly delivers. The origin story, in a way, fleshes out the character. Someone devoted to fighting crime, by most comic-logic, needs some form of tragic past, and its nice to see that its not over done here, a very Watchmen approach.
I can’t say the initial relationship between the former and future Nite Owls is anything excitingly unusual, but it certainly fits the moody nature of Watchmen. That said, the beginning of the plot doesn’t seem that interesting or inspiring, but serves its purpose.
The depiction of the original Nite Owl is certainly interesting, despite the over use of Owl Puns that constantly draws parallels with Adam West’s Batman. The two sides of the hero, his public displays and his personal feelings are intriguing. Of course, this is about the second Nite Owl, so he inevitably hands over the cowl and moves on.
However, the art and layouts are where I start to find issues. The artwork is suitable, but it doesn’t match that of Watchmen. That aside, the constant use of shadows and dark scenery suits the world at large, as well as the personal view point of the Nite Owl character. The layouts, like wise, break away from one of the interesting choices in Watchmen. The panels follow a similar approach in organised, almost symmetrical layouts, yet with more than a couple one-page splashes. As a modern comic, it can be forgiven for not imitating its predecessor too much.
The real gem of Nite Owl #1 is the relationship between Nite Owl and Rorschach. Whilst the hints between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre are just too obvious in terms of foreshadow, the dialogue and interaction between the former and Rorschach is much more engaging and entertaining. After all, Rorschach has never been the nicest superhero, where as Nite Owl doesn’t share the same dreary philosophies or view points.
Over all, its an excellent read that tries well to follow in the footsteps of Watchmen. Perhaps it was never going to achieve this, but its certainly doing a good effort.