Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 Review: Fanboy to Hero

BW Nite Owl 1The comic book event of the summer is nigh!  Before Watchmen, the much-anticipated prequel series to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, will consist of seven limited series and an epilogue one-shot.  Stay tuned, as the Fanboy Comics crew will be reviewing each title as it is released. Hurm. 


Like my fellow contributors, I am not going to talk about whether I think Before Watchmen should exist, but as long as it's here, I may as well tell you how it reads. Those familiar with Watchmen will know that there are two Nite Owls.  The first, Hollis Mason, was a member of the Minutemen and later on retired and wrote the book Under the Hood, of which selections are used as back-ups in Watchmen.  Dan Dreiberg later took on the name and is the Nite Owl more often featured in the book; however, besides some passing mentions, the full story behind how Dan inherited Hollis' alternate identity had never been explained, until now.


J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) gives exactly what you'd expect from a Nite Owl comic.  Issue #1 starts with Dan as a teenager and follows his journey as he goes from a raging Nite Owl fanboy to learning tricks from the man himself.  Dan lives a hard life with an abusive father but soon finds a father figure he respects by tracking the “Owl Car” back to the “Owl Cave,” where he learns about Nite Owl's true identity.  After an awkward first meeting, Hollis slowly lets his guard down and begins to train Dan as his replacement.

As cool as it was to see Dan getting his start as Nite Owl, the issue picks up when Rorschach appears and offers Nite Owl the opportunity to team up. These two characters have great chemistry together, and JMS nails the banter between them.  Sadly, we don't get an extended Nite Owl and Rorschach story in Issue #1 and, in fact, get very little about their teammates, though I have high hopes that JMS will come back to their partnership in a future issue.

Nite Owl balances a healthy dose of cheesiness with the brutality of the world.  Hollis can come across like Adam West's Batman in one scene (Hoot! Hoot!) and the next is ready to kill to protect his identity.  There is a bit later in the book where Dr. Manhattan is made out to be an even greater a--hole when he “changes fate,” so he can spend time with Laurie/Silk Spectre when she was intended to be paired up with Dan at the Crimebusters meeting. I wasn't a fan of Dan's whole “I feel we're meant to be together” thing with Laurie, but, thankfully, Rorschach is there to put things back into perspective.

Andy and Joe Kubert's art and coloring blends past and modern styles together which seems appropriate for Dan, who is a man living in the '60s with dreams of flying cars and TVs so small they can fit in your pocket. Dan's resolve, fandom, sorrow, and joy are all beautifully depicted and sold the emotion in the earlier scenes.  The Kuberts' action scenes are stiff.  The characters look like they're posing rather than in motion, but action panels are so rare in this issue that it's hardly noticeable.

Nite Owl #1 fills in a lot of Dan's past, catching him up to one of his earliest chronological appearances in Watchmen.  This is a great issue to pick up on its own as the story is self-contained.  Because of this fact, I'm curious to see where JMS will take us in the remaining three issues.


Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2018 23:32

Kristine Chester, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

Favorite Comic Book SeriesAtomic Robo
Favorite D&D Class:  Wizard
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:  Cookies N' Cream

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