Who's it by?
Before Watchmen: Dr Manhattan #1 is written by J Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Adam Hughes. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair back-up is written and drawn by original series colourist John Higgins.
In a sharply non-linear tale, we are taken on a ride through some of the major events of Dr Manhattan's life. From the childhood of Jon Osterman to the fateful accident that transformed him into the godlike, blue being and his first meeting with the Crimebusters - and most significantly, the Silk Spectre - we visit scenes from the original miniseries and entirely new ones.
The ongoing thread, playing out through Dr Manhattan's narration, is a musing on his unique and unfathomable place in the world. The issue concludes with a visit to the past where events do not unfold as the reader, and Manhattan, expect.
What's the verdict?
Dr Manhattan is the final of the seven Before Watchmen miniseries to debut, and is a success almost in spite of itself.
This issue falls quite squarely into the mistakes of some of the least inspiring comics to debut so far underneath the controversial prequel banner: retreading old material. Through some deft writing by Straczynski, it still comes out as one of the stronger offerings of the project so far.
This may in part be due to the non-linear structure of the tale. Most of the prequels so far have fallen into a strictly linear narrative. Alan Moore's original Watchmen #4 - which told the original Dr Manhattan origin - was also a strictly one-event-after-the-other affair. Straczynski, on the other hand, uses the star's unique outlook to effectively jump around in time, offering a challenge to the reader to keep their attention.
The writer also captures the spirit of Dr Manhattan perfectly, wrapping the reader up in his musings, where precise omniscience meets confusion and a sense of being utterly adrift in the universe. There is a serenity in the writing, which will make you feel a part of the blue giant's ordered world.
Hughes's art offers the crisp quality that always made the hero stand out in the original as something bright and unitary against the darkness of the Watchmen setting. Regardless of your feeling of the storytelling itself, Before Watchmen has offered a consistently high level of art, and Hughes does not drop the ball here.
The conclusion of the first issue promises an interestingly novel direction for the next three issues. Whether it can maintain this pace remains to be seen, of course, but it satisfyingly sets up the potential for something new in the story of Jon Osterman.
Dr Manhattan #1 is another Before Watchmen issue that can be accused of treading old ground. However, in this case the storytelling is handled well enough that it may just prove to be one of the more celebrated of the miniseries when the dust finally settles.
> Buy the digital version of 'Before Watchmen: Dr Manhattan' #1
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Rorschach' #1
> Read our 'Before Watchmen' interview with Dan DiDio
Watch a trailer for Before Watchmen below: