Who's it by?
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 is written by J Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Eduardo Risso. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair back-up is written by Len Wein and drawn by original series colourist John Higgins.
Moloch is the latest addition to the Before Watchmen fold, fleshing out the backstory of a character who had only a minor role in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's original work. The plot takes us back to the beginning of Moloch's timeline, detailing how he suffered at the hands of his peers throughout his childhood due to his freakish appearance.
Readers are shown how the protagonist's formative years led to him turning to the art of stage magic, and later crime. Naturally, this sees him fall afoul of the Minutemen and their modern-day successors, the Watchmen.
What's the verdict?
The Moloch solo miniseries was a late addition to Before Watchmen, and a questionable one at that. Moore didn't deem the character worthy of much more than a few pages, so why dedicate a whole two issues to him? Does a greater understanding of the events that led to him turning to crime, and later repenting, really make the Before Watchmen experience richer?
With only 50% of the series to hand, it's difficult to answer that question, but we're already leaning towards 'no'. That said, it's by no means a bad read. J Michael Straczynski is a gifted writer who knows how to structure a story, even when he's telling one that nobody really asked for.
Throughout this issue it's difficult to tell whether Moloch is intended to be a sympathetic character. With just two issues to cover his story, it feels like Straczynski is in a hurry to tell it, and some of the character development is glossed over as a consequence.
How and why Moloch turned to crime is not particularly intriguing, but the book does begin to come into its own after his first encounter with Doctor Manhattan. We're not going to give too much away, but this pivotal moment could set the scene for a more interesting second issue in which entirely different aspects of the character are explored.
Artist Eduardo Risso's illustrations exude seediness, making them a good fit for a book exploring the underbelly of a world plagued with vice. It's a style reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke, though it does take on the look of a generic superhero title once the Minutemen rear their heads.
Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 doesn't do quite enough to justify its existence, but it's hardly a bad comic. Both the writing and art show promise at times, so we're prepared to hold out judgement until the second and final issue lands next month.
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Minutemen' #4
> Read our 'Before Watchmen' interview with Dan DiDio
Watch a trailer for Before Watchmen below: