Who's it by?
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2 is written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair back-up is written by Len Wein and drawn by original series colourist John Higgins.
Minutemen opens in 1962 by continuing the previous issue's framing sequence, with the retired Hollis Mason - aka the first Nite Owl - preparing to publish his tell-all autobiography Under the Hood, much against the Minutemen's former publicist Laurence Schexnayder's self-interested advice.
Back in 1939, we see the coming together of the Minutemen team itself and follow them on their first, embarrassing mission. Into their first year together, the strain already begins to show as the Silhouette leads Nite Owl and Mothman against a child trafficking ring while other members become embroiled in more selfish considerations.
What's the verdict?
Minutemen is quickly shaping up to be the strongest of the five miniseries that DC has debuted so far. Where other titles have suffered from a feeling that they are simply retreading old ground that was covered more than adequately in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's original series, there is a real sense of novelty in this title that makes it a far more interesting read.
Perhaps it is the fact that the Minutemen are for the most part very minor presences in Watchmen - with many of the members long dead before that series begins - but it really feels like Cooke is ready to say new things about these characters and take them to places that the reader has not seen before and might not expect. This unpredictability and freshness is central to the title's strength.
Other series have rested heavily on the source material, repeating symbolism, imagery and, in some cases, entire scenes with a very obvious nod to the classic comic. Minutemen has a standalone quality - the nods to its predecessor are there, but it could be read and enjoyed as a standalone story without reference to its famous inspiration.
The story itself offers an interesting take on the history of superhero comics. In style and tone it is very much like an old Justice Society story, but behind a light and humorous exterior lies a dishonest and dark heart. Their first bungled mission and subsequent handling of the media - not to mention the team's divided interests - brings an edge of cynicism to the Golden Age heroics, while the later pages expose the sinister underbelly that some of the so-called heroes would rather forget about.
Cooke's artwork remains unimpeachable, marrying the instantly recognisable Watchmen layout with his signature style that is perfect for the Golden Age retro setting. Sally Jupiter looks like a silver screen beauty, while Hooded Justice paints a particularly menacing figure throughout the issue. In his writing and art Cooke captures the stars' personalities with an elegance and economy that makes it look easy and lends itself to a smooth and enjoyable read.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen has established itself as the strongest title in the controversial project with its sense of originality and Cooke's creativity. We may know how it all ends for these heroes, but readers will have a great time getting there.
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Minutemen' #1
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Ozymandias' #1
> Read our Before Watchmen interview with Dan DiDio
Watch a trailer for Before Watchmen below: