Despite all my initial trepidation about the entire Before Watchmen project, Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen miniseries nonetheless made itself one of my top books of 2012. So I suppose it's only natural that when its final issue arrived in 2013, it didn't quite have the same impact I was hoping for.
That's not to say that Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6 isn't good – far from it. It has Cooke's fantastically perfect artwork – particularly perfect for this retro series as well. I've long said that the Minutemen era was one of the very few aspects of the original Watchmen series that could conceivably have used some more fleshing out to justify the prequel, and the biggest mystery of all has been the story of Hooded Justice. Who was he? What was his deal? Why did he vanish? These are questions revealed (mostly) at last in this issue, and while it is well structured, I think the fact that Cooke used the Comedian to ruin everything for everybody in both this series and Silk Spectre left me a little disappointed. It makes perfect sense, though. I guess I'm just a little sick of the Comedian.
The last issue gave us what we thought was a shocking reveal, that Hooded Justice – known to have had some kind of twisted dom-sub relationship with Captain Metropolis – was also a sexual deviant child molester that Silhouette had been hunting before her death, and the one that Nite Owl had sworn to find in her memory. #6 starts with Nite Owl getting the key to the city, getting some validation that his life's work had actually meant something, but he can only enjoy it for a moment, as his true obsession was fulfilling his promise to Silhouette and bringing in Hooded Justice for these sick crimes. That led him and his slowly deteriorating brother-in-arms Mothman to the old Minutemen headquarters as the place where the secretive ex-hero would have disappeared to. That also led the stalwart, upright Hollis Mason to lose himself to the darkness, murdering this horrifying villain on sight. He doesn't even bother to unmask him.
Later, when Mason had retired from being NIte Owl to fix cars (in a garage given to him by his brother-in-arms Byron Lewis in a touching moment before he took permanent leave of his senses) and was about to publish his book full of the truth as he knew it (despite the protests of all those involved with the MInutemen history who would be cast in a sub-par light), he gets a visit from old Eddie Blake, the asshole Comedian who tried to rape Sally Jupiter. Despite the fact that Blake had seemed remorseful about what he'd done to Sally once he came back from the war, he still held a grudge against Hooded Justice for stopping that rape attempt… which might have been the first clue that HJ might not have been the villain here. The Comedian, representing the government in their efforts to quash Mason's truth-telling, lays another hard truth on Mason that shatters his world. It seems Blake had been shadowing all of Mason's efforts to hunt down the sicko, and with the resources of the FBI, had pinpointed one Rolf Muller, a circus strongman who was apparently too sick even for the Nazis. Blake went and killed him, but noted that Muller was too old to actually be Justice… so he decided to play on Mason's obsession and frame Justice for being the sicko Blake had already killed.
"I just wanted him brought down. Disgraced," Blake tells Mason. "I didn't think you'd kill him. Told ya it was a funny story."
It's a good twist, a solid burn and a final twist that gets Mason to realize the truth as he knows it isn't necessarily the truth, so he finally realizes he needs to edit Under The Hood to sanitize it. But it wasn't the gut punch it could've been, and I suppose I can just attribute that to my personal bias in being a little sick of seeing the Comedian get the better of everybody all the time as this ultra-badass secret agent that nobody can ever outmaneuver. Sure, we can suppose the fact that he gets killed immediately in the opening scene of the real Watchmen series and has a complete old-guy emotional drunk breakdown in the midst of it is the comeuppance he sorely needs, but it just makes for a slightly less compelling end to a brilliant series.
Nevertheless, it's still been a brilliant series.