Mr. Straczynski, What Happened?
This is certainly the best of the bunch, as I was hoping, considering the great JMS is behind the story, but the preposterous abundance of nudity and coarse language was rather disappointing. JMS has proven numerous times he can tell great stories without resorting to visceral appeals. I may be in the minority here, but such is life. Putting that stuff aside, the stories were pretty good, certainly the best of the bunch, even though Nite Owl's story was almost more Rorschach's story. One of the confusing thing about Watchmen is why are these two together in the first place? This doesn't give us the whole answer, but at least it attempts to fill in some missing gaps, whereas most of the other "before" series apparently wanted to make up stories and sprinkle in head-slapping verbal ironies with outlandish winks toward the audience. Admittedly, JMS has some of that in these stories, but they are much smoother and more tactful than the other series (I'm willing to admit my penchant for JMS may color that assessment).
Early Nite Owl was rather buff ... I wonder what happened to him in his post-hero days? He doesn't seem like the kind to let himself go, either here or in Watchmen itself - but I guess that happens sometimes to the best of us. I suspect little dialogue occurred between JMS and the guy who did the Minutemen series, as we have yet another version of Mason's autobiography - at least my memory is telling me they did not mesh very well; perhaps a closer examination (in space and time) would reveal an error there as well.
Dr. Manhattan's story seems wholly disliked by most people, and I can see why, since it also seems like an "irrelevant episode without really connecting to the main series" story, but it is far more connected than most of the others, since Manhattan's tinkering with timelines and his own abilities is evidently (according to JMS) the reason why Manhattan could not see the future and Veidt's plan. Despite the "absence" of story, the creativity in the storytelling, arrangement, and beauty of the paneling make this a far better reading experience than most of the others in the series (especially after the disappointments of Nite Owl's/Rorschach's R-rated if not NC-17-rated elements).