I think it can sometimes be hard to read these books and critique them objectively because there's this feeling that resonates when you read it where you ask yourself whether or not it's right for you to enjoy the comic for what it is -- completely detached from the previous incarnation of these characters and the writings of Alan Moore. If you are able to look at the book objectively for what it is -- an extension of a story based on one of the greatest graphic novels of all time -- and if you can do that without comparing the two portrayals, you'll find that BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL #2 isn't a bad comic. For what it is, it's actually pretty good.
The first issue was pretty self explanatory and served as an introduction to the "new" Nite Owl. He teamed up Rorschach established an "Owl Cave," and so on. A lot of what we saw had previously been established by Alan Moore. It's here, in the second issue of the series, that it feels like Straczynski is finally flexing his talent a little bit. He's taking liberties. He's still inspired by what has already been established by Moore, but he's expounding on the relationship, interaction and the identities of both Nite Owl and Rorschach. To his credit, he's written a pretty decent issue #2. What stood out the most to me was the interaction between the two characters. The way they compliment one another, even though they are complete opposites; I think J. Michael managed to capture a little bit of that magic. He portrays Rorschach as having these hard line conviction about women, promiscuity and our society, and each time J. Michael makes a statement about Rorschach's convictions, he gives us a flashback to when Rorschach is a child; reminding the reader where these deep seeded sentiments came from. He draws an interesting parallel between Rorschach and Nite Owl by reinforcing the Mothers of both characters. Neither one of these men had easy childhoods, and both witnessed the physical and emotional and mental abuse of their Mothers. And although both have that in common, their perspectives on life and society is completely different, even if their "end" is essentially very similar.
It's written because you are given that comparison and that contrast, and it is reinforced with the flashbacks that lead to a better understanding of who these characters are and why they think the way they think. Both want to dramatically change the way society works and the way things are, but both have incredibly contrasting points of view.
I did enjoy the art in this issue, but I'm a big fan of both Andy and Joe Kubert. I think they are both incredibly talented comic book artists, and I do think they were right for this issue.
Some of the dialogue, particularly between a young Nite Owl and his Mother was relatively irksome. There was a certain level of disconnect between the two characters. The dialogue just wasn't believable in some respects.
I also really have a problem with there being a CRIMSON CORSAIR backup in these books. I think it's one thing to say okay, we're going to dissect and tell more stories about the Watchmen characters because we feel there is more to tell. But it doesn't feel like it's necessary to say anything else about the Crimson Corsair backup story. That story felt complete already. I get that some will make the same argument for the Watchmen characters as well, but there's something very different about the two. Perhaps because NITE OWL is already connected with the other books, serving this up as a backup just feels unnecessary.
This is not a bad story. I think the way it's structured is interesting. The constant parallels presented by the created team. The comparisons made between the two central characters -- all these things help tell a good story. Couple that with some great art by the fantastic Kubert brothers, and you have a decent book and overall, a good story. If you're not married to the idea that the Watchmen characters should never be tampered with, you may actually get something out of this series.