Dan Dreiberg is Nite Owl’s biggest fan. He’s so enamored with original Nite Owl Hollis Mason that he manages to tail him back to his hideout and set up a meeting with him where he offers to help Mason with his Nite Owl gadgets while striving to be his junior partner. It’s a much better way to spend his time than watching his father beat his mother. Eventually when Dan is deemed ready (and a few years older), Hollis announces his retirement and Dan becomes Nite Owl. Soon he meets Rorschach and the two become the Dynamic Duo of the Watchmen-verse. Soon after that, Captain Metropolis calls the first meeting of the Crimebusters and Dan meets what would become the love of his life in Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre, but due to Dr. Manhattan’s machinations, he’ll have to wait quite a while before consummating his love for her…
Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II’s story is perhaps the most straightforward and simple of all the Watchmen-verse heroes’ stories. Not that it is boring or trite in any way, after all the character is one of the most popular, next to Rorschach, of the original series. He’s definitely my favorite character because of his “everyman” status. His story of redemption and a return to action in the original Watchmen series is, to me at least, the most inspiring, realistic, and interesting of them all from a human standpoint. Moore wrote the character well. Straczynski does the same here.
His introduction of Rorschach into the Before Watchmen series of stories is done quite well also. Rorschach isn’t quite as inhuman as he appears in the original Watchmen series yet. His demeanor and motivation are pretty opposite that of Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl’s though, and that’s why they make the perfect odd couple of the stories.
The thing that Straczynski does so well with Dreiberg/Nite Owl that Azzarello failed to do with The Comedian is rekindle the aspects of the character that made him so engaging in the original story. Dreiberg, even as a kid, is a sharp as a tack, a little naïve, and the owner of a true heroes’ soul. Azzarello portrayed The Comedian as a sort of adopted Kennedy brother. Nothing could have been more antithetical to The Comedian’s characterization in Watchmen.
The one two punch of Andy and Joe Kubert on the book is a formidable one. These guys are masters of their craft and manage to recreate the Nite Owls’ world flawlessly. It has the feel of an old time pulp adventure with its shadows, streetlights, and dimly lit superhero hideouts. The full page spread of Nite Owl II perched atop Archimedes just before he dives into the rioting blackout mob is priceless.
My thoughts on Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 are probably a little slanted. As I’ve mentioned, he’s my favorite character from Watchmen and seeing him portrayed again in print in a new series is something that I never thought I’d have the joy of experiencing. I’m happy to report that Straczynski didn’t disappoint though. He rarely does, and Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 is one of the best of the series thus far.