The comic book event of the summer is nigh! Before Watchmen, the much-anticipated prequel series to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, will consist of seven limited series and an epilogue one-shot. Stay tuned, as the Fanboy Comics crew will be reviewing each title as it is released. Hurm.
There will be some spoilers to the 1986 classic Watchmen.
Len Wein’s script and Jae Lee’s art do an admirable job of recreating Moore and Gibbons’ world, without raping it. In the first issue of Ozymandias, we are treated to Adrian Veidt’s origin story. This plays out more like Batman Begins than Spider-Man. Essentially, the entire book is Adrian Veidt narrating the path that led him to donning the Ozymandias mantle for the first time.
The plot of this book seems unnecessary. Most of the story of this issue was explained in the original. Adrian Veidt is a super-duper genius who perfects martial arts. After his parents die, he gives away all of his stuff, goes abroad to discover himself, and comes back to build a vast fortune from nothing and fight crime. There are some details that weren’t mentioned in the original, such as why young Adrian learns how to fight, and the exact motivation for his embracing vigilantism. The first is well told, if familiar. The reasons for becoming a masked vigilante seemed flimsy at best. We are introduced to a woman named Miranda (presumably her full name is Miranda Exposition MacGuffin). She appears in exactly six pages and is the chief motivation for the creation of Ozymandias. I didn’t buy it. Mostly, there is no detail to their relationship and Veidt seems cold every time he is with her.
I think I’m done spoiling things for now.
So, some flimsy plotting aside, how’s the writing? Pretty good. I thought the dialogue worked well, and even the parts that were 100% expository backstory felt interesting and fit well. I was stunned by the art, though. Almost every frame feels like a vintage French ad. There are striking profiles and interesting backgrounds everywhere. The composition is pitch-perfect and the detail shines. I say this without exaggeration: every page here is beautiful. They are all my favorite.
So, here’s the verdict. Without answering the HUGE question of whether or not we need Before Watchmen, this book does a good job of delivering a quality story. There are questions answered, mostly well, and interesting bits fleshed out. The art is incredible and worth the price as far as I am concerned. I don’t know how many other books in this series I’ll pick up, but I know I will follow Ozymandias.