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.
I should confess that I haven’t been reading much of the Before Watchmen series other than Ozymandias. This is not a principled stand; I just don’t have many local friends who would lend me comics. As a result, I can’t say whether the sweeping generalizations I’m about to make apply to the rest of the series, or just to Ozymandias.
I don’t know why they are making this comic.
Well, I know why DC is making it, but I don’t know why it is being made artistically. I have watched as my hopes and expectations for this book gradually given way to confusion and then disappointment. In all four issues, there have been incredible scenes, unbelievable art, and perplexing clunkiness.
I still think the art in this issue is as good and impressive as ever. The composition and framing of the panels is as masterful as the beautiful coloring and the flawless linework. In fact, there are some pages in the middle of the book that have my favorite images of Nite Owl and Rorschach. Seriously. The art in this book is that good.
I just wish the rest of the book measured up. The writing isn’t bad. I was a little put off by the perfection of Ozymandias. I understand that he is the smartest man in the world, perhaps the fittest man in the world, and one of the biggest egomaniacs in the world. I just wish that the book didn’t take such great pains to show off how smart he is.
I will give Len Wein credit for one astute observation. The least interesting stories in the Watchmen universe are the standard-vigilante-fights-thugs sections. As a result, this series has spent relatively little time on those aspects of the backstory. The problem is that the void wasn’t filled with interesting character development. It is mostly rehashing parts of the story from the point of view of the second most distant character in the story. Now, there are some cool character moments, but they should be the majority of the book. Instead, we are treated to one really good moment and several that just felt crammed in.
Ultimately, this series looks like it is going to be the story of Adrian Veidt’s growing obsession with preventing WWIII. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that as a story idea. My problem is that we don’t really need that story. The surprises, twists, and turns of Watchmen are being mined for every bit of potential drama that is left. It’s like what your parents said when you accidently blew up the kitchen. I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed. Watchmen is the great comic from my childhood that still holds up. (Sorry, Dark Knight Returns.) I hoped for more from this. I should be clear that my tone is not the result of this being a bad comic. It’s just not the comic it could have been.
Three Incredibly Menacing Images of Rorschach out of Five.