Before Watchmen: The Comedian #1 Review: I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry!


BW Comedian 1The 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. 

While there are many good reasons for a comic book sniffer to be skeptical regarding DC’s Before Watchmen event and how it will contradict and cannibalize the parent text, most can still agree that there are two characters that should still have adventures to share in sequential art form: Rorschach and The Comedian. This week, The Comedian #1, written by Brian Azzarello and featuring art by J.G. Jones, hit comic stands with a bang and shattered the expectations of this eagerly awaiting fanboy like a lone gunman’s lucky shot.


Given the dastardly deeds that are hinted at belonging to The Comedian in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, one would assume that a Brian Azzarello book focused on The Comedian would deal with the disappearance of Hooded Justice, the assassination of JFK, the torture of Woodward and Bernstein, and many, many bloody and dehumanizing moments in the jungles of Vietnam. All-in-all, not a bad prospective Watchmen book. Surprisingly, this is not the book that Azzarello or DC has decided to pursue.

The Comedian #1 defies expectations from the first page and continues this trend to the very last one. You can almost feel Azzarello sitting behind you in each new scene, whispering, “So, you think you know The Comedian, huh?” (P.S. Brian, it makes it really hard to read your work when you do that. Also, it’s creepy. How did you get into my apartment?) The book starts off strong with its challenge, forcing the reader to come to terms with Eddie Blake playing a rowdy “family” football game with the Kennedy boys (that’s Jack, Bobby, and Teddy) and contemplate how Alan Moore’s Comedian could be the same man sharing in the liberal-heavy bromance in Azzarello’s new book. The dialogue between the Kennedys and Blake drips with ironic verbal jabs forecasting the JFK assassination suggestion in Watchmen, and it's slightly jarring at first, but the scene builds naturally and everything amps up in a particularly interesting scene between Blake and Jackie Kennedy after the football game. This scene and the one that follows truly are brilliant and certainly deserve a place in Watchmen cannon!

BW Comedian 1aWhen I first started reading the issue, I had my doubts about the direction Azzarello was going, but I also saw the potential of a story that showed us a never-before-seen, hidden, and potentially optimistic side of Eddie Blake, as well as a story about that optimism being crushed as events lead to his inevitable assassination of his “brothers,” Bobby and Jack Kennedy. It seemed like the story was set to be on par with the ethos and pathos of an epic tragedy like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. But, don’t forget that Azzarello means to defy expectations and because of that, this first issue leaves us in a place that none of us saw coming and where none of us know which direction we’re going or what’s to come next. In the final pages, The Comedian kicks down Moloch’s door as part of a drug bust only to find the villain in tears as news of JFK’s assassination is reported on the television. That’s right, The Comedian DOESN’T kill JFK! (Boy, does that make those “ironic verbal jabs” with the Kennedy boys hit with a different splash!) Stunned, The Comedian does the only thing he can . . . he reaches for a hard drink. Azzarello leaves the vetted comic book reader feeling the same way, establishing with his first issue that nothing we know about The Comedian is safe or secure - a very worrisome feeling for a comic book reader who worships at the cannon alter - and that we shouldn’t even attempt to figure out where this bullet train is heading; we should just hang on for our lives!

I will say, while the move is ballsy and I trust Azzarello to bring us a complex and layered story, I do hope there is a major payoff for “re-writing” this piece of Watchmen-lore. The last thing fans of Watchmen want to see is the DC writers treating the source material like a half-pipe where everyone pulls the neatest “trick” just to show off their skills. Yes, it can work that The Comedian had a close relationship with the Kennedys and never pulled the trigger in Dallas, but there needs to be a reason why this is better than what was established before by the source material, and I just hope Azzarello can meet the bar that Moore has left incredibly high.

Also, and this is a gripe I’ve had with all three of the Before Watchmen books released so far, but drop the “superhero” fighting-style act! Zack Snyder was a stickler for staying true to the source material in his film adaptation of Watchmen, but the one thing he added needlessly was the “hyper-violence” of the combat and action. Watchmen is about humans wearing costumes and fighting crime in the most realistic way possible. Sure, Ozymandius has ridiculous skills due to his discipline and training, and Dr. Manhattan is basically an atomically created god, but the other heroes in Watchmen aren’t super, they’re human . . . and not in the “Batman’s a human" sense. They shouldn’t disappear when you turn around or be able to complete superheroic feat after feat. At best, The Comedian should be operating at the ability level of a NAVY Seal. While the exaggeration isn’t huge in this issue, the action scenes felt a little contrived instead of gritty and realistic.

Despite any flaws, in the end The Comedian #1 is a book worthy of the time of any comic-hungry Watchmen fan. It still remains to be seen as to whether Azzarello will add to Watchmen cannon or destroy it, but I’ll be sure to follow him to whatever dark place he and Eddie Blake choose to lead us.

God help us all,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer


Last modified on Monday, 24 December 2018 19:02

Bryant Dillon, Fanbase Press President
Favorite Comic BookPreacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Favorite TV ShowBuffy the Vampire Slayer
Favorite BookThe Beach by Alex Garland
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