Story: Len Wein
Art : Jae Lee
Colors : June Chung
Letters by: John Workman
Publisher: DC Comics
Review: William R. Davis Jr.
These Before Watchmen books are relentless. The Comedian, and to a lesser degree Nite Owl, left me with a huge Before Watchmen hangover. There are some serious flaws with this reboot because I could not bring myself to write anything of consequence about either title. The Crimson Corsair is essentially moot due to it's two page an issue format. I have neither the time nor the inclination to go back and reread previous issues in order to form a more cogent and enjoyable narrative in my feeble, alcohol addled brain. DC is asking way too much of the reader. Len Wein has done good things there too, but it works only as a marketing tool, nothing else. Ozymandias was also very well done. But you know what really grinds my gears? The last few pages were so rushed, it felt like Len Wein just ran out of room. It was a huge "fuck it" moment in an otherwise really great book that was probably my favorite to date.
Ozymandias is really the under appreciated centerpiece of Watchmen. His intellect transcends conventional morality, and he is both the savior and the greatest monster in the history of mankind. While Rorschach is more concerned about the means than the end, Ozymandias' delusions of grandeur are not delusions at all, but a bleak, cold, undeniable truth. Millions of dead New Yorkers and the decimation of Manhattan stop the impending apocalypse, not a symbolic doomsday clock; not a superhuman being that transcends time and space. It is an elaborate ruse and an advanced understanding of human psychology that saves humanity from it's own destruction in the end. An origin story of this magnitude has legs, and I was one hundred percent on board for about 20 pages until a cookie cutter love interest O.D. s at a club, Adrian Veidt pulls out an "elaborate halloween costume" (their words not mine), and then decides to rid the world of drugs.
The true strength is in the art. Jae Lee does an outstanding job with the multiple flashback scenes. They are truly some of the most effective panels I can remember reading in some time, a foggy, Rockwellian glimpse into the past of Adrian Veidt. Lee is able to draw a memory, an inner monologue that is both stunning and realistic. And it was so beautifully drawn that despite some weak storytelling, I wanted to reread this book multiple times. Jae Lee definitely made me late coming back from lunch at least twice.
I can't really tell people to go out and buy these books anymore. Before you start rattling off the Twitter hate mail let me explain. There is just not enough justification to merit a prequel in Before Watchmen because the work of Alan Moore is just too damn good. Comedian and Silk Spectre were pretty awful books. Nite Owl and Minutemen were decent. Ozymandias was my favorite because of the art. After a lot of thought and flip flopping on the creation of the Before Watchmen franchise, the deciding factor about the series, is that one day in comic stores all over America there are going to be countless volumes of Before Watchmen next to one volume of the original work by Alan Moore. It is entirely possible that some impressionable youth who has never read Watchmen starts with the collected Before Watchmen Silk Spectre. And that's just depressing to think about, too depressing for words.