Len Wein

Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill 1 (March 2013)

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It’s Steve Rude doing forties superheroes, so Dollar Bill always looks phenomenal. But it’s Len Wein writing and apparently he had a bunch of homophobic statements he wanted to make so he gave them to this forties superhero so he could get away with them. Lots of anachronisms–oh, and some good, old fashioned Jewish banker jokes.

But besides being mildly offensive, Bill isn’t a bad comic. The story of a newsreel superhero pretending it’s for real makes for an interesting read. Rude has beautiful compositions, whether static shots or action scenes. It’s just occasionally offensive. Well, maybe more dumb than offensive.

And the finale suggests magic in the Watchmen universe. Very special unoriginal narrative device magic. Wein’s a lazy guy.

It’s surprising all the Minutemen didn’t get one-shots. This guy isn’t even particularly interesting but they got a decently paced, beautifully illustrated, bad mainstream comic out of it.

CREDITS

I Want To Be In Pictures; writer, Len Wein; artist and letterer, Steve Rude; colorist, Glen Whitmore; editors, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

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Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

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Yeah, Azzarello definitely enjoys writing Comedian. There’s a lot of Vietnam War history here, a little American political history and almost no Watchmen connection. The Comedian could just be anyone. Azzarello never gives him anything superhero specific.

So, as a comic, it’s good, but–and I can’t believe I’m saying it–it fails as a Before Watchmen title. Eddie’s a corrupt, kill-happy advisor. Azzarello gives him no special personality, not even a real character moment in the entire issue. There’s a little with him hanging out with Bobby Kennedy, but not enough to make an impression.

It’s a war history comic. Jones’s art isn’t great for the subject, but he handles it better than superhero stuff I guess. There’s definitely a morose tone to it.

I’m hoping Azzarello doesn’t even try tying into the original series.

The pirate backup, shockingly, has a plot point. I didn’t they even bothered.

CREDITS

I Get Around; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Eight; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 (August 2012)

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I thought J.G. Jones was a better artist. I don’t know why exactly, but I did. His figures in Comedian are terrible. People change size, make no sense when standing next to one another. And his faces are even worse. It’s an ugly comic. I guess the editors didn’t think they could tell him to actually work at it.

Reading the creator team, I thought I’d have the problems with Brian Azzarello, but no. It’s all Jones. Azzarello does a really good job with the writing. Eddie’s still unlikable, but Azzarello gets how to make an unlikable character interesting to read.

There’s a great finish; the issue’s got a couple big historical moments. The first is somewhat slight, but Azzarello does wonders with the second.

I can’t imagine he’ll be able to maintain this level of quality plotting.

The pirate backup’s not the worst ever, but strangely annoying here.

CREDITS

Smile; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, J.G. Jones; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Clem Robins. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Three; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 1 (October 2012)

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Wait, am I really supposed to take Rorschach seriously? Brian Azzarello’s writing of the narration suggests he’s never even seen the Watchmen movie, much less read the comic. It’s like he heard there was crazy narration and did a terrible job approximating it.

The series is set in 1977, in New York City. Taxi Driver would be the most obviously influence on Lee Bermejo’s art, except the art is slick and shiny. Rorschach looks desperately fake.

There’s an inexplicable, goofy lack of reality to the writing. Rorschach gets his ass kicked, but the bad guys don’t kill him. They don’t make sure he’s dead, even after they lay an elaborate trap to catch him. Instead of doing a hard boiled Rorschach comic, Azzarello writes one with less teeth than an episode of “Simon & Simon.”

The only teeth Azzarello gives this one are poorly constructed dentures.

And pirate backup is terrible.

CREDITS

Damn Town; writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part One; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 (April 2013)

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So Adrian has constant video surveillance of Dr. Manhattan but he gets important news from the newspaper? Shouldn’t he have agents or spies or… own a newspaper?

I’m being too kind. I mean, if one assumes the finished scripts represent edited versions of Wein’s original draftings–assuming this situation might be a stretch, given the terrible editing on this series–I can’t imagine how bad Wein’s first drafts must read. How exceptionally insipid.

After suffering through five issues of this tripe, all Wein does with the last issue is do scenes of things Alan Moore summarized in the original series. The content’s no different.

Even as a cash grab, Ozymandias makes no sense. It’s mind-numbingly dumb and even one likes Jae Lee’s art, it’s not like Wein gives him much good to draw.

I’m left without anything nice to say about this comic. Even the last page is atrocious.

CREDITS

Nothing Beside Remains; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 5 (March 2013)

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A few issues ago, Wein did a bunch of foreshadowing of the eventual reveal in Watchmen–Adrian’s master plan. This issue he has Adrian trying to figure out that master plan, which means all the obvious details from before were just for the reader’s benefit.

Wein never can figure out how or when to make Adrian the smartest man in the world.

This issue covers the police riots, sadly not doing much more with them than the original series does, only with Lee’s too design-oriented view of New York. He sucks the personality out of it, though Adrian’s tropical island works out.

There’s also a lot of terrible dialogue from Adrian’s assistant. Wein writes these characters’ conversations like it’s a back and forth from Clerks. Surely he doesn’t think that film’s characters are examples of geniuses.

Who knows… It’s so close over so I find it hard to care.

CREDITS

These Lifeless Things…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman; editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 4 (January 2013)

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Where to start… when Wein brings up Rorschach in 1960 but then later says he doesn’t show up until a few years later? I hope the editors didn’t get paid for this one in particular.

The only distinct thing in the comic is Wein’s handling of the Kennedys. Adrian’s very judgmental of them, but then turns around and tries to solve the assassination. In another of Wein’s dumb moves, Adrian can’t figure it out. Wein sets up everything for Adrian’s easy success; Adrian actually having to think would be a nice change.

The dead girlfriend pops up. Apparently she’s been haunting him. Wein never mentioned it before, as his characterization of Adrian is completely inept.

Some weak art from Lee. His rendering of Silk Spectre is the most memorably bad (and she’s only in the comic for two panels).

At least, the pirate backup’s worse than the feature this time.

CREDITS

Shattered Visage…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Five; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 3 (November 2012)

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Len Wein has been writing comics for decades. He’s definitely an adult. Why does he write dialogue Yogi Bear would find infantile? Except the stuff with the Comedian making gay jokes about Adrian. Those comments read a little meta given Wein’s awkward handling of Adrian’s sex life.

Though Wein does write Eddie’s double entendres like he’s just seen his first “Dynasty.” Ozymandias is so poorly written, it’s occasionally embarrassing to read.

There are a few red herrings to kill time before Wein makes his big reveal–Adrian had the plan for Watchmen way back in 1959. Because he’s so smart. This series would have been better spent going through the books on Adrian’s shelves than Wein’s lame attempts at a narrative.

It’s awful.

However, Lee finally does find something he can draw. The scenes in Antarctica do look awesome.

And the pirate backup is once again better than the feature.

CREDITS

The Heart That Fed…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Seven; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 2 (October 2012)

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Wein seems to think giving Adrian very purple narration suggests intelligence. It doesn’t. Adrian’s of “sleek” as an adjective is laughable.

Then there’s the problem of the thugs oscillating between ostentatious dialogue and traditional moronic thug dialogue. Wein is trying really hard; it kills any chance the series has–which isn’t much, given Lee’s painfully static art.

Speaking of Lee, his rendition of the Comedian is some of the worst comic art I’ve seen in a while. There’s only the one reveal page, but it’s truly hideous.

Wein rips off some details from the Shadow–the agents of Adrian (maybe Moore had those too)–but it’s otherwise indistinct superhero stuff. Lots of cursing to show it’s a grown-up comic book and not for kids.

As for the ties to the rest of Before Watchmen, a good editor would’ve made them more integral.

The pirate backup’s got really lazy art.

CREDITS

The Hand That Mocked Them…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Ten; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 1 (September 2012)

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I don’t know what’s more amusing in Len Wein’s wordy exposé of Ozymandias–the idea of majoring in Alexander the Great in post-graduate work (seriously, did no editor explain to Wein how higher education functions) or Adrian being ashamed of his homosexual dalliances.

Wein has Adrian recording his memoirs during the final events of the original Watchmen and Adrian hides the gay adventure. Jae Lee’s art shows it while the text obscures it. If you’re going to be vaguely homophobic about it, why put it in? Unless it’s because Adrian’s just the bad guy.

Speaking of Lee’s art… It’s bad. Every page is meticulously designed like a cover–even the part where Adrian hallucinates on hash (the world clearly operates differently in the Watchmen universe)–but boring. And Lee’s incapable of drawing Adrian’s eyes. It’s a funny looking comic.

The pirate backup may actually be better than the feature.

CREDITS

I Met a Traveler…!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jae Lee; colorist, June Chung; letterer, John Workman. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Five; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 2 (October 2012)

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Why didn’t they just combine this series with the Rorschach one? Straczynski probably gives Rorschach a third of the issue anyway. He’s juxtaposing Dan and Rorschach’s differing Mommy complexes, which would work for a combined book. But for one called Nite Owl? Doesn’t make any sense.

There’s not a lot of callbacks to the original series here, except Rorschach getting his sign. Why doesn’t he get in his own series? Because Straczynski doesn’t have a story for Dan, not really. He’s got Dan chasing down some leather madam–gratuitously topless woman in a DC regular comic alert–because of his Mommy issues.

There’s also a lot of stuff Straczynski should have included in the first issue regarding Dan’s home life. It’s unclear how he’s a millionaire when his family lives in a very middle class home. Straczynski definitely should have addressed it.

The art’s real bad this issue. Real bad.

CREDITS

Some Things Are Just Inevitable; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; penciller, Andy Kubert; inker, Joe Kubert; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Nick Napolitano. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Nine; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 1 (August 2012)

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Given the problems, Nite Owl is a lot better than it should be. Straczynski writes Rorschach and Nite Owl well together. The humor of a gentler Rorschach helps it.

Now for the problems.

It’s trite and obvious; no surprise from Straczynski. He’s got Dan blathering about his fate with Laurie. Then there’s a line to tie-in to the Minutemen series, only that series didn’t set this one up. Then there’s the retcon regarding Dr. Manhattan perving on Laurie.

Oh, and Dan’s abusive father. It reads a little like “Dr. Phil meets Watchmen” for the beginning. Straczynski introduces one bold move but then backs off immediately.

As for the art… Joe Kubert inking Andy… It’s a mess. It has a retro feel, with Andy really pushing for his dad’s style. At its best, the art’s mediocre. At its worst? The backgrounds look photoshopped.

It’s a breezy read and not atrocious.

CREDITS

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; penciller, Andy Kubert; inker, Joe Kubert; colorist, Brad Anderson; letterer, Nick Napolitano. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Four; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Mark Doyle, Camilla Zhang and Will Dennis; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 2 (September 2012)

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Cooke and Conner set up Laurie as a hippie superhero; it’s kind of cool and definitely a decent look at sixties San Francisco. What’s interesting–and something I don’t think the original series ever established–is Laurie goes the “with great power” route. She turns into Silk Spectre because she can help people if she does. It deepens the character quite a bit.

And she needs it, because Cooke and Conner spend almost half the issue on the supervillains plotting to get kids tripping and consuming. It’s an incredibly boring scene and it goes on forever and ever.

Her boyfriend’s not much of a character either. I haven’t determined if they’re supposed to be teen runaways, but one would think his parents might be concerned.

The ending cliffhanger’s either going to be awesome or some terrible way to be grim and gritty.

Shockingly, Wein writes an okay pirate backup too.

CREDITS

Getting Into the World; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Seven; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 1 (August 2012)

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For Silk Spectre, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner go the romance comic route. Or at least closer to it than I was expecting, but it makes sense given Laurie’s age during the high adventuring days of Watchmen.

She’s got her teen story going while Sally deals with aging and raising a kid to be a costumed adventurer. Cooke and Conner make both women utterly sympathetic, but it only works on Sally’s side because the reader knows her story.

Without it, she’d come across as a tiger mom. Except maybe the phone call to Hollis, which is as close as the comic gets to self-indulgence. It needs a little more, but it’s quite good as is.

Conner’s art never gets too cute, but always maintains the romance comic tone. It’s rather good and hard to imagine Spectre without it.

Higgins’s backup art, however, is severely lacking. It’s a muddled mess.

CREDITS

Means Goodbye; writers, Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner; artist, Conner; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Devil in the Deep, Part Two; writer, Len Wein; artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.