Before Watchmen: Moloch 2 (February 2013)

Straczynski turns Moloch into the martyr of Watchmen. And he gets away with it. Moloch’s such a broken soul, it’s feasible he’d bend to Adrian’s will. As for Adrian, who practically gets more page time here than Moloch, Straczynski seems to recognize what he and Moloch have in common… they’re both illusionists. Adrian’s convincing Moloch he’s doing the right thing, which includes killing lots of people. The issue covers the time Moloch leaves prison–Adrian gives him a job fit for a member of the Red-Headed League–up until his death. Because Straczynski is so concerned with explaining another side of Adrian’s … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Moloch 2 (February 2013)

Before Watchmen: Moloch 1 (January 2013)

Even though Moloch appears in the original Watchmen, there’s a lot more talk about him than show. J. Michael Straczynski turns the character into a quintessential sympathetic villain. He was born with deformed ears, leading to teasing in childhood and other tragedies later in life. Straczynski uses first person narration, making the reader identify with Moloch even more. Straczynski recounts most of Moloch’s career this issue–presumably next deals with how he ties into the original series’s big reveal–and it moves at a nice pace. Eduardo Risso’s a great choice for the art; he handles the forties time period beautifully. He … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Moloch 1 (January 2013)

Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill 1 (March 2013)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill 1 (March 2013)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 6 (June 2013)

I’ve got to give Azzarello credit. He doesn’t just let Comedian get a little loose. He runs it entirely off the rails; with integrity, though. Definitely with integrity. Even when Rorschach and Nite Owl show up, Azzarello never lets the comic become a cheap tie-in. Jones, on the other hand, probably never has a worse moment than those two guest stars. He does a terrible, terrible job with the scene. He does bad work throughout the issue–the end’s particularly confusing–but the guest star scene is inept beyond words. It’s too bad Azzarello didn’t pull Comedian off. He got way too … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 6 (June 2013)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 5 (March 2013)

Azzarello finally pushes too hard with the political history lesson and loses control of the series. It’s not a bad issue, just mediocre. Jones can’t draw Nixon, which is a problem. Eddie barely figures into the comic at all. He’s trying to get through the jungle, fighting some Viet Cong–there are flashbacks to atrocities–but Azzarello sets it all against a report about his activities in Vietnam. It’s a familiar comic book device, maybe even one natural to the medium, but it changes the series’s natural progression. Just when Eddie was becoming a real character–or showing signs of being one–Azzarello removes … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 5 (March 2013)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 4 (December 2012)

And another good one. Azzarello likes doing war comics; he should stick to them. Even though there are some confusing parts to the narrative–Azzarello fractures it without establishing the bookends–and the song lyric excerpts don’t work, it’s a successful issue. Towards the end, Eddie and his gang drop acid before going on patrol. If Azzarello had structured the whole comic around the trip, it would have integrated much better. Instead, it feels like Azzarello’s just explaining a series of events. That approach is good since the writing’s good, but the fracture structure feels too forced. And there are some changes … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 4 (December 2012)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 3 (November 2012)

It’s another surprisingly good issue. Eddie’s on leave in Hawaii after he aggravated a riot while on leave in L.A. Azzarello structures the whole issue around him telling Bobby Kennedy (his strongest government supporter) about it. Going between race riots and war protests, Azzarello manages to look do a nice little history issue. There’s not a lot of facts, but he definitely investigates the complications behind these things. And Eddie even gets a little character. Eddie can’t have too much character, however, as Azzarello is moving him through the series as the reader’s guide through history. The other Watchmen superheroes … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 3 (November 2012)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 2 (September 2012)

Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 (August 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Comedian 1 (August 2012)

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 4 (April 2013)

So Rorschach really became Rorschach after the serial killer went after his girlfriend. While this event occurs–which Bermejo shows from the serial killer’s perspective, because he’s apparently supposed to be someone recognizable–the other bad guys are torturing Rorschach. He gets away because of a coincidence. The one interesting thing Azzarello does is rip off “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” The main bad guy takes the Rorschach mask and fights crime during a blackout. Not sure how there’d be a blackout with a lot of crime with Nite Owl, the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan around… but, like I’ve been saying, it doesn’t appear … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Rorschach 4 (April 2013)

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 3 (January 2013)

Travis Bickle guest stars in this issue. Azzarello’s deep, man, he’s really deep. He also sets up Rorschach’s girlfriend to get killed, which will undoubtedly explain why he loses himself completely in the mask. The Before Watchmen editors clearly didn’t coordinate or they just gave Azzarello free reign. He uses it to write a really lame comic book. The entire issue reads in a few minutes, even though it takes place over a day. Azzarello doesn’t try to write much in the way of narration here, either because he’s too enthralled with his dumb plot twist involving the girlfriend or … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Rorschach 3 (January 2013)

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 (December 2012)

Azzarello gives Rorschach a love interest. Maybe he didn’t read Watchmen after all. I was kind of kidding before, but now I’m not so sure. The series is a mix of bad ingredients. Azzarello and Bermejo go for visual realism, whether in the depictions of the city or its people, but then Azzarello writes a goofy bad guy out of an exploitation picture. He’s got a pet tiger and a supervillain name and a skin condition out of Ennis’s Punisher MAX. The series’s problem is its derivative details, specifically how none of them are derivative of the original series. Rather, … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 (December 2012)

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 1 (October 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Rorschach 1 (October 2012)

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 4 (April 2013)

More 2001 visual references–heck, maybe even a 2010–and Hughes gets over his aversion to Jon’s big blue penis… but it’s a lackluster finale issue. Straczynski has to tie into the original series, which means bringing in Adrian, and the whole thing becomes a bore. He not only doesn’t do anything interesting with Jon–the monolith epilogue should have been the whole issue–he writes a very annoying Adrian. For the first time in the series, Dr. Manhattan feels like just a tie-in comic. All the originality Straczynski previously showed is gone. It becomes perfunctory. It’s too bad. The series’s big question–what does … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 4 (April 2013)

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 3 (February 2013)

In a lot of ways, Straczynski has turned Dr. Manhattan into a neatly disguised rumination from a fictional character questioning his relationship with his environment. Jon wants to change his personal narrative to make it a happy one, which turns out to end the world. One has to wonder why he didn’t just try to remove the costumed adventurers all together… as in our reality (all Straczynski’s quantum mechanics has got me talking like he does), there was no nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. It would’ve been too cute maybe. Straczynski continues to write Jon … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 3 (February 2013)

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 2 (December 2012)

Straczynski and Hughes aren’t satisfied with just playing with Watchmen here–Hughes does a lovely montage featuring imagery from the prequels and the original–they also feel the need for a 2001 reference. Dr. Manhattan is interesting because of that ambitiousness. For example, Straczynski’s writing is concerned with being smart and thoughtful. The series is an informed layperson’s rumination on quantum physics. He’s designing the whole comic around the idea Jon can unmake the universe based on how he choses to perceive it. That idea’s a big one–and Hughes is the perfect artist for the fantastic reality of it–but it’s not necessarily … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 2 (December 2012)

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 (October 2012)

There’s something cool about Dr. Manhattan. Not just because Adam Hughes does the art–though the way he’s able to be stylized and still fluid is impressive; I wasn’t expecting him to do sequential so well. And it’s not cool because J. Michael Straczynski tries so hard to ape Alan Moore’s “voice” for Jon. It’s cool because Straczynski actually comes up with something a little different than the rest of these Before Watchmen books. Well, the ones trying to deal directly with the original series’s events. While Jon’s off on Mars, Straczynski gives him a side adventure. He goes into it … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 (October 2012)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 (April 2013)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 (April 2013)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 5 (March 2013)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 5 (March 2013)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 4 (January 2013)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 4 (January 2013)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 3 (November 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 3 (November 2012)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 2 (October 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 2 (October 2012)

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 1 (September 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 1 (September 2012)

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 4 (February 2013)

Once again, I’m left wondering if there’s some intentional misogyny in these Before Watchmen series just because it would horrify Alan Moore. This issue we learn Nite Owl has this costumed madam–something Straczynski never makes feasible–in love with him and he’s in love with her but he later mocks her in Watchmen to Laurie. I’d forgotten that particular detail from the original series, but wow, Straczynski really harps on it. I like how Hollis gets a pass, how Rorschach gets a pass, but not the madam. Unless Straczynski’s whole point is to make Dan unlikable and to make people dislike … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 4 (February 2013)

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 3 (November 2012)

Well, Straczynski doesn’t spend too much time with Rorschach this issue, just enough to remind everyone he’s around. He also doesn’t continue the narration from Dan. Why? Because Straczynski doesn’t go for any kind of narrative continuity; Nite Owl’s an editorial disaster. I guess no one told Straczynski to at least be consistent in his lameness. And, except the art (which is often quite bad), Nite Owl’s more lame than anything else. Straczynski treats Dan like a bit of a tool, introducing the costumed madam as a way to show off how little Dan has going for him. Because, after … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 3 (November 2012)

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 2 (October 2012)

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. … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 2 (October 2012)

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 1 (August 2012)

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 … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Nite Owl 1 (August 2012)

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 4 (January 2013)

Looks like Conner rushed a bit with the art. The issue opens fine and closes okay, but there are some definite rough patches. The ending is atrocious, when Cooke and Conner tie it directly into a scene from Watchmen, only now we get to hear Laurie’s take on the scene. Guess what? Neither Cooke nor Conner–whoever wrote the scene–are as good of writers as Alan Moore. Shocker. Otherwise, the issue’s not terrible. Instead of letting her be a hippie superhero, which was interesting and fun, the writers wrap everything up neatly for the finish. And the writing between Laurie and … Continue reading Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre 4 (January 2013)