Over the next several months we are going to be discussing one of the most controversial decisions at DC Comics in the last several years. No not the New 52 or Allan Scott being gay… no we will be discussing the attempt to tell the story of the Watchmen in the prequels aptly titled Before Watchmen. I’m sure that many will continue to disagree with what we have to say here whether we are positive or negative on each issue. Frankly we don’t care if you agree with us. Make up your own damn mind but we will tell you the honest truth about these stories. This column is going to be discussing the new stories that the creators are trying to tell with Alan Moore’s template. Good or bad, here we are and we are going to cover it.
This Week’s Issue: Ozymandias Written Len Wein and Art by Jae Lee
Mr. Green – If you have been reading this column for the last several weeks you know that I have been bitching about the Crimson Corsair. I have said that it is well written but vastly way too short to matter. Why do I mention this? Both Ozymandias and the Crimson Corsair are written by the same guy – Len Wein. Wein is a legend in the business and deservedly so. He has worked on Swamp Thing, X-Men, the JLA and, of course, he was the editor on the original Watchmen series. So I was mighty disappointed in what I had seen so far. Until today.
With this issue of Before Watchmen, Len, with art by uber talented Jae Lee, presents us with the first HOLY SHIT! issue of the project. We start the issue mere moments before Ozymandias aka Adrian Veidt begins his grand designs to reshape the world from the original series. Of course we know how that turns out. In the series he discusses his reasons but here we are treated to more back story as to what lead him down this path. In a strange scene that put me off at first but upon further reflection I really like, is the idea that his parents, especially his father, told him to hide his superior intelligence to better fit in with the rest of the kids in school. This of course leads to more bullying and fighting which pushes a young Adrian into martial arts. After 7 months of the badgering from the local bully and Adrian telling his parents simply to have “Patience” he ends the conflict with a finality that shows the levels of brutality and viciousness we will see later in Ozymandias. All of this and it is only the first half of the issue.
As for the art, Jae Lee is the perfect choice for this story. While I’m a fan of his, I do understand that he is not always the best choice for certain stories. But this isn’t one of those stories. His moody designs and feel for the characters help transform this from simply a tale of the beginnings of Ozymandias, the greatest hero turned villain in human history, to a far greater level of story telling with Wein’s plotting & words.
Simply put, this issue is what I was hoping for from this project but didn’t expect to see. I’m glad I was wrong and look forward to the rest of the this tale. Please Len, let this continue to show the greatness you have already displayed here.
Andrew – Finally, another Before Watchmen title that’s worth reading. It’s not as good as the Silk Spectre series, but still enjoyable. It’s no surprise that this issue acts as a origin story for Ozymandias. Everybody who’s a fan of the original Watchmen tale knows that Ozzie is the world’s smartest man. Here’s where we see those smarts in action. From when he was a child, Adrian Alexander Veidt was special. He excelled at both the intellectual and the physical at an alarming early age. So much so that his parents asked him to hold back in both avenues in order to blend in. This, of course, made him a target for bullies. After enduring all he could and training both his body and mind to be a perfect weapon, he eventually makes an example of his tormentors. After this, he stops holding back in his academics and his physical prowess. He graduates at a very young age and ends up traveling the world to find out more about his hero and namesake, Alexander the Great. When he returns to America, he amasses a fortune, finds love and loss and is dragged into the world of costume heroism due to revenge. What I like is the balance of logic and emotion. Ozzie is very logic heavy and it takes a lot for him to “get out of his chair”. I really enjoyed the Miranda character as she is the perfect example of this. She loves him and wants only to be with him and he doesn’t realize the importance of this until it is too late. Len Wein shows a great understanding of the character by presenting a calculated protagonist who’s the smartest guy in the room except when it comes to matters of the heart. I also like that the catalyst for Veidt’s heroism doesn’t seem incredibly virtuous as it appears based in simple vengeance. The visuals provided by Jae Lee are pitch perfect for this tale as it has a darkness to it that makes everything feel eerie. But there is also a regal style to Lee’s pencils akin to the motion picture epics of the forties and fifties. Like I said, it’s not as good as Silk Spectre but it’s not far off. Definitely worth picking up.
And although his main story is fantastic, Len Wein continues to deliver well crafted mediocrity in the Crimson Corsair story. 2 pages that mean absolutely nothing to me continue in this issue.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
Next Week’s Issue: Minutemen #2 Written and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke