When the guys at DC comics came up with the idea of Before Watchmen they must have felt like Butch and Sundance looking over that gulley. ‘Are you crazy, the fan backlash will probably kill you!’ Combining that with a creator who hates any meddling with his work makes Before Watchmen a tough sell to, well, everyone!
I, however am not against the idea.
So today I’m looking at the Comedian/Rorschach volume which is theoretically volume 2 of the series. So good start there, mid series……! The First half follows Eddie ‘it’s all a joke’ Blake AKA The Comedian and his story in Vietnam. This volume is easily the most political I’ve read so far, especially the opening reveal that The Comedian is mates with the Kennedys and plays American Football with them (or, as we call it in the UK, futuristic rugby).
You learn that he is their go-to-guy, and even after the inevitable happens to Jack, Bobby still uses Eddie until his activities in Vietnam become an embarrassment. The Comedian is sent over to Vietnam by Robert Mcknamarra before the war starts as an advisor and then poster boy for the war effort once it all kicks off. The story goes all Platoon (I swear one guy in a cell was drawn like Tom Berenger) with Blake often doing his own thing by going Rambo and struggling with the philosophical and political issues that Vietnam threw up.
The only thing I wish they had done in this issue was have Eddie kill JFK like in the opening shots of the Watchmen film. I felt that was a missed opportunity.
Rorschach, on the other hand, really bugged me because Azarello did nothing more than a Batman story using a guy with a more extreme moral compass than The Dark Knight. I realise in some ways that Rorschach is a satire of Batman types but I don’t need to see it all again. Rorschach’s tale is about him trying to take down a serial killer called The Bard, whilst dealing with a crime boss who is out to get him, called Rawhead; called so because he has a raw head. The format is the same old ‘Rorschach’s journal etc.’ with The Bard storyline being rapped up in a really weak sauce way. The only ‘interesting’ idea is throwing in a love interest, but even that is integral to creating this poor ending. And don’t get me started on the Taxi Driver section. Seeing is believing on that one.
A bit hit and miss then. The artwork is good for both and there is a sick drawing of The Comedian in the extras by Jim Lee (why couldn’t he have done it all?!). The Rorschach section’s artwork particularly matches the mood and period. So stick with it guys. Before Watchmen still throws ups some interesting ideas and some cool surprises and as long as you keep expectation in check, you will pull through this series.