Television

Before Watchmen: Rorschach 2 (December 2012)

878269Azzarello 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, it’s stuff Azzarello likes. Or thinks is good. Or just plain wants to rip off.

Maybe if he had a consistent handle on the character, the issues would read a little better. But Azzarello lacks commitment. Rorschach is clearly just a paycheck to him and it shows on every page.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian Azzarello; artist, Lee Bermejo; colorist, Barbara Ciardo; letterer, Rob Leigh. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Eight; writer, 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)

874366Wait, 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: Dr. Manhattan 4 (April 2013)

898459More 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 Jon want out of his existence–never gets addressed. And unlike Moore, Straczynski doesn’t play it like a precisely choreographed graphic narrative experience–Jon has too much character to just get pushed aside for Adrian.

Still, the series’s previous successes outweigh the lame finish.

CREDITS

Changes in Perspective; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 3 (February 2013)

886063In 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 quite well. He captures some of the isolation and melancholy from Moore’s characterization and expands upon it. The whole family history thing is fantastic.

This spin-off is probably the best thing Straczynski has written.

Great Hughes art (he wimps out on the detailed blue penis though).

Awful pirate backup.

CREDITS

Ego Sum; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part Nine; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 2 (December 2012)

879897Straczynski 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 tied to Watchmen.

Instead of wrapping himself around the original’s mythology, Straczynski takes some characters and details and goes off in an entirely independent direction. Even when he does tie into the other prequels, it feels organic.

It’s nice.

The pirate backup even looks quite good.

CREDITS

One Fifteen P.M.; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, Wide Were His Dragon Wings, Part One; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan 1 (October 2012)

874365There’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 without trying to tie it into the original series. It’s like he’s broken the timeline between the original and this prequel.

So between this approach, Hughes’s artwork and Straczynski’s successful aping of Moore’s voice for the character, the issue’s not bad.

The pirate backup, however, is horrendously written stuff.

CREDITS

What’s in the Box?; writer, J. Michael Straczynski; artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, Laura Martin; letterer, Steve Wands. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, The Evil That Men Do, Part Two; writer, artist and colorist, John Higgins; letterer, Sal Cipriano. Editors, Chris Conroy, Camilla Zhang and Mark Chiarello; publisher, DC Comics.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias 6 (April 2013)

901238So 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)

894352A 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)

884069Where 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)

877076Len 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.

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