After a few weeks of bad issues, Before Watchmen Rorschach #1 finally delivered a good issue for the event. Brian Azzarello might be having trouble over in Comedian, but he seems to be at home in the dark, gritty world of Rorschach. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the best Before Watchmen books so far.
Right away, the reader is sucked in. Azzarello quickly rehashes Rorschach’s way of thinking and his upbringing, without burdening the story. The narrations are juxtaposed against examples of what is “destroying society,” giving weight to his hard childhood stories. The best thing about this issue is when Azzarello knows to step back and let Lee Bermejo do what he does best. It’s a lost art in comics these days, with writers feeling the need to narrate everything that is going on. This was a major complaint in my review of Ozymandias #2. Azzarello nails the dialogue, using quick sentences throughout. The use of “hurm” is toned down, something JMS should think of doing in Nite Owl. Unlike most of the Before Watchmen books, this one doesn’t need the reader to have read Watchmen first. I read a lot of comics, and don’t necessarily have the time to go back and catch up on aspects of the characters.
Azzarello’s story still feels like a side adventure. WHY does this battle with a crime boss change Rorschach? Yes, it’s the first issue, but so far this series seems worthless. The writing is great, but it still feels unnecessary. I feel like a broken record at this point, but writers should make these series matter. Make them count. It seems unfair to place that burden on a writer, as Watchmen is one of the seminal works of the comic industry. But every writer knew the pressure on them when they took the assignment. Azzarello makes the most of these pages though, as the writing feels the more in character than the other series. Minutemen has the best writing of all the series, but sometimes the voices can blend together. If a reader didn’t know this was a Rorschach book, they could tell immediately by the writing.
Lee Bermejo’s artwork is nothing short of brilliant. He forgoes the panel structure, making the comic feel more intone with the movie. The disgusting world that Rorschach despises comes across well, feeling lived in. Bermejo’s use of body language is great, and the shading helps with this. While Rorschach isn’t the most muscular, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that he could kill everyone in the room. The constantly changing ink on his face is done well, without Bermejo resorting to cliche zoomed in shots to show the changing. The fight scenes are brutal, and would have been more if it weren’t for the sound effects in the panels. The sound effect words take away from the battle at hand. A prime example of this is when Rorschach gets his ass kicked in the sewers. Brutal, yes, but a somewhat over the top. Bermejo rivals Cooke on best art of the event so far.
After reading Before Watchmen Rorschach #1, I’d say that this is another series that fans of the original series need to read.
Before Watchmen Rorschach #1 gets 4/5.
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