Review: Before Watchmen Deluxe Hardcovers The Comedian/Rorschach
Before Watchmen was quite the controversial prequel when it was first announced and the issues started to get released. The hubbub has died down and collected editions of the stories are coming out. Today sees the release of Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach. The deluxe edition hardcovers are categorized by author, so this one is the Brian Azzarello collection. Joining Azzarello on The Comedian 6 issues series is artist J.G. Jones, colorists Alex Sinclair, Tony Avina, and Lee Loughridge. Clem Robbins provides letters. Rorschach has Lee Bermejo on art, Barbara Ciardo on colors, and Rob Leigh on lettering. Now that the collections are starting to come out, how does Before Watchmen look? Read on as we take a look at each series.
The Comedian looks at Edward Blake’s earlier days and how he got involved in Vietnam. We see how he was big buddies with the Kennedy brothers and how the political machinations of the time let Blake become the monster we know him as in Watchmen. The majority of the book focuses on his time dealing death and causing mayhem in Vietnam, but we don’t see him teaming up with Dr. Manhattan at all. The series is basically bookended by the relationship with Jack and Bobby Kennedy and how they…drifted apart for lack of a better term. While he wasn’t involved with John F. Kennedy’s death, he was very close to Bobby when he was killed.
Azzarello makes you care for The Comedian for about half an issue, then he slips back into being the despicable character with few redeeming qualities we know and hate. He gets to cut loose in Vietnam and does things that would make the Punisher look like a girl scout. It’s rough stuff and some heavy ideas, historical ideas, are explored as The Comedian is inserted in the rough time of the 1970s. For a while, you almost feel like this is Forrest Gump with a really bad dude being in historically and politically significant situations. The story is hit and miss over the six issues, but Jones’ art and Sinclair’s colors are fantastic the whole way through. 2.5/5
Rorschach looks at a few days in the hot and crazy summer of 1977 in New York. Rorschach’s one man war on crime has him targeted by a crime lord running drugs and prostitutes in Times Square. This is the bad and seedy Time Square that was nothing but drugs, porn theaters, and crime. The new crime lord, calling himself Rawhead due to his disfigured face, wants to take down the big bad Rorschach. At the same time, a serial killer called the Bard is killing and cutting up women across the city. Rorschach is blinded by his need to take down Rawhead and lets the one person he has ever allowed to get near him find herself in harm’s way.
Azzarello writes a very impressive four issues with Rorschach. The writer nails down Rorschach’s voice and journal writing style and offers up a look at one of the missions Rorschach took on in his never ending fight brought on by his unwavering sense of morality. Rorschach is a fantastic series that expands on one of comic’s greatest characters in a fitting way. Lee Barmejo’s art and Barbara Ciardo’s colors are astounding. This is a visually stunning series that perfectly captures 1970s New York. I mean they even through in a De Niro Taxi Driver cameo. Rorschach may just be the one series even hardcore Watchmen fans will enjoy. 4/5
Bottom Line: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach also includes all the variant covers as well as a few characters sketches in the back. The Azzarello collection features a great look at Rorschach with a more mixed-bag Comedian series. If you missed Before Watchmen the first time around, you should definitely check this one out.