Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

(2013)

 

Before Watchmen is a DC series of prequels featuring eight characters from the wildly popular series The Watchmen by Alan Moore.  The volume I’m reviewing is the collection of The Comedian and Rorschach’s “origin stories.”  Luckily for me, these two are my all-time favorites, so I was pleased they were sharing a book.

Despite the fact that this series was not given the green light by Moore (he called it “completely shameless”), I felt that it was at least an interesting character-building addendum to the series.  While it’s unfortunate that the big publishing houses have a tendency to steam-roll their writers and artists, they do often have a stable of extraordinary talent to turn to for their projects, and this one is no exception.  The artwork in both stories is some of the best I’ve seen.  Even if you pick this comic up just to page through it, it’s worth it.  J.G. Jones’s work on The Comedian’s story is slick, action-packed, and amazingly accurate in its depictions of actual figures from history, like the Kennedys.  Lee Bermejo's art in Rorschach's story is by contrast much more old-school, with a hand-painted look that really suits the story, a pulpy tale set in the 70's.

Neither of these are stories for the faint of heart.  The Comedian’s tale depicts a close relationship with the Kennedy family that grows strained when the loose cannon of a superhero makes some gruesome, inhuman choices during his time in the Vietnam War.  In Rorschach’s story, everyone’s favorite zealot vigilante has more depraved criminals on his hands than he can handle and as a result, terrible atrocities occur on his watch.  Both of these stories are real character pieces that don’t shy away from showing these mainstays at their most vulnerable and down-and-out—the total antithesis to the typical superhero comic.  But what can be expected for a story about these two standout antiheroes?  Give Comedian/Rorschach a try if you’re ready for a dark, gritty, but fresh graphic novel.

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