Review: Before Watchmen – Comedian/Rorschach / Author : Brian Azzarello / Artist: Lee Bermejo, J.G. Jones / Publisher: DC Comics / Release Date: July 23rd
When DC announced that they were going to do a series of prequels to their extremely popular Watchmen graphic novel, the reception from fans was very mixed, many seeing it as a cash-in to a book that had been left unexploited (and thus complete) for many years. If Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach is anything to go by, however, the fans need not have worried; ever effort has been made to match up to the original.
Brian Azzarello is better known for his work on hardboiled crime comic book 100 Bullets, and it’s this touch of noir that really brings the book to life. As the name suggests, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach features stories about those two characters. The book begins with the extremely well-connected Comedian, a military hard-ass who happens to be friends with President Kennedy. It follows his descent from scary sociopath with a government sanction into the something much worse. The prequel mostly sets up why the character is in the state of mind he is at the start of Watchmen, and is an engaging war story well told.
The Rorschach story does a very similar thing; it explains the ‘why’ of the character, but at no point does it erase any of the mythology surrounding the character. Azzarello keeps enough of the mystery (even though there isn’t much to begin with), but adds sufficient depth to the character to keep the reading interested. Given that Rorschach is essentially a hobo version of Batman, this might seem quite a tall order, but it’s handled well and is very entertaining.
The art is strong throughout, though it’s clear that JG. Jones has a better handle on the world of the Comedian than Lee Bermejo has on Rorschach. Both are very strong artists and the art serves the story well, however Jones simply has more to work with, as the Comedian’s story takes us all the way round the world, whereas Bermejo must make do with the urban jungle.
Overall, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach deserves a spot in the legacy of the Watchmen series; it’s a good book done extremely well. It’s unlikely to become a classic in the same way the original did, but that is the burden that most prequels have to bear. If you loved the original book and you want to see more of the characters, this delivers exactly that.