Filed under: Comic Reviews, DC Comics | Tags: Before Watchmen, JaeLee, JuneChung, lenwein
We’re now five weeks into DC’s Before Watchmen series and the world hasn’t cracked in two like some expected. I reviewed Minutemen #1 three weeks ago, commenting that it was an OK comic that showed some promise in future issues once it gets passed that set-up phase. Since then we’ve seen #1s of Silk Spector, The Comedian and Nite Owl, each of which have also been average with only a couple of real talking points between them. So what, if anything, can Ozymandias do to stand out from the crowd?
Well for a start, this is a crazy beautiful book! I’ve admired Jae Lee’s work on the covers of recent Wolverine issues, but hadn’t experienced his work in the interior of a comic before. His extremely fine pencil work makes every frame look graceful, as if someone has paused the scene during a slow-motion replay of the action – every hair and piece of material standing still when it should be waving through the air. Each scene is made all the more delicate by June Chung’s excellent watercolour style colouring, every surface and background beautifully textured. The team do an excellent job of making every page a pleasure to look at, especially since the majority of pages consist of Adrian Veidt standing, usually unclothed, looking or thinking. The unusual panel design, most likely chosen to mirror the round form of the clock face, gives the book yet another unique selling point.
Len Wein’s story for the series is told by Veidt as he records his past and the experiences that brought him to this present moment, ahead of his plans that take place within the pages of the original Watchmen series. I’d like to have seen the tales told more organically, but instead, because of the nature of the storytelling with Veidt speaking into a recorder, most of the book is narrated, restricting the amount of dialogue that takes place. Wein though has managed to craft an incredibly interesting backstory for Adrian, with his fascination for Alexander the Great taking him on a path of both enlightenment and training through the middle east. Veidt is a fascinating character, just like in the original Watchmen series, he stands perfectly on that boundary between genius and madness – is he crazy or is he so much more intelligent that he can see something we don’t?
Out of everything we’ve seen from Before Watchmen so far I’d say this book is the first to offer something truly original and evolutionary from its original. So far from the other books in the series we’ve seen a lot of 8-panel grids being used, an overuse of “hurm” from Rorschach in Nite Owl #1 and very familiar panel framings, not really moving the format forward from where it was at the end of the original Watchmen. It’s nice to see this book do something a little different, but with enough of a nod to its heritage – and what do you know, Veidt was a fan of tentacled space monsters as a kid too. This series has a lot of attention for various reason, one of which being the need to prove it’s existence, so it’s good that there are books like Ozymandias in there to show that these comics aren’t just a rip-off of what’s come before.
I have been sorry to see that since Minutemen #1 which featured only one advert throughout the actual contents of the comic, that all of the subsequent Before Watchmen issues haven’t followed suit. I’d hoped that in keeping with the original that fewer adverts might help boost the overall quality of the books, along with their shiny covers, but DC don’t seem that bothered about cramming adverts in wherever they like. Poor show DC.
Overall I like Ozymandias for trying something a little different from the other books – I just hope that Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan do the same when we see their release too.
Craig – @hastiecraig
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