I think the two Before Watchmen books that I’m least excited about are the ones that will be the best-sellers among the group – Comedian and Rorschach. I feel this way because I think you could just as easily read Punisher or The Question comics and just pretend it is those characters. I also don’t think they’re as heroic as many tend to regard them as. Those things in mind, maybe the latest issue of Before Watchmen had the odds stacked against it for me, but I tried to read it cold and I still wasn’t totally into the comic.
One of the finest writers in crime comics today is Brian Azzarello, so he’s a good fit for the pretty notorious anti-hero that is Eddie Blake. There are two pretty obvious things about this comic from the start that I do really like though, it jumps right into the story and doesn’t bother leading you in. I wish the entire prequel series was doing this instead of making sure we’re all settled in before jumping into the story. This is a comic for adults, who know the story and the characters, don’t hold our hands, just give us the story. I also like that Azzarello writes the character without any change from the way we know him in the original story. While the other two series put the characters at different points in their lives (so in their context it makes sense that they’re not the characters we already now), having the familiar is a good comfort for readers (or perhaps just a showing of how two dimensional The Comedian really is).
It only took to the third issue of the controversial prequel series for something to pop up that messes with the continuity of the original story and it is here in Before Watchmen: Comedian. Now, while the piece of story is merely an implication in the original, it is certainly ruled out entirely in this story though Azzarello handles it well as its own tale. President John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby, and wife Jackie all have big roles in the issue and the way Azzarello weaves in the historical background of America with the comic book continuity is pretty spectacular, but it doesn’t make up for how just mildly bland the book is in general.
J.G. Jones provides the artwork and he does a good job at it. The pencils look like an updated version of the Watchmen art with an added emphasis on details and depth, which make it pop as you read it. He is also does a great job of handling the exposition scenes in the story, of which there are several. You wouldn’t think a comic with JFK and his wife being primary characters and doing nothing but talking would have compelling artwork, but this is good stuff here.
Trying to make a character piece out of someone as flat as The Comedian was a difficult task for Brian Azzarello, but he tried and he doesn’t totally fail. While the concept is a good idea for a book, it just seems to lack the spark of greatness that we’ve come to expect from Azzarello’s work. It’s not a total loss since it’s the first issue and maybe it will serve better as a completed miniseries, but I’m expecting something more from the rest of the issues and I hope I’m not wrong.
Rating: 6.5 / 10
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