Of all the characters in the pantheon that is Watchmen, Ozymandias should be the most hated. In the original story he is the person that caused the deaths of millions of people, and yes I do know that what he did ended up saving the world, but it's still a despicable thing. With that in mind, color me surprised that I really enjoyed the first issue of his new mini-series from Before Watchmen.
The series is written by the editor for the original Watchmen, Len Wein, and it makes sense that he's able to deliver on this story in that regard. Now Wein is no stranger to comic book writing of course and has plenty of credibility in the industry, but you have to think that his experience with Moore and Gibbons on the original work only helped in his ability to write this story and give it it's proper due.
The plot starts out with a bang, building up to the conclusion of the original Watchmen, which isn't a bad place to start I suppose. We quickly move back to the origins of what made Adrian what he is and the tales of him as a child are the best part of the comic (I'm noticing a recurring complaint in my reviews for these books that I'm really enjoying the sections of the comics where the characters are younger and not close to being super heroes, over their eventual leap into the world of masks and capes). From there the journey of Adrian continues and it's a pretty good read.
Wein clearly has the voices of all the characters down in the writing. The narrations as Veidt are superb and fit perfectly into the character's archetype from the original story. He also manages to make every other character in the story very memorable even if they're only in the comic for a few panels. No one is wasted in this story and that is a sign of top notch work.
While the story is very well written I must complain that at least several pages of the content in this issue is lifted directly from a narration the character has in the original Watchmen. This might not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it's kind of odd to see exact paragraphs and sentence lifted from Watchmen and placed in the story. Sure, a lot of people won't notice but it certainly does make the comic seem less original during those pages (trust me I understand why they included it since it's essential to the character, but it makes this comic way less interesting).
Jae Lee's art is incredible. While Darwny Cooke and Amanda Conner are knocking it out with their work on Minutemen and Silk Spectre, respectively, Jae Lee's art is a different breed. Yeah it's his style but placed in the Watchmen universe, though the character designs (except for young Adrian who looks like Tintin from hell), his use of shadows and all the little details within each panel make it that much more engrossing. With the combination of Jae Lee's art and June Chung's colors, this might be the most beautiful looking of the Before Watchmen comics.
In addition to general praise of the comic's art, the layout of the pages are really cool too. While going for a less symmetrical and typical approach to the pages it makes it stand out and more memorable as a piece of art. This is also the first of the Before Watchmen books to go out of it's way to reference the original story. Through the use of several in-panel references to what will happen it is attempting to “foreshadow” the original comics (but since this is a prequel doesn't that just count as a cute little tag for the fans?). I know why they included these and some are certainly better than others, but these things shouldn't distract you from the story and in this case they did.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias was a great read. I'm excited to see where this one goes and I really hope it doesn't start spreading into territory that made Comedian and Nite Owl boring and uninteresting. As long as Wein keeps up the cool, collected attitude of Veidt and Lee keeps crushing the art, it should be a great read.
Rating: 8 / 10