The controversial, long-awaited prequels to the best-selling graphic novel of all-time are finally here: BEFORE WATCHMEN! For over twenty years, the backstories of the now-iconic characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s landmark graphic novel have remained a mystery, until now. DC Comics has assembled the greatest creators in the industry to further paint the world of WATCHMEN, with this second volume starring two of the most polarizing anti-heroes ever, COMEDIAN and RORSCHACH. Eisner Award-winning writer and creator of 100 BULLETS Brian Azzarello brings his gritty, nuanced storytelling to these two recognizable characters. In RORSCHACH, Azzarello again teams with superstar artist Lee Bermejo (JOKER, LUTHOR, BATMAN/DEATHBLOW) to illustrate how one of most dangerous vigilantes the comics world has ever seen became even darker. COMEDIAN, featuring art by J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS, Wanted), plants the famed war hero within the context of American history, as we find out how the Vietnam War and the Kennedy assassination revolve around him. Collects BEFORE WATCHMEN: COMEDIAN #1-6 and BEFORE WATCHMEN: RORSCHACH #1-4.
Having milked the Watchmen cash cow for as many deluxe editions and reissues as possible, DC takes the only avenue left: prequels. In theory, finding out what happened to Alan Moore's troubled band of antiheroes between their 1940s glory days and the novel's 1980s apocalyptic denouement (a period only sketched out by Moore) would be a golden opportunity to expand on the themes of corruption, power, idealism, and heroism. But of course Moore is nowhere to be seen, and this volume collecting the backstories of Comedian and Rorschach dearly misses his wise and cynical voice. The near-ubiquitous Azzarello provides a punchy backstory for both characters, but he glides past any opportunity for deeper understanding of them ideally the whole point for an exercise like this. Rorschach's arc is a faithful-to-the-original trawl through late-1970s Manhattan sleaze, with him battling scumbags and pining for a girl in a very Travis Bickle way (Bickle actually makes a heavy-handed cameo appearance). The Comedian's story line follows the cigar-chomping ultra warrior through race riots, assassinations, and Vietnam war massacres, in a glib James Ellroyesque conspiratorial history mashup. All in all, a pale retread that can only glance at the original's greatness.