cover image Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, and Lee Bermejo. DC, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4012-3893-3

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. (July)