Admittedly, when I first heard about this event I was more interested to see what would become of fan favorite characters like Nite Owl and The Comedian. However, after a single issue of Len Wein and Jae Lee’s Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I found myself heavily invested in the journey of titular anti-hero Adrian Veidt—perhaps more so than anything else released thus far.
The hot button issue of this book will undoubtedly be the narrative style, as it focuses solely on Adrian Veidt’s inner monologue. While some may feel polarized by this decision, I believe it gives the story a certain unique quality. Not unlike Henry James’ classic novella, Turn of the Screw, we’re left to decipher how much of the information given we can trust. Whether or not you take Adrian’s journey to becoming Ozymandias at face value is completely up to you, giving several more layers of mystique to a character already completely surrounded by it.
Another interesting aspect of Ozymandias was to have it be relatively self-contained from the rest of the Watchmen universe. Veidt’s character takes center stage as we’re given a chance to explore his motivations, and when all is said and done, you may just find yourself sympathizing with the man many have labeled the villain of Watchmen. For those of you familiar with the original comic book ending to Watchmen, check out the Easter egg on Adrian’s early childhood poster. Foreshadowing photo bomb for the win!
One criticism I do have is that anyone coming into this for the first time, with no prior exposure to the Watchmen franchise, might feel a little alienated in terms of what’s going on or why any of this matters. It’s hard to fault Len Wein, as it is a prequel and thus somewhat of an impossible task to completely catch a reader up with everything that’s come before (after). Anyway, It should really go without saying, but don’t start reading Watchmen with this book!
Another drawback came in the form of Adrian’s personal relationships. It’s made clear that the path to becoming Ozymandias was formed by a failed relationship, one of the very few things Adrian was unable to master in his youth. While the execution of his inner personal relationships was far from terrible I can’t help but wonder what could have been portrayed if Wein had devoted more than 2 or 3 pages to it.
Minor grievances aside, it’s no secret that Jae Lee is one of my favorite modern-day artist (followed closely in 2nd place by Jae Lee). Having illustrated one of the greatest comic books of all time (Marvel’s Dark Tower), I feel his work transcends the comic book medium and, quite frankly, is deserving of its own museum exhibit. I’ve read criticism regarding Jae Lee’s backgrounds relying too heavily on color alone. While this does happen quite often, I don’t believe it hinders the imagery but rather accentuates the meticulously detailed foreground. Here are a few titles that would have benefitted from Lee’s talents:
· Before Watchmen: Rorschach
· Before Watchmen: Anything
· Everything. Ever!
Minor hyperbole aside, I can’t hype the artwork in this book enough, and without question, Jae Lee will be the selling point of all 6 issues. Coupled with an extraordinary story, well, that’s what we in the comic book industry call “good comics!”
Is Adrian Veidt the most villainess man of the Watchmen universe, or does he come closest to being its savior? With more insight to come, I’m as shocked as I am pleased to say “I’m on board!” With a lot to choose from in the Before Watchmen event and in comics in general, I can confidently tell you that this is the book to keep an eye on.