I went into the Before Watchmen series with an awful lot of ambivalence. On the one hand, few creators in the comics medium are as vocal as Alan Moore has traditionally been when it comes to taking liberties with his work. To say that he has been disgusted with the commodification of his spectacular 1980s graphic novel would be softening the blow. Moore famously refused recompense for the 2009 film adaptation of Watchmen, he was so disappointed with the end result. And of Before Watchmen, he has been quoted as saying, “I don’t want money. What I want is for this not to happen.”
Comic Book Review: Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2October 10, 2012 0
But on the other hand, I can see the delicious appeal of the concept. Watchmen was hugely successful. It’s highly likely that it will never go out of print in our lifetimes. And it isn’t a huge leap to believe that there are more stories about the characters of theWatchmen universe to be told: The short story “Under the Hood” (included in the graphic novel) gives a tantalizing taste of what the events that precluded Watchmen were like. Purists may argue that “Under the Hood” gave all the exposition that anyone needed, but I wasn’t sure if I agreed. I wanted to know more about the days of the Minute Men, before the Silk Spectre was shacking up with Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian was dead. And I wanted to see them in comic form. I could see both sides of the issue, hence my ambivalence.
When I finally bit the bullet and admitted that I would be reading Before Watchmen, with or without Alan Moore’s blessing, there was no character I was more excited to read about than Rorschach. (The irony that Rorschach of all characters would be the most horrified to see his image so commercialized by DC was not lost on me.) Now that I am halfway through the four issue run of Before Watchmen: Rorschach, the excitement is still there, but a hefty dose of dread has been sifted in.
In Before Watchmen: Rorschach #2, the lovable scamp in the wacky mask and trench coat busts himself out of the hospital, inadvertently rescues a hooker, and continues on his quest from the previous issue to track down a thug named Rawhead. Despite my reservations, I must admit that writer Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Loveless) and artist Lee Bermejo (Joker) do a terrific job of creating a New York City that feels very true to Rorschach: gritty, urban, perched on the edge of despair. Bermejo’s art takes me exactly where I need to be for the story to sink in. Azzarello captures Rorschach’s voice in a way that is spot-on, especially in his journal entries.
And yet, despite despite the technical heights of excellence that the creative team reaches, something about Rorschach #2 still doesn’t sit quite right with me. Maybe it’s the way that Azzarello writes in Rorschach’s scratched out typos, a conceit that I find unnecessary and cutesy. Maybe it’s the last ripples of guilt towards Alan Moore. Likely, it is because I think that Azzarello and I are at odds in our respective visions of who we believe Rorschach truly is—Azzarello paints him as a bit of a nihilist, a man with no faith in humanity, whereas I always viewed him as somebody who has so much faith, such high expectations of what a person should be, that he is ultimately disappointed again and again.
Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan, the next issue in the series, hits stands October 10.