First Impressions: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 is the best thing to come out of the Before Watchmen line thus far. It’s also the best things Len Wein has done in quite some time. Combined with Jae Lee’s show-stealing art and innovative layouts, this issue restored some of my enthusiasm that was lost after the Comedian and Nite Owl issues.
This issue fleshes out and expands upon Adrian Veidt’s backstory from Watchmen. We see what a gifted child he was, how he fared in school, how he gave away his inheritance after his parents’ death to retrace Alexander’s journey across the world, etc. We also learn how he became such a cunning fighter and that he had a girlfriend (and possibly a boyfriend) before he became a superhero. We even see a little of Bubastis. It all leads up the moment he puts on the Ozymandias costume and mask for the first time.
One of the great things this issue offers readers is a unique layout that on almost every page makes use of circular panels and imagery. On literally every page there’s either a circular panel or two places in among traditional rectangular ones, or some kind of circular visual that the eye is drawn to. He usually does it symmetrically, with either a circular panel in the middle of some squares, or two half circles at both the top and bottom of the page. It’s a really phenomenal way to make this story look different compared to the others. It reminded me a bit of the way J.H. Williams III lays out his Batwoman stuff. Lee’s art is also fantastic. He’s great with body language. Almost everything looks very flowing and natural.
In this issue, Wein’s storytelling is at its strongest when he’s showing us Adrian’s childhood. He beautifully illustrates the boy’s patience, both with being forced to hold back in school, and with bullies beating him up every day. This not only demonstrates the character’s abnormally high maturity level, but it sets a subtle precedent for the patience he’ll have to show later when putting his plan to save the world in action. The quality of the writing does wane however, when it’s time to meet Veidt’s girlfriend Miranda. Considering Veidt is supposed to be the smartest man in the world, the woman he falls for seems like a generic party girl. We never see what makes this woman so different that she can keep this extraordinary man interested in her. Granted, we only have four or five pages with her, and in the grand scheme of things this is obviously Veidt’s story, not hers. But it would have been nice to get a line or two that indicated why he was so attracted to her.
Along the same lines, Watchmen dropped a hint or two about Veidt’s sexuality, the most notable being a throwaway line from Rorschach: “Possibly homosexual? Must remember to investigate further.” As the page to the right, this issue indicates that Veidt is bisexual. That’s fair enough, I guess. Veidt’s sexuality had no consequence in terms of Watchmen, and this male character (an “acquaintance,” as he’s called) could have easily taken Miranda’s place. Maybe DC wants to limit the number of character outings they make in a given time period.
Moloch the Mystic also makes his second Before Watchmen appearance, this time dawdling in drugs. Unlike what we saw in the Comedian issue, I don’t really mind this appearance from Moloch. It doesn’t taint any scenes from the original book, and actually portrays him as a bad guy. This runs in contrast to the Comedian issue, where we saw him tear up after the Kennedy assassination. Had this issue come out prior to that one, I might have been a bit softer on Azzarello and Jones for that moment. It still doesn’t work for me. But seeing him tear up would have had more impact had we seen him actually do something villainous beforehand.
Assuming we have more content like this to come, Ozymandias is definitely a miniseries worth checking out. It now joins Minutemen as as Before Watchmen book I’m definitely coming back for.
Images from bleedingcool.com.