While I haven’t been the greatest supporter of the cash grab… sorry, “decision” by DC Comics to go ahead with their Before Watchmen series, I hadn’t hit anything I truly didn’t like. I thought Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen was a solid story with great art, and even Silk Spectre had its strong points. This week, comic fans were handed the first issue of Comedian. The six-part series delving into the past of one of Watchmen’s more infamous characters. Written by comic scribe Brian Azzarello, Comedian is the first real stumble of Before Watchmen.
I’m not a fan of expanding the Watchmen characters because I don’t think they need it. Alan Moore used secret and revelation to draw a contrast between the world when the Minutemen were heroes and the world of the Watchmen. In the Minutemen world, people trusted the Government, they were kept in the dark and that allowed heroes to act and live without discretion. In the modern world, people saw the Watchmen for what they were, and that caused an uneasiness between heroes and the people they protected. It was perfect; the story didn’t need further exploration.
Azzarello’s Comedian fails simply because it cuts the balls and the secrecy right out of the character. The issue opens with Eddie Blake aka Comedian playing football with the Kennedys. We see how close Eddie is with Kennedys. This allows for a scene where Jackie O instructs Eddie to kill Marilyn Monroe. Yep, one of the most enigmatic characters in comic history is reduced to being the reason Marilyn Monroe died. It’s that kind of forced-into-history backstory that kills the mystery behind Comedian.
The rest of issue one centers on the Government sending Comedian on a witch hunt to bust a drug supplier. Turns out the guy has no drugs but, oh no, during Comedian’s assault, President Kennedy was murdered. Could it have all been a plot to lure Comedian away from protecting John F. Kennedy so the Government could kill him? I really hope the entirety of Comedian’s story isn’t him becoming disillusioned by the discovery that our Government killed Kennedy.
Regardless of how the final five issues unfold, the damage is done. Comedian is no longer that weird anti-hero that we all stared at and wondered what fucked him up so badly. By the end of Before Watchmen, we’ll know all about it and the power of the character will be halved. I suppose I have a harsher eye on Comedian because he was the biggest mystery of the bunch. Moore gave us background on most of the Watchmen, but left Comedian a secret and that secret drove the entire story. In one fell swoop, DC has destroyed all of that.
None of this is really Brian Azzarello’s fault. There is no story he could have told that would not have destroyed the Comedian. It’s too bad because this story alone is actually pretty good. A tale about a crime fighter that must go against or remain aligned with his Government after discovering their role in the Kennedy assassination would be awesome. Having it be Comedian does a disservice to both the character and the possible story Azzarello could have written.
JG Jones art is passable but nothing to get excited about. Jones has obvious skills with a pencil but seems content to just draw what’s needed to tell the story. There’s no flare to what he does, no drama. Part of it is that his panels are very still. The exchange between Eddie and Jackie O is more like a collection of snapshots. An excellent comic book artist brings movement to a scene. JG Jones seems content to make every panel a frozen moment in time, one that’s disconnected from the other panels.
Jones also falters on human faces. His versions of the Kennedy’s look more like a caricature, something you’d see being drawn at a street fair. The cover for Comedian #1 is spectacular but it doesn’t translate to the interior of the book at all. Before Watchmen rages on and leaves the trampled corpse of Alan Moore’s genius book behind it.
(3 Story, 2 Art)