Graphic Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian / Rorschach Deluxe Edition

Before Watchmen: Comedian takes the reader back in time and gives insight into what makes Edward Blake tick. The Comedian crosses paths with Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Marilyn Monroe, and other historical figures. You’ll be shocked at some of the tragedies attributed to Mr. Blake.

Writer Brian Azzarello really steps out on a limb for Before Watchmen: Comedian. He spins complex and engaging tales which tie certain catastrophic world events to one individual. The entertaining ride features alternate historical takes which could be construed by many as patriotic and political heresy. All this makes for an unpredictable journey that leaves the reader feeling they know something confidential the government doesn’t want them to.

Artist J.G. Jones’ work is probably the closest to what we have here to the original Watchmen graphic novel. It doesn’t completely mimic Dave Gibbons’ style, but definitely has that type of flavor. His attention to detail for the likenesses of historical figures is extraordinary. It’s eerie to see a fictional character like Edward Blake sitting next to John F. Kennedy or watching a boxing match ten feet from the ring where Muhammad Ali is duking it out with his opponent.

Before Watchmen: Rorschach gives us an inside look at the early days of the masked vigilante’s career and what drove him over the edge. He takes his one man war to the streets and goes up against a crime kingpin who not only deals drugs but runs a prostitution ring. At the same time, he investigates a mysterious string of killings tied together by carvings left on the bodies.

Azzarello continues scripting Before Watchmen: Rorschach. He interweaves two plots quite well and keeps the mystery of who the killer is a surprise until the bitter end. Unfortunately, the “big” reveal doesn’t leave you gasping in disbelief. Azzarello shows the reader that this story is more about the journey and less about the outcome. He also gives the character emotional depth, which many could argue he lacked in the original graphic novel. This is partially shown when Rorschach starts taking his work personal.

I’ve been a big fan of Lee Bermejo’s artwork since first being exposed to it through Batman: Noel. He has such a unique style that puts him in a class all his own and Before Watchmen: Rorschach continues to showcase this. His drawings are so textured and slick. They literally pop off the page thanks to his detail and talent using lines to add dimensions to his illustrations.

Before Watchmen: Comedian / Rorschach Deluxe Edition is rated M for mature readers. It features adult language, nudity, sexual situations, and violence. Not to sound like a broken record, but the nudity in the book is once again pointless and adds nothing to the storyline. It most likely limits those willing or allowed to read the book.

Nineteen pages of bonus material are included for Before Watchmen: Comedian / Rorschach Deluxe Edition. Twelve pages of variant covers for both the Comedian and Rorschach titles feature work by Jim Lee, Eduardo Risso, Tim Bradstreet, Rafael Albuquerque, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, Jock, Chip Kidd, and many more. Lee Bermejo’s work for a promotional poster and Rorschach statue is also highlighted. It also contains cover sketches by Bermejo and J.G. Jones. Lastly, J.G. Jones and Alex Sinclair’s statue designs for the Comedian are featured.

Before Watchmen: Comedian / Rorschach Deluxe Edition further proves that there is way more to these two characters’ stories than what was provided in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original graphic novel. While I found the Comedian’s backstory more interesting than that of Rorschach, both are worth a read. My fascination with historical conspiracy theories just barely trumped my respect for Lee Bermejo’s extraordinary artwork. These are not my favorite of the Before Watchmen prequels, but they still deserve their place next to Watchmen on your library shelf.

Before Watchmen: Comedian / Rorschach Deluxe Edition is available now in hardcover and Kindle editions.