Before Watchmen: Part II

Before Watchmen, possibly one of the most anticipated prequels in graphic novel history has 9 (10, if you count the Curse of the Crimson Corsair) volumes, covering the backstories of the original characters from Alan Moore’s Watchmen. After Minutemen, Silk Spectre and Comedian, let’s talk about Nite Owl, Ozymandias and Rorschach.

Nite Owl Cover

Nite Owl was one of those volumes that held a lot of potential but was ruined by your run of the mill clichés and boiler plate storytelling. J. Michael Straczynski takes the blame for that horrendous plot. Starting off with a fairly well off Daniel Drieberg’s motivations of donning the mask, being trained by Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, we find the same old tale of an abusive father, a technologically gifted youngster finding the identity of his favourite super hero and promptly ending up being surrogate son, being trained to follow in his footsteps. The story changes with Rorschach’s appearance and Hollis’ aversion of getting Dan mixed up in the crimes involving prostitution, arguing that the involvement would tarnish the cowl’s reputation which Hollis built up over his lifetime. Dan obviously decides otherwise, asserting that he’s capable of making his own decisions. Getting involved with the Twilight Lady shows us a more titillating side of Dan and perhaps the only thing that ties back into Watchmen, explaining Nite Owl’s sexual dysfunction. Rorschach almost entirely serves the story as the Deus Ex Machina fixing things and being at the right place at the right time to bring the sordid tale to its obvious conclusion. Perhaps the most regrettable thing about this volume was the lack of depth and complexity rendered for Nite Owl and Rorschach’s partnership. There was no saving grace – could have been the artwork, but wasn’t. While the colouring was warm and bright, the art itself never felt special.

Ozymandias CoverOzymandias, on the other hand, is adamantly lacking the mediocrity that shadows most of these volumes. While the character is almost like Batman on steroids, the artwork will leave you hard pressed to make that connection. The polished and finely drawn characters show us how amazing the rest of these volumes could have been, and yet weren’t. Jae Lee has outdone himself with Ozymadias. We see Adrian Veidt’s pride right in the beginning when he insists on dealing with bullies from school on his own, working through the pain as he learns various Martial arts to finally give them a taste of their own medicine. The story, told in an autobiographical account comprises of everything that led Veidt to save the world from itself. His encounters with the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan are strikingly done. The first half covers his exploits as a super hero and his journey to retrace the steps of Alexander. His incredible intellect, coupled with his manic need to match up to his icon, Alexander the Great leads us to the master plan that united the world. With the only glitch being the Comedian, who finds out what Veidt is up to, which leads this volume to meld seamlessly with the first panels of Watchmen. A beautifully well done ending, even if it was only natural.