What a difference an issue makes.
As you may or may not recall, on our first trip through the Before Watchmen titles, I was kinder to the debut issue of writer Brian Azzarello and artist J.G. Jones’ Comedian mini-series than I was any of the others. Okay, fair enough, I said Jones drew things in kind of a standard superhero-ish way that was certainly competent but in no way distinctive, and that rather tame “criticism” still applies to this second issue, but I was generally pretty complimentary of Azzarello’s efforts to tell something more, or at least other, than a typical origin or “missing adventure” -type story, which is exactly what pretty much all the other writers involved in this increasingly-obvious cash-grab seem perfectly satisfied with doing. Azzarello (whose writing I found sufficiently impressive to spur me into picking up another one of his books — the hardcover Joker graphic novel he wrote, which sucked) seemed to have a clear story — with a definite, if predictable, character trajectory— in mind that he wanted to tell, wasn’t afraid to buck the trend of simply filling in character “blank spots” pointlessly as the other titles had been doing (and continue to do), and even left us a nifty little cliffhanger in regards to the whole JFK killing with some lingering questions about why the not-so-good Mr. Blake was purposely yanked away from Dallas on that fateful day.
Along comes issue number two (with two versions of the cover this time around, by Jones and Tim Bradstreet, as shown above, respectively), and things start off decently enough with The Comedian and RFK attending one of the greatest matches in boxing history as then-Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston (with Bobby implying that the fight was fixed), but pretty soon we’re skipping ahead, Blake’s in Viet Nam, where four pages of a 20-page book are taken up with a lazily-written, nearly wordless (and pointless) battle scene, and after some machinations involving the setup of an illegal drug-smuggling operation run through Air America to finance the war (which as we all know really happened, and was repeated in Central America less than two decades later), it becomes obvious that all “Azz” is likely to do here — although I hope to still be proven wrong — is duck and dive into various parts of The Comedian’s life and show us some scenes that don’t really amount to much, and that we could have pretty well guessed at ourselves anyway, that will supposedly “provide a greater understanding” of how these characters came to be the way they were when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons first introduced us to them back in 1986.
In other words, it’s a big, fat, four-dollar dose of “whatever.” As of right now, after a pretty promising start, the Comedian mini-series is firmly back in the pack with the other Before Watchmen titles, content to do the same job that’s already been achieved by the numerous better-written and better-drawn flashback sequences in the original Watchmen series. My patience is running pretty thin at this point. The writers and artists involved in this project are getting one more issue each to show me that they intend to do anything beyond what they so obviously seem ready to settle for — competently-enough-executed, but completely uninspired (and even more importantly, uninspiring), totally useless, needlessly extended “Secret Origins of the Watchmen” crap. To use a very apt, if painfully obvious, metaphor — the clock is ticking.