The BW Review : “Before Watchmen : Comedian” #6

Posted: April 25, 2013 in movies
Tags: , , , , ,

3000516-before+watch

So, this is it — the end of the line for both Before Watchmen, and for my reviews of same. I guess that means you’re doubly lucky today! Seriously, though — to those of you who have stuck this out (assuming there are any of you — frankly, I have no idea), I offer my sincere thanks, while to DC, I offer my sincere middle finger for taking up a lot of my time and money on a project that, ultimately, was of even less worth than it appeared to be going in.

Yeah, I know — I was the one stupid enough to keep buying these things, so to myself, I offer a swift kick in the ass.

Anyway, after numerous delays, the sixth and final issue of Brian Azzarello and J.G. Jones’ Comedian mini-series finally hit the stands earlier today, and while I can say it’s probably the best-written issue of this book since the first, that’s really not saying much. At best, this is merely an average “mature” superhero comic, with an ending that, let’s face it, those of us still left reading this thing have been able to see coming for quite some time now (and even if you didn’t, the cover pretty much telegraphs it  from the outset). I’ve been saying for quite some time that the whole BW debacle was ending with a whimper, but I had no idea how literally true that would be — this issue wraps up with Eddie Blake crying after he does what he feels, I guess, he has to do (again, see cover), and there ain’t no grand finale; no shocked, rapturous awe; no stunned silence — nothin’. DC’s promo tagline for this issue (the story title for which, incidentally, is “Eighties” — something I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t understand in the least , and given that Azzarello isn’t exactly known for his subtlety, I’m feeling doubly stupid for my slowness on the uptake. Perhaps one of you good people could explain it for me?) is “Do you remember how Before Watchmen began? Because you’re never going to forget how it ends,” and if there’s any better proof that they need some more competent PR folks down there at 1700 West Broadway, I’m hard-pressed to think of it. They’re essentially admitting that the whole experience has been a pretty forgettable one right from the outset, but promising that, 37 comics (in total) later, they’re gonna do their best to make up for lost time and missed opportunities.

Talk about too little too late. Truth be told, I probably will   forget Before Wathcmen‘s ending as surely as I have its beginning, since it’s about as pre-formulated and predictable as, say,  the breakfast special at Denny’s. And probably about as good for you, too.

Still, the issue itself’s not a total waste — there’s a nifty little scene where The Comedian has a strictly-off-the-record meeting with G. Gordon Liddy that’s enjoyable enough and also hints at the fact that Blake may end up setting Liddy up vis a vis Watergate — but then you remember that Watergate never happened in the “Watchmen Universe” since it was made clear that it was Blake himself who killed Woodward and Bernstein, so Azzarello’s supposed “cleverness” with this sequence is, alas, ultimately wasted. Rather like the talents of everyone who participated in this project and the money of everyone who supported it.

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Jones’ art is, us usual, perfectly nice in its own standard-superhero-book sorta way, as is his cover (shown at top) and the variant by Rafael Albuquerque (shown immediately above), but again, nothing terribly memorable, just competent. And maybe that’s the saddest, and most telling  indictment when it comes to Before Watchmen : Comedian —  it got so damn bad so damn fast that here, at the end, even a mildly competent effort seems like an improvement. Seriously, you don’t even need to compare this with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original Watchmen series for it to fall up short —- just compare it to any other books out there on the racks. After an absolute  barn-burner of a fist issue, this series quickly settled into a parade of dull, pointless, hopelessly lazy and unambitious flashback stories that were lifeless and unimaginative when set in Viet Nam, and even worse when the “action” returned Stateside (remember the flat-out atrocious third issue, set during the Watts riots?) — all presented with little to no plot escalation or dramatic tension. It all reads as if Azzarello knew that he wanted to bookend things with the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, but didn’t much care what happened in between. That would be bad enough with a four-part series, but in a six-parter it’s absolutely inexcusable.

Still — it’s over, right? Before Watchmen has come and gone, and we’ve all somehow survived. The universe didn’t implode in on itself, and if you’re one of those people whose fondest wish was to see the characters from what remains, to this day, the best superhero comic ever conceived of (and how said is it that in over a quarter-century this particular genre still hasn’t offered up anything better?) put into bog-standard, go-nowhere, typical-at-best stories, then hey — you’re probably pretty happy right now, and I’m happy for you. For the rest of us, the best thing that Before Watchmen did was to finally end.

And speaking of endings — the BW books might be over with, but my dissection of them isn’t. Well, okay, it is here, but it isn’t in a more general sense — if you want to read more of my dripping-with-disenchantment thoughts on the whole fiasco, I’m in the midst of a series of weekly postings over at http://www.geekyuniverse.com that takes a post-mortem look at each of the Before Watchmen mini-series in turn, so if you found my issue-by-issue ramblings either enlightening or annoying, my more generalized wrap-ups/analyses over there may be to your liking, as well. Other than that, I’m all written-out on this subject, and I honestly don’t see myself giving any of these books a secondary reading anytime in the near — or even distant — future. The end feels like a relief.

Comments
  1. Never read any, but than again I’m not a huge comic fan. I do enjoy them, but never really collected (my film buying takes top priority and couldn’t afford both). I have a few comics I purchased via app,such as Batman and even Batgirl (don’t laugh Batgirl is the best!)

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      I’m not laughing, I’ve actually heard that “Batgirl” is good from a lot of people. I know that when DC fired Grail Simone from the book, the public outcrry was so huge that they hired her back within a few days.

      • I’ve always liked Batgirl. Even back on the Batman TV series through the animated show. My favorite Batgirl was Stephanie Brown. Too bad it was cancelled and as of the return of Barbara Gordon events of the Steph Brown series totally ignored.

        Oh in case you’re wondering I also like Supergirl lol

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Seems you have a thing for women in costume —

      • Lol yeah one can say that lol

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Well, as long as you know it —

      • Even in the screenplays I write, women are often the main focus. Unless drama than it can be whatever. But action or horror 99% of the time female lead

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Cool, didn’t know you wrote screenplays!

      • Yeah been for a while. I might post some of my first screenplay here. A few pages. A lot of people liked it (its a comedy/drama). But despite good reviews not able to get it going.

        It isn’t perfect and I have gotten better still learning my style at that time but still proud of it. Right now focusing on short stories with plans to self publish. However that’s a whole new style of writing and is taking a lot of time

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Yeah, I hear you. I posted my first screenplay here on my blog in its entirety, and while the folks who have talked to me about it seem to like it, still no takers or anything.

      • Do you write short stories? If so could be a way to go. You have more control.

        I got my script to a few actors. Most said if you can get this made I’d like to take part. As far as I got

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I’m not tremendously experienced at short story writing, but you know me — I’ll give anything a go.

  2. “Eighties” is a song by Killing Joke. Each title of the book comes from a song title actually.

    I really liked what Azzarello done with both Comedian and Rorschach. They’re not perfect books, but the good in them outdoes the -little that’s- bad by a ton. http://retcon-punch.com/before-watchmen/ got great analysis/reviews.

    Will definitely buy Cooke & Connor’s Minutemen/Silk Spectre and Azzarello’s Comedian/Rorschach together with the new ed. of Watchmen.

    But yeah, I fully understand those who don’t. DC haven’t been good to Moore. And I don’t for example view The Godfather as a triology, but two movies.

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      Don;t get me wrong — I’m definitely glad you and some other readers enjoyed these books. I think Azzarello is a fairly talentedd writer, but I think he has a tendency toward laziness in his scripting. The first and last issues of Comedian show what he can do when he’s on top of his game, but the middle four segments, and all of the rorschach series in my opinion, show him just sort of sleepwalking through the motions. I liked the two Cooke-scripted books for the most part, and really loved Amanda Conner’s art on Silk Spectre, but those were the high points of BW as a whole for me. I thought the Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias series were completely pointless, even though I thought Dr. Manhattan got off to a great start with its first issue. Anyway, I’ve covered all that over the last several months in my reviews of each issue, and if you’ve been following my posts on them, you have my sincere thanks.

      I did in fact get the Killing Joke reference, and the relevance it has to The Comedian as a character given the band’s name and admitted Alan Moore connection — I guess what confuses me is what relevance that particular song title has to this story, specifically.

      Lastly, if you’re reading this, a question for you — what do you know about the new watchmen deluxe edition hardback? I don’t plan on buying any of the BW collections, but I may get that one, if there’s anything new in it beyond what’s available in the “Absolute Watchmen,” which I’ve already got. I feel that’s a fairly comprehensive collection, but if there’s new material to be had in this deluxe edition, I could be tempted to purchase it.

      And yeah, part of my displeasure with Before Watchmen does, in fact, have to do with the very existence of these books and how shabbily DC has treated Moore from an ethical standpoint, but I did do my best throughout to put those misgivingsa side and judge each of the books on their own merits. I was prepared to like them if I felt they were good comics, but for the most part I just can’t honestly say that I found them to wothwhile reads, all ethical concerns aside. I hope I was sufficiently clear on that score in all of my reviews.

      • carl says:

        I think this is quite a nice fit to comedian:

        “Eighties – i have to push, i have to struggle
        Eighties – get out of my way, i’m not for sale no more
        Eighties – let’s kamikaze ’til we get there ”

        And also the 80’s itself, what he points out in Nite owl and Rorschach.

        But who knows. Could have been Azzarello trying to be clever with “the killing joke” connection. But for me it worked at least. And so did all of both the Comedian and Rorchach.

        And also Cooke and Connor’s books. Who aren’t perfect either (neither is Azzarello’s), but still really great.

        I think all 4 adds ideas and into the ideas itself of the book. Great reads to read into the main book.

        Minutemen the 50s and the hero image (which is enhanced by the way it’s drawn) clashing with the truth.
        Silk Spectre the early 60s and -for me at least- adding to both the Spectres.
        Comedian the late 60s adding a “Forrest Gump-history” vibe and even more tragedy to Blake’s character.
        Rorschach the 70s having him letting go of the last of Kovacs (The victim part.) in himself and also adding to the spirit of 1977 and “The city’s true face”. Also more tragedy to the character.

        I think the other BW mostly just retold what’s already there without adding anything (Ozzy and Molock’s stories for example) or being really really bad that contradicts the watchman book (nite owl’s really lame fling with TW-lady and the book having Rorschach being a fatherkiller/mad from the get go…)

        But yeah. No matter what, one can read whatever he/she wants. Only a shame that you won’t get to read Moore being treated right.

        And about the deluxe version. I got it the other week, and judging by reviews and so on it’s supposed to be same as the absolute, only in a smaller format.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I picked up the deluxe as well, and actually the bonus sketches, etc. at the back are pretty much entirely different to the stuff in the absolute edition. The absolute version has a lot more added material, but at least the deluxe stuff isn’t available elsewhere, so at least I don’t feel ripped off for having both.The thing about it that’s making people say it’s the “same” as the absolute is that the main book itself is the same re-colored version by John Higgins that the absolute uses, but as for the bonus material, that’s almost all new stuff.

      • carl says:

        The important thing for me is the recolored pages. Bonus stuff is cool, but I’d be okay without.

        By the way. You wrote in the review that Blake could set up G. Gordon Liddy about watergate? You remember how you meant by that?

        I read the scene as Blake seeing their meet as if he’s given yet another opportunity to shit on everything. Even if it’s at the cost of Robert’s life.

        Also musing at the idea that in the right light, Gordon could be mistaken for him. Which I think adds to Comedian’s “Just don’t ask where I was when I heard about J.F:K.” or the theory that Blake was with Nixon during Dallas.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        The whole thing about LIddy being able to pass for Blake in the right light — or vice-versa — is what got me thinking maybe Eddie set up Liddy for Watergate, or could have — it’s a moot point since in the Watchmen universe they got away with Watergate and it was implied that Blake killed Woodward and Bernstein, as well. But I was indulging in a bit of fun speculation.

    • carl says:

      Yeah, there’s no Watergate, but the point totally fits into the JFK assassination. If you accept BW in the continuity that is 😉

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        It’s weird, when it comes to JFK, Before Watchmen seems to completely contradict itself. In “Comedian,” it’s strongly implied that Hoover had some sort of hand in it, while in “Ozymandias,” they state in no uncertain terms that Oswald acted on his own. Go figure.

      • carl says:

        Ozymandias who says that? Oswald being a lone gunman?

        That would also contradict Watchmen, where he says Comedian (who in Azzarello’s take on the story is Liddy being mistaken for Blake.) met with Nixon in Dallas the day JFK was shot

        But that wouldn’t be the only thing in B.W being off. Rorschach for example in Nite owl is said to have killed his own father. As if his mental issues was there from the start. There is quite a lot of material in the watchmen book that doesn’t gel well with that.

        As I said above, I only go for Azzarello, Connor and Cooke’s books.

        I think it’s a cool thing that Azzarello’s is that his books doesn’t use the grid bases panels before the very end of each book.

        That being really cool in Rorschach who’s first part being the last pieces of Kovacs dying. How he blames his mother for everything, seems insecure rather than hatefull towards women, talks about social injustice and that he understands that: “there are two kinds of people in this world. Victims… And me”.

        But then in the hands of the torturer being called out as one himself, and when he leaves the club hearing “You aint me”. It’s like if that’s the last of Kovacs. The face takes over as he’s seen the true face of the city itself during the black out.

        As Rorschach 5 years later puts it about the city (what also could be about himself) that: “Difficult circumstance, when own reflection not how you see yourself, but how you see others.” with the grid panels in place.

        By no means an essential tale, but still a really good one. Just as I think Minutemen is.

        I actually think the Comedian and Silk Spectre book somewhat makes each of the characters in watchmen better. Laurie’s relationship with her mum being more than a few words back and forth at first and making it even harder not to feel sorry for Blake and in the same time to dislike him even more hehe!

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I’d agree that Silk Spectre’s book actually adds some depth to her character on the whole, the other books — well, can’t say I found any of them essential, even in Minutemen was at least, on the whole, pretty good. As for the Ozymandias/JFK thing, if you’ll recall he becomes obsessed with researching Kennedy’s assassination (one of many obsessions he quickly discards in Wein’s lame scripts) and drops it when he come to the conclusion that Oswald did, indeed, act alone. Somehow that fits the bill for a series as unambitious and lethargic as BW : Ozymandias was.

      • Carl says:

        Neither Straczynski or Wein seem to have bothered that much with the task in hand…

        Seriously, take a look at this: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/01/29/len-wein-the-outer-limits-and-rewriting-watchmen/

        Imagine if Len Wein wrote Rorschach. Kovacs would probably be watching Mad Max for days before handing Gerald Anthony Grice a hacksaw in the burning house.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Funny how Wein states that Moore didn’t “care” enough to come up with a more original ending, yet he’s willing to write a story that does nothing but rehash, often word-for-word, stuff that appeared in the original Watchmen series himself.

      • carl says:

        Cooke http://www.avclub.com/articles/writerartist-darwyn-cooke-talks-before-watchmen-an,82247/
        “I certainly expected people to have an opinion about whether this beloved material should be explored any further, and I believe that that’s a question, but it’s also a challenge that I’m happy to meet”

        and Azzarello http://www.newsarama.com/9398-brian-azzarello-talks-before-watchmen-after-the-controversy.html
        “I’m writing to make a cohesive story on its own. If you’re read Watchmen, great. If you haven’t, you should. ”

        Brian and Darwyn sounds a bit more sound in their approach. Both shows a great respect for the orgin. book, and says they tried the best they could with a project someone else would do if they didn’t.

        I’m looking forward to each one of their books. Not to mention tomorrow sees the release of Wonder woman 21 and 100Bullets (one of the absolutely best stories ever told) Brother Lono #1.

        By the way. Seen Dredd? Not the Stallone one, but Karl Urban and Olivia Thirbly’s version. I couldn’t recommend it enough!

        Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=225Glg5CoVY Perfect mix of b-movie glory (think J.Carpenter movies) and Blade Runner class sci fi. Also a very intelligent and sad (almost as The road) that’s great to discuss.

        And if you like the character I’d totally recommend the books America, Origins, Tour of Duty (p1,p2) and Day of Chaos (p1, and p2 out later in July).

        Also IDW’s reissues of bloc mania/apocalypse war (a recommended read for Day in Chaos) in color starts next mont), their ongoing Dredd Year 1 and upcomming Dredd vs Mars Attacks are also recommended. Stay away from their “own” Dredd, that mostly feels like a saturday morning cartoon compared to the other stuff.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I absolutely loved Dredd! Best comic flick of the last several years. I saw in in 3D in the theater and the effects were amazing, Urban’s perfect as Dredd, and the story fit the tone of the comics exactly.

      • carl says:

        Great to hear ye liked it. I think it’s soo good it almost feels like I owe the film makers that I spread the message how great it is.

        I especially like that it’s as hard on it’s subjects as the book is. You never feel that it tries to make Dredd a hero or a villain, he just is what he is. And I can’t stress enough how much I love Anderson in the film. Such a good character! Her first execution followed by the scene where she meets with the man’s woman… Heart breaking stuff.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Yeah, it functioned well both an an introductory piece to the characters for people who may not be familiar with them, and a long-time fan’s dream of exactly how a Judge Dredd movie should be done.

  3. Tom w says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your reviews, and as far as I know you’re one of the few who’s stuck with it and covered every single comic in the line. I agreed with your displeasure at their existence and the ethical issues, but there was still that curiosity and the quality of the teams working on the books that made me wonder whether a couple of them could triumph over the odds and make themselves essential. It doesn’t look like any of them managed it. On the face of it Comedian has a strong journey from Kennedy to Kennedy, how the 60s worked in reverse on Edward Blake, but in practice it seems to be one long fumble. Like the whole project. Thanks for sticking with them and keeping me informed. (I like the movie reviews too, though I’d never watch any of them; don’t like horror and barely watch a movie a month…)

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      Thanks for the kind words, I do intend to stick with reviewing comics here when the mood strikes me — this will always primarily be a movie review site, but comics are a big part of my life, and opinionated bastard that I am, I can’t keep my mouth shut when I read something especially good or especially bad, so even though Beofore Watchmen is all over, I hope you’ll stop back from time to time to see if I’ve posted more comic reviews.

      The shady ethics of Before Watchmen are dommed to plague any discussion of it, natrually, and DC have only themselves to blame for that.But it’s the overall lack of vision for any of these projects that makes them a creative, as well as moral, swamp. A couple of the series were alright, sure — Minutemen and Silk Spectre are both definitely worth a read — but you would at the very least hope, if not downright expect, that if DC were going to go to the trouble of causing the shit-storm they have over the publications of these things, that at the very least they’d make sure the books carried on the tradition inherent in the Watchmen name of providing challening, multi-textual, highly imaginative, even dare I say “game-changing” reading. They didn’t. They were satisfied with doing nothing more than churning out standard prequel fare, and the result is a project that gradually lost the interest of most of the comics world well before it was over, unlike Watchmen proper, which gained steam and momentum — and added sales — with each issue as time wore on.Somethign tells me that in 20 years we’ll probably still be talking about Watchmen, but these prequels will be a largely forgotten sidebar of comics history.

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