REVIEW: Before Watchmen – The Comedian #1 (of 6)

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Or – “I Just Realized That He Was  Always Dead In The Original…”

The death of Edward Blake in the original Watchmen is the moment that catalyzes the story into action, and it is he who most represents the complicated mix of positive and negative traits that make all of Watchmen’s characters so fascinating.  Major Spoilers has the review of his new miniseries, can it keep up the goodwill earned by the first two Before Watchmen #1s?

BEFORE WATCHMEN: THE COMEDIAN #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: J.G. Jones
Cover Artist(s): Eduardo Risso/Jim Lee with Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair/J.G. Jones
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Clem Robins
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on Before Watchmen: The Comedian: Eddie Blake is a hero with feet of clay, who as a young hero was a brutal thug, aging into an amoral killer and cynic.  If the memories of Jon Osterman, Daniel Dreiberg and Adrian Veidt are to be believed, The Comedian trusted no one, believed in nothing, and had no inhibitions to speak of.  But the truth of a man’s heart (which Jud will testify is stonier) can never been fully understood second-hand.

HISTORY’S MYSTERIES…

In the first five pages of this issue, Azzarello and Jones make it clear to me that the streak of engaging, quality stories from Before Watchmen hasn’t broken yet.  The book starts with Eddie Blake, circa 1962, in bed with a shapely young woman, thinking about his life and the things that brought him to where he is.  The issue is an interesting piece of alternate history, as Blake and his friends (Jack, Teddy and Bobby, as well as Jack’s wife Jackie) play a little football and chew the fat.  In the original Watchmen story, it was established that The Comedian became a government agent/assassin, but seeing him casually spending time with The President and his family (yes, that Jack, Teddy, Bobby and Jackie) is both startling and fascinating.  The conversation between Comedian and First Lady is well-done from all fronts, managing to be subtle and pointed at the same time, and leading us back to Eddie’s then present-day life and the identity of the super-attractive blonde in his bed.  (Hint: Elton John sang a ballad about her tragic life.  No, not Princess Diana…)

WHERE WERE YOU?

Sometime later (based on the accurate references to the 1963 NFL season,) we see Eddie being sent on a mission by the Director of the FBI himself, only to end up in the headquarters of Moloch the Mystic, himself a key player in the conspiracy building up to Watchmen.  There are hints of a conspiracy here, and an unanswered question from Watchmen itself (Blake’s joking about where he was on November 23rd 1963) is answered in dramatic fashion.  The issue ends with Moloch and Comedian sharing a bottle and a quiet moment of human emotion together, something that foreshadows their future interactions from Watchmen.  Chapter 3 of ‘Curse of the Crimson Corsair’ rounds out the issue, as the story starts to coalesce around a young seaman named McLachlan before sending him to a seemingly bitter end.  This chapter felt less rushed than the first two, but it’s still maddening to parse out a story in two-page chunks like this, no matter how well written or well-drawn.

THE VERDICT: VERY INTRIGUING.

Interestingly, Eddie Blake’s story is rendered in a much-more photorealistic way than Silk Spectre’s or Hollis Mason’s, which fits the character well.  The use of real historical figures (or at least the implication of them) makes the story feel more immediate for me, tying it to a specific place and time as successfully as Watchmen itself is locked into the mid-80s. The art throughout the issue is very well-done, with subtlety in detail (the appearance of a Joe DiMaggio autograph, for instance) and great facial expressions throughout the issue.  Before Watchmen: The Comedian #1 continues DC’s streak of well-crafted and thought-out issues, and even though part of me didn’t think when this project was announced that these stories were necessary, I want to read more about Eddie Blake, as this issue earns 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★½