REVIEW: Before Watchmen – Ozymandias #1 (of 6)

by

Or – “Not Pronounced Ozzie Davis…”

Of all the characters in the original Watchmen story, none is quite as complicated and fascinating as Adrian Veidt, a self-made man who does the unthinkable in the name of the greater good.  What insight will his solo series bring to the mind of the world’s smartest man?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS #1
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jae Lee
Cover Artist(s): Phil Jiminez with Romulo Fajardo, Jr./Jim Lee with Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair/Jae Lee
Letterer: John Workman
Colorist: June Chung
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Before Watchmen: Ozymandias:  Adrian Veidt is a study in contrasts.  He gave up his family fortune, only to earn one of his own.  He is a rational man whose life is shaped by a spiritual experience in the desert.  He fought evil as a superhero, but eventually found it better to market his alter ego and use the money to fund larger efforts to improve the world.  Oh, yeah…  He also killed millions of people in an attempt to save BILLIONS.  So, what’s going on inside that immensely contradictory blonde head?

THE FIRST PROBLEM.

So, before we get rolling here, I have to say one thing: I do not care for Jae Lee’s art, going all the way back to the days of Youngblood: Strikefile.  The new cover style that he has been using on Dark Tower and Wolverine strikes me as unpleasant and somehow greasy, and from the very first solicits, I expected this would be the book I was most fragmented about, since Len Wein is an awesome writer.  Thankfully, the art is much less of an issue than I had worried, whether due to the coloring or a conscious choice by the artist, and I wasn’t really aware of the art by the time the story gets rolling.  This issue is told in flashback by Veidt on October 11th, the day BEFORE the first panel of Watchmen, as he discusses putting his plan to save the world in motion.  If anything, Lee’s unorthodox art style helps to separate the flashbacks to the 1940′s from the story of Watchmen proper, and Wein manages to capture the voice of Ozymandias well.  This issue expands on what we already know of his origin, but adds in a tiny tinge of Batman to the Peter Cannon origins briefly touched on in the original text.

LOTS OF BLASTED HEATHS, LOTS OF GNARLED BRANCHES.

I found some fascination in the layouts of this issue, using circular and semi-circular panels to great effect throughout the flashback portions of the issue, while Wein gives us some foreshadowing to what Adrian would become, inserting a love interest named Miranda (who, I’ll admit it, is beautifully drawn in every panel) who ends up driving Veidt to take up the name and costume of Ozymandias for the first time in what ends up being the weakest part of the issue.  There is a fleeting appearance by Moloch, fulfilling his role as the only villain in the universe well, and the issue ends with Adrian setting off for the first time as a costumed mystery man.  On the plus side, there’s some dialogue that indicates that his intention was only to use the fad set by Hooded Justice and Nite-Owl to further his own ends, but Veidt’s costume looks incredibly out of place in a Golden Age context, and while I like the story here, it seems to pull Adrian Veidt down somehow, miring him in a purely superhero context.  The latest chapter of The Crimson Corsair is notable as well for finally tapping into the ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’ vein that I’m sure it was designed to evoke, and even gets in a little action in it’s two page micro-installment…

THE VERDICT: INTERESTING, BUT NOT MY FAVORITE WORK…

My initial assessment that this would be my least favorite of the Before Watchmen project may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that doesn’t mean this issue is a bad one.  Lee does some lovely work (especially the first two pages, where Adrian and Bubastis brood in the Fortress of Bastardtude) and all the pages featuring Miranda, and Len Wein gets the tone right enough that I believe this is the same Ozymandias seen in the original book.  Some of his complexities seem to be smoothed down, and his matter-of-fact acceptance of violence throughout the book seem like the creators may be trying a bit hard to establish him as a man for whom the end always justified the means, but it’s overall an interesting look into the mind of the character.  Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 doesn’t quite make me like it as much as the Silk Spectre or Comedian #1s, but it hangs together well enough to earn 3 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★☆☆