New comic on stands this week, Black Label on cover. Major Spoilers review of Rorschach #1 from DC Comics awaits. Hurm.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics Black Label
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Previously in Rorschach: It’s been 35 years since Ozymandias dropped a giant interdimensional squid on New York City, killing thousands and destroying the public’s trust in heroes once and for all. And since that time, one figure in a fedora, mask, and trench coat has become a divisive culture icon. So what does it mean when Rorschach reappears as an assassin trying to kill a candidate running against President Robert Redford? Who is the man behind the mask, and why is he acting this way?
ACT ONE: AN EXECUTION
Thirty-five years after the events of ‘Watchmen’ ended with Walter Kovacs blown to atoms and his conspiracy journal in the hands of a young man named Seymour, someone in a Rorschach costume is killed by the Secret Service while targeting a presidential candidate. The investigating officers have a number of unanswered questions: How did the killer get in? Who is he? Who is his young female accomplice? The bodies in the morgue give up a little bit, but the man in Rorschach’s costume seems to be in his 80s, while his friend has some hastily and unprofessionally stitched bullet wounds in her arm. The narrative weaves back-and-forth from the present to the moments leading up to the death, including the brutal murder of three police officers by “Rorschach”, while the officers listen the tape that he carried in his pocket, adding a truly confusing wrinkle to the story. By the end of the issue, they’ve identified the man under the mask as one William Myerson, with one additional unanswered mystery: How and why does he have Walter Kovacs fingerprints?
THE ART IS APPROPRIATE (AND ALSO GOOD)
Unlike much of ‘Before Watchmen’ and the entirety of ‘Doomsday Clock’, the art here is perfectly appropriate for the Watchmen universe. Fornes doesn’t lock the issue into a nine-panel grid, but he has enough grit and realism in his work to make it feel like the same world as Dave Gibbons work (and, importantly, the recent HBO series.) The shooting that opens this issue is disturbingly well-drawn, with the rest of the issue managing to make even two cops in a lab visually interesting. There are some issues with the clarity of the script this issue, such as a moment in a hospital room that feels completely disconnected, but the tension of the story is successfully maintained throughout. King seems like the perfect candidate to examine the mind of a dangerous loner, but this issue also doesn’t focus entirely on the main character’s PTSD, a nice change of pace from his most recent DC work This issue managed to draw me in, even though I maintain vehemently that there’s no narrative reason to keep going back to this particular well.
BOTTOM LINE: SLOW, BUT STRONG
The story presented in Rorschach #1 moves slow but steady, with some really lovely art helping to move past the obscured parts of the story, with the end result being a mystery that I’m actually invested in hearing the answer to, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. The HBO ‘Watchmen’ TV show expanded the language of this universe in a way that works to the book’s advantage, making the story feel very contemporary and ultimately entertaining.
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The story that didn't need a sequel gets it's second sequel, and darned if this one doesn't work.