Most of me wanted to avoid the Before Watchmen series of titles. First off, I think the books are completely unnecessary. Sometimes you just leave a work of fiction alone. I don’t need to know what happened to Rick after Ilsa got on the plane, I don’t need to know if Jem and Scout ever saw Boo Radley again. I don’t care if the peace between the Motagues and the Capulets was maintained. The Watchmen exists, and didn’t leave me with any unanswered questions.
Secondly, while I respect DC Comics ownership of the Watchmen characters, I also respect Alan Moore’s desires to not use his characters again. I don’t blame or hate DC Comics for doing it, but by the same token, I don’t respect it enough that I felt the need to reward them with money. There are plenty of good comic books out there that I respect, and maybe when I’ve read ALL of them, I can read works that I don’t respect as much.
And third, while I like Watchmen, I don’t have the reverence for it that everyone else does. It’s a good work, and I’ve read it about five times cover to cover. But there are other series I like better and I think are better written. However, I am a comic book reviewer for the Comic Nexus, and we all decided to take turns reviewing the Before Watchmen titles. So I had to gear up and be a professional.
To make my job easier, I took one of the titles that was being written by one of my favorite writers of all time, Brian Azzarello. Ladies and gentlemen, Comedian #1. 1
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: J.G. Jones
Release Date: 06/20/2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)
For those of you who don’t know, The Comedian is a super-hero in the Watchmen Universe. He was killed at the beginning of the novel. The Comedian’s real name is Edward Blake. His story spans the generations of superheroes that are shown in the novel.
The Comedian is based on the character of The Peacemaker from Charlton Comics. He is a war-like mercenary who is very cynical and confrontational. In the original work, he is pretty unlikeable especially as he tries to rape Sally Jupiter in one of the first chapters of the story. The Comedian is one of two characters, Doctor Manhattan being the other, who works for the United States government after the team disbands.
Q: Did the FBI reroute The Comedian so he wouldn’t be in Dallas to save the President’s life?
Q: Did John Kennedy want Eddie to be near him as he suspected that something was going down?
Brian Azzarello must really be a John Kennedy assassination or conspiracy theory buff. This is the second time that he has used both the assassination of John Kennedy and the death of Marilyn Monroe in a comic book story.3 It does work very conveniently for comic book stories. A fixed point in time, as it were.
The story is really well done. The idea of a superhero who is playing football with the President is definitely a Normal Rockwell sort of image. One you would expect of a Superman like character (football, hot dogs, apple pie, etc.) instead of the more Nick Fury/Punisher type that is The Comedian.
Azzarello shows a very different side of Eddie Blake from The Watchmen graphic novel. But, you can imagine this series almost fitting between the ages when he was abrasive to when he became a psychopathic killer.
I thought that Azzarello could play up more that The Comedian was an employee of the government, rather than just being a superhero. It certainly is suggested in the story, but not really stated clearly.
The interplay with the Kennedy family was certainly interesting. I liked the interplay with the brothers, as it made them seem very youthful. I also liked the depiction of Jacqueline Kennedy as being a manipulator behind the scenes, knowing how to use The Comedian’s loyalty and respect towards her husband to get him to do what he wanted.
The scene with The Comedian sitting on the bed with Marilyn Monroe was very interesting. He had no sense of remorse, but there was a feeling of regret, of him looking over the scene of the dead superstar of a regret of what might have been. But as professional, he grabs a baseball (supposedly Joe DiMaggio signed) and leaves the scene.
The passage of time was very confusing in this story. Marilyn Monroe died in August of 1962, and John Kennedy in November of 1963. 4 But the book makes no suggestion that significant time has passed between the events. The book actually suggests that The Comedian is in a bar following the assassination when Kennedy contacts him.
I also did not understand how Kennedy calls him from the White House, and then he was in Dallas that same day or maybe the next. I’m not a huge fan of timeline bubbles, but here it would have been helpful.
This book was pretty good, and definitely shows Brian Azzarello in his full element: real fiction with an historical bent. He makes The Comedian into a fairly sympathetic character, and I wonder if this is a different vision of the character, or if the events in this book are going to make The Comedian who he becomes later. I wonder if the series will be a retrospective of his entire life, or a chapter in which we see an event that changes him forever.
Overall Grade: 8.5 (workman like good job from Azzarello)
1 – Please note, I’m not a Watchmen historian. I may get several facts incorrect from the graphic novel.
2 – Presumably off the coast of Massachusetts.
3 – The other time was in 100 Bullets issue #27. If you haven’t read that one, you definitely should.
4 – If the timeline in Watchmen matches that of our world, that is.