Review: Before Watchmen: Moloch #1 by J. Michael Straczynski and Eduardo Risso

Before Watchmen:  Moloch #1

Published by DC Comics

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Art by Eduardo Risso

The Plot

Moloch is in prison confessing his sins to a priest, which leads to him discussing his life. Moloch has been ostracized from birth due to his strange appearance, which includes long pointy ears.  He endures constant ridicule as well as physical abuse at the hands of others.  He eventually meets up with Fantastico the Magician who teaches him tricks.  Moloch (still known as Eddie) uses magic acts in order to elevate his social standing.  A girl named Marie uses the opportunity to try and humiliate him once again, but he has other plans up his sleeve.  He leaves town and ends up in Chicago where he becomes known as Moloch the Mystic.  He finds that the life of a magician isn’t too financially rewarding and begins to get involved in the criminal underworld.  He experiences some success until he faces the Minutemen time and time again.  In prison, he begins to struggle with wanting to believe in something more.  However, when he escapes from prison each time he returns to his ways and finds nothing meaningful in it.  Everything changes for Moloch once he encounters a real superhuman and he once again searches for something more meaningful.  At the end of the comic, he finds that he may have a mysterious new benefactor.

The Breakdown

This comic does do a good job at providing a background and some actual characterizations for what was such a minor character in the Watchmen series.  The art (while not glamorous) suited the story well and provided some emotional range for Eddie/Moloch.  He is effectively portrayed as a sympathetic character who becomes involved with a lot of bad things.  He doesn’t become a figure to completely despise because his actions afterwards show that he has a genuine dislike for what he does.  He’s a bit more interesting than some of the other characters in the Watchmen universe because he doesn’t rely upon any physical attributes as does everyone else.  He utilizes his tricks and technology to fool others into doing his bidding because they believe in him.  His search for something greater was effectively done because he it started as a notion and became a genuine attempt to seek help.  It makes sense that Dr. Manhattan is the one to bring about this change.  After all one of the original points of the Watchmen was how having a superhuman would affect the real world.  Appearances by the Minutemen are always nice and it was effective at finally integrating him into the rest of the Watchmen world.  I liked his perspective on the Minutemen, which was highlighted by a snide comment made towards them.  I enjoyed the splash page with the Minutemen dropping in on him.  All in all, there were some good moments in the book.

BUT…

I literally groaned when I saw that the story was going to begin with him enduring abuse and isolation.  It wasn’t done ineffectively, but it’s been done time and time again in order to make the person seem sympathetic or at least more understandable.  Also, due to his appearance there was absolutely no one that befriended him or cared for him? I rolled my eyes at his parents going from loving him to tolerating him in the blink of an eye because of his appearance.  This series is only two issues long and almost the entire issue was dedicated to providing his early history.  There are two different ways that this series could have been structured that would’ve made it more effective.  One issue to go over the history of a character that was just a bit player in the original series and the second to tell the rest of the story doesn’t seem to be really that necessary.  I’m not against the concept of a Moloch mini by any means, but was the real purpose of this book to help ease the scheduling pressure of the other Before Watchmen books? I could be way off base, but I just feel like more could have been done to provide him with more of a story.  Also, they created some dynamic match-ups with writers and artists to show how serious they were about not making this into a cash grab.  Well I’m sure there were other options rather than using JMS to write a third book for Before Watchmen.  There was a lot of ‘t and a’ in this comic and after seeing so much in the whole Before Watchmen series I’m really starting to get tired of it.  I know that these books are intended for mature audiences, but it doesn’t have to be automatic that we get a lot of nudity.  It also limits where I can read these books as well.

Buy It, Borrow It, Shelf Read It, or Ignore It?

Shelf Read It.  I didn’t mind reading this book and I’ll probably even pick up the second issue to see what happens after the cliffhanger-ish ending.  My issue is that there could have been more done to make this series more dynamic.  Everything was so quick and it seemed more like a snapshot of his life rather than a deeper story.  This wasn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s hard to recommend a book that doesn’t seem to aspire to be as grand as the other books do.  Shelf read it at the lcs and see if you want to give it a shot or take a powder on it.

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