Monday, July 9, 2012

Tash's Pick Of The Week: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1

Written By Len Wein
Art By Jae Lee

Well I guess we can't complain about Before Watchmen anymore. Wait, what, we can? Oh well, this book made my jaw drop at how well written and illustrated this book was. I can imagine Alan Moore somewhere reading this book and enjoying it. Or not.

This book tells the story of Adrian Veidt, the man who would save us all by killing a few million of us. Hitler be damned. You would think this was really nothing more than an origin story but it feels like so much more. The story has Adrian and his family come to America during the height of WWII. Adrian is born in the US as his mother left Europe before giving birth. His parents have grand plans for their son. By the age of four, it's easy to tell that Adrian is bright and gifted.

After enrolling in school he scores so high on his test that his parents are called into the school. They are told that Adrian's test scores may be from cheating somehow. Once home Adrian's father lets him know that he is indeed special but for the time being he must keep a low profile. There is a cool part in the book where a very young Adrian is being bullied by a group of kids and instead of fighting back right then and there, he waits.

Adrian starts using the money that his parents give him for allowance and uses it to learn Martial Arts. After a few months of lessons he takes the school yard bullies to task. Even going as far to break the leg of the largest bully. Adrian is about to be expelled when his father offers to build the school a new library. Ah, money solves everything. At the age of 14 Adrian graduated high school and three years later winds up in Harvard. With the death of his parents (which I always suggested foul play) Adrian gives away his family's fortune and sets off to see the world.  He's fascinated by the life of Alexander The Great and decides to walk in his footsteps. While on the Black Sea Coast Adrian takes some  hashish and sees a vision of him uniting the world. His fate placed before Adrian, he returns to the states where he meets a redhead named Miranda St. John.

They begin a relationship and Adrian begins buying stock and grows his company and becomes rather wealthy in his own right. ( I always liked reading about self made men.) Miranda feels slighted by the fact that Adrian is so focused and driven and turns to drugs. But hey, it's not just any drug dealer, it's Moloch The Mystic. Wait, you mean to tell me that the only drug dealer in the Watchmen universe is Moloch. Damn this guy must be loaded with cash. Hell, with all the money he should be able to at least get Uncle Sam to look the other way.

Anyway Miranda overdoses (ain't that the way it always is). Her death greatly upsets Adrian and, with taking a cue from masked heroes of the day aka Nite Owl and Comedian, Adrian takes up an identity as a masked hero known Ozymandias. He vows to bring Miranda's killer to justice. I mean so long as he doesn't involve the law..........huh?

Well first off the writing by Len Wien is fantastic. Len had a hand in the original Watchmen serving as an editor. This book fills like it could really fit into the Watchmen trade as a backup that wasn't found until just now. Adrian is written with in a way that you really want to root for him to kill all those people in New York. You know for the greater good and all that. I haven't seen Jae Lee's work for awhile and you can tell he really took his time drawing this comic. The panel to panel layouts are not the traditional nine page grids buts they have this really awesome oval and spheres layout to it. I went back and marveled at how damn cool the pages looked . I'm convinced that only Darwyn Cooke and Len Wein should have worked on these books as writers. Amanda Connor too! But for what it's worth if you liked Watchmen at all you'll be floored by this story that is way way way way way way way way way better than expected.

-Tash Moore

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