Written by Brian Azzarello. Drawn by Lee Bermejo. Colored by Barbara Ciardo.
Competently handled and fittingly sleazy crime drama. I rate it three hooves out of four, but Watchmen purists may wretch.
As interesting and flawed Watchmen’s ink-blotted masked man is, I hold no significant attachment to the character. He embodies Ditko-esque philosophy and Jackie Earl Haley made an incredible performance with him in the movie. My appeal for Watchmen was the overall atmosphere and how subversive the characters could get thanks to the mind of Alan Moore and the pen of Dave Gibbons.
This version of Rorschach, living in 1977 New York City and still delusional, is generally consistent with what I recall of the character. I would think Rorschach would prefer handwritten instead of typewritten notes and this issue also shows how Rorschach seeking medical aid by breaking in to a drug store. Unsurprisingly, this is the same guy who could get dirty in his mission to fight crime and reveals his deep issues with his mother.
Here in Before Watchmen is Rorschach being the scariest man in the streets always getting rough in pursuit of a killer. Rorschach dishes it out and takes brutal blows yet yields not against his perceived targets of evil. His nemesis, a man with severe facial scars, is the key character to watch this series. Meanwhile, the police are searching for “the Bard” who carves bizarre poetry onto a dead female victim lying in the dumpster.
The interior pages are composed away from Gibbons’ familiar 9-panel structure. Regardless, artist Bermejo visualizes the scummy, unpleasant atmosphere of 70s New York. The art is as “grim and gritty” as can be and I’m fine with that. However, Rorschach’s signature mask doesn’t stand out as much as I expected. While Azzarello’s plot may be holding back certain familiar elements, such as Dan “Nite Owl” Dreiberg, said plot sets the tone for Rorschach’s uneasy battle with the underworld.
Until I can read the next issues, I’ll withhold my opinion of whether this Rorschach is truly worthy of the original series or even the movie. For now, Azzarello and Bermejo have crafted something decent.
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