Friday, August 10, 2012

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 Reaction

Ozymandias #1 is the fifth comic to come out in the Before Watchmen series.

Ozymandias #1
The comic book actually starts on October 11, 1985, during the continuity of the original Watchmen story. Ozymandias is documenting his own life in case his mission fails.
The story then goes all the way back to 1938 when Adrian's parents came to America. The sequence in which Adrian is picked on by schoolyard bullies sets the tone for the issue and, presumably, the series. After getting picked on Adrian learns martial arts and viciously maims the bully. The image with the bones sticking out of the bully's leg is truly gruesome.

As a teen, Adrian goes on a voyage to retrace the steps of Alexander of Macedonia. Along the way, the sequence with the bully is repeated, except this time it is an entire gang of thugs in a port city along the Black Sea.

This issue does a great job of painting a very clear picture of Adrian. Not only is he clearly superior to a normal human he also considers most of humanity to be beneath him. He is cool and viciously logical. To convey this sense of detachment, most of the panels are "silent" - without dialogue or even sound effects. This smartly conveys this sense of detachment from humanity.

That changes, however, when the Miranda character is introduced. Suddenly, the pages are filled with dialogue. Even though Adrian was distant and detached, it's evident from this switch that he did, indeed, care for Miranda. Which makes it odd that, with all of his intelligence, he didn't see her death coming. Once she dies, the story concludes, again, with "silent" panels heavily narrated with text boxes.

Miranda's death ultimately proves the catalyst for Adrian creating the Ozymandias persona.

Len Wein does a great job with the issue. He really nailed the character of Ozymandias, gave him a full backstory, and sets the character in a firm direction going forward. The use of "silent" panels really empowers the artist to tell the story and gives us unspoken insights into Adrian's character.

I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Jae Lee. I've tolerated his work on the Dark Tower series but for me his images are too dark, use unusually and unnecessary perspectives, and character and scene designs are all remarkably similar to one another. While these elements are certainly present here, somehow the "Jae Lee"-ness of it seems to have been toned down a bit. Sure, the tree the bully attacks Adrian under is ridiculous, just as the skyscraper under construction is. But quite a few of the pages are quite bright. And Jae Lee is simply great on page 3 - check out the shading on the Statue of Liberty.

As for the two-page Crimson Corsair backup, the teaser at the end of the last issue is revealed to be a false tease. The threat of the shark is quickly dispatched but the ending is noteworthy. Instead of a thrilling tease, Len Wein instead goes for philosophical ponderings. Alone and drifting on the open sea, the main character reflects that Hades wouldn't be eternal fire but the ocean at night.

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