Saturday, July 7, 2012

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jae Lee
Company: DC Comics

Always thinking. Always cold and distant. Always willing to do what others are not. These are the bits and pieces that make up the character of Adrian Veidt, better known in the superhero community as the great Ozymandias. This mini series, right there with the Dr. Manhattan one that is schedule to hit shelves in about a month, were the ones that I was the most worried about. Not that they couldn't be good, just that they were going to be the toughest sells. Truthfully, the reason for this is that during the course of Alan Moore's Watchmen, we really do get such a good feel for Ozymandias and his background that the prospect of a straight-up retelling of his origins would end up being dry and bland.

There's no getting around it, this is most definitely an expansion of his origin story, but thankfully the blandness has been thrown out of the window of a 50 story building and been replaced with an engaging tale of a child prodigy turned conqueror of the world. Right off the bat I have to talk about Jae Lee's artwork. The first thing that I ever remember reading of his were a few random issues of X-Factor back in the day. They were good, but it wasn't until he worked on Inhumans with Paul Jenkins and the always fun to remember Hellshock that I really took a liking to his style. There's a semi-static feel to the work, a more statuesque vibe, but for this project that sort of thing works. Adrian is a very cold customer and the art here conveys that notion in extreme detail.

To put it bluntly, Lee's artwork is beautiful. I could say that there are a few instances where the backgrounds make locations look like something out of his Dark Tower books, but for the most part it's all on point. The layouts were a bit of a puzzle, as he seems to utilize circular panels in abundance rather than stick to the grid layout most of the other artists are using, but I can somewhat imagine that they might be meant to evoke the world that he was meant to rule. I don't know if that's the case or if Lee simply likes circles, but it was an off beat choice that adds something to the overall piece.

As for the story, Wein takes the direct approach. I might have liked to have seen a more off the wall approach taken to the character, something Morrisonian, especially for a specific event that becomes a catalyst for his mission in life, but I can understand the decision to be a bit more focused with this one. What the story is is an accounting done in the first person of Adrian's life and how he walked a mile in Alexander the Great's footsteps. Some of the dialogue, especially the stuff that focuses on his childhood and the kids who picked on him, feels weak. The kids themselves feel like caricatures of kids instead of feeling realistic, which is too bad. Still, Wein does a great job of capturing Adrian's more clinical nature as the character moves us through the years. It's almost as if he's reading a textbook. That sounds a bit strange and not very interesting, but it is, especially when you factor in Lee's artwork that really matches and accentuates the words.

So, while this first issue of Before Watchmen: Ozymandias certainly has a few minor problems, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. And as much ground is covered in this issue, it'll be interesting to see where this creative team takes the story.

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