And I’ll look down and whisper “No.”
Yeah, sorry that was just waaaaaay too easy. Look, here’s the deal, when I reviewed the first of the Before Watchmen books here, I made no bones about the fact that I was buying DC’s latest money grab specifically as a petty “fuck you” to that curmudgeonly hypocrite, Watchmen creator, Alan Moore. Don’t like the man. His writing is good, but it goes off the rails because he’s Alan ‘BY GOD’ Moore, and no one dares to edit him. But as a person, I think he is reprehensible, and frankly, looks like he smells like a wet dog. So, in my own little nod to chaos, I donned my Guy Fawkes mask ( I know, wrong Moore book, quit looking into things so closely) and I struck out to make my tiny little mark, to wave my flag high and flip off the establishment… the establishment in this case being Alan Moore himself, in case you can’t follow my convoluted metaphors and similes and other literary contrivances. Technically, I don’t actually buy any of my books, because I work at my local comic shop, but the intent is there.
But honestly, the books aren’t really that great.
Now, none of them are bad, per se. But so far not one of them really gives any reason for this story to be continued, or prequel-ed as the case may be. We don’t learn anything new about the characters. We don’t come away with greater understanding of why they became what they became. No secrets are revealed. No hidden motivations, no unanswered plot threads, nada. Rorschach, unfortunately, continues the trend. Basically, everyone’s favorite character from Watchmen goes looking for a new serial killer named “The Bard” and instead gets his ass kicked. In the course of the book, we get lovingly detailed art of a dead lady’s ass, some guy about to whack off, threatened anal fisting, characters tromping through sewage, and several curse words per page. I used to work at a porn store (no joke) so I am not offended by the mature rating but as a comic book clerk, I do wish DC would have stuck a warning label on this a little larger than the teeny weeny “Rated M” down by the barcode. Writer Brian Azzarello has penned such “growed up” books as Hellblazer and 100 Bullets, so his using the “eff word” as often as he does really isn’t a surprise, but the lackluster storytelling is. The story simply doesn’t engage the reader. This is RORSCHACH, man, no one is interested in him hanging out at a diner after he gets his ass kicked. We want to see him simmer with rage and disgust that the scum hurt him and dared to leave him alive. He makes a threat at the end to that effect, but honestly, it falls flat. It’s certainly no “‘None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with you. You‘re locked up in here with me.” Azzarello simply doesn’t have that unique voice of Rorschach’s down. He even attempts the infamous journal technique, and it just, sadly, seems like a poor copy.
The art by Lee Bermejo, mind you, is gorgeous. Really really gorgeous. You can see expression beneath Rorschach’s ever changing mask, his human face beneath it the face we remember from the original graphic novel and eerily perfect portrayal in the 2009 movie by Jackie Earle Haley. But the beautiful pencils and inks are unfortunately over complicated by Barbara Ciardo colors. She doesn’t seem to trust Bermejo’s light placement and figure structure and there are many places where her colors seem to almost contradict what the art says. She’s an Italian artist, and perhaps that has something to do with the heaviness of the colors, but really it seems to lessen the book. Rorschach should be done in muted tones and a limited color pallet, and the white of his mask should be a beacon in the cold black world… at least until he brings out the ruby red of a villain’s blood.
So, yeah, as much as I would like for you all to go out and buy this to spread my petty vendetta against Alan Moore, I simply don’t know who this book is for. Rorschach fans will be disappointed, and new readers just won’t find enough of a reason to care. I dunno, maybe Old Hobo Beard is right. Maybe these books simply had no business being written, because the tale was complete as it is.
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Bermejo