Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 | Roundtable review
Sat Jul 21 2012
Brent DiCrescenzo: You can't judge a comic by its cover, especially if Alex Ross or Francesco Francavilla is the featured artist.
But in the case of Before Watchmen: Comedian, the third entry in the collection of prequel miniseries, you can. Our collective knee-jerk to J.G. Jones's leather gimp mask was, "Icky." The Comedian never wears S&M gear inside, not even while murder-fucking Marilyn Monroe (more on that later), but that's nothing new for comic books. It is a bit shocking, however, that a cover of this magnitude would have a man inexplicably holding a 3/4" stogie in a 1/18" gap in his teeth. It's just bad art.
Anyway, I digress. The problems with this inevitable low-point in the Watchmen prequels carry over into the guts. Brian Azzarello's approach is akin to an Eli Roth remake of Zelig. Our "hero" cavorts with roughhousing President and Senator Kennedys and lightly flirts with a foul-mouthed Jackie. She's the one who orders the Comedian to take out Marilyn Monroe. I'm assuming Hoffa is in issue two.
The real issue is that the character of the Comedian was originally intentionally one-dimensional. He was a parody of the Punisher—who's skin deep to begin with—and overall an embodiment of comic book misogyny. He was never going to charm us on his own. I'd also like to point out that anyone interested in some great J.G. Jones work should download DC's digital exclusive Legends of the Dark Knight No. 2. Batman in space! But not as dumb as that sounds.
Web Behrens: It wasn't hard to predict that Comedian wasn't going to wow anyone. Like Brent says: That cover alone ... ! The iconic blood splatter on the top right of his face is not only poorly drawn (a man's skull, unlike a smiley-face button, is not a flat surface), it's overkill. Sheesh, it's basically the Mad magazine parody cover of Before Watchmen.
Thankfully, we never see that scene on the pages inside. And I do think that Azzarello (a Chicago writer) makes some intriguing plot choices. Alan Moore's original work strongly intimated that the Comedian killed JFK, but—spoiler alert—this prequel makes it clear that's not the case. Yet he is being set up by some other G-men, which is the germ of a potentially cracking good tale. Too bad it's about the least interesting (not to mention least likable) of the so-called Watchmen.
Side note: The only other character likely to inspire as dreadfully excessive a tale is Rorschach, who gets his own miniseries from the same writer next month. If Azz can avoid the kind of overkill there that he dabbles in here—the exact kind of ridiculousness that this cover art is guilty of—then he'll have achieved something.
BD: I had forgotten the bit about him supposedly killing JFK. I still think it's stupid, even if there was a seed for this. It's not exactly James Ellroy.
Kris Vire: I hope comics shops are placing this on the high shelves—that cover could give kids nightmares, on top of being just icky and shoddily executed. As for the story inside, there's no way a tale about the Comedian could be anything less than tacky, given the character's inborn shallowness, and the shlock-value Marilyn plot point delivers. Where you saw Zelig, Brent, I got more of a Forrest Gump vibe. Jones's art inside the book is pretty unremarkable, aside from his bizarre renditions of the Kennedy boys' faces. If the cover's a Mad magazine parody, maybe that explains why Jack, Bobby and Teddy all look like Alfred E. Neuman.
I'm mildly intrigued by Blake's "love," as the bitch-queen First Lady insists on putting it, for the Kennedy men; between this and the issue's closing scene, it seems like Azzarello might be trying to humanize the irredeemable character—a fool's errand, I'd wager.
Oh, and about that final scene: Yes, it seems Azzarello's establishing for certain that the Comedian wasn't JFK's assassin—a solid eff-you to the Zack Snyder movie, which explicitly showed the shooting in its opening credits. And maybe he's setting up the, uh, special relationship between the Comedian and Moloch. But criminy, that last panel of burly, amoral action hero and weeping supervillain holding hands in sorrow had me howling. If Comedian wanted to make me laugh, it did its job.