Reviews for Before Watchmen : Comedian/Rorschach

Library Journal Express Reviews
It's not easy to follow Alan Moore's best-selling Watchman, considered one the greatest graphic novels, but Eisner Award-winning writer Azzarello (100 Bullets) manages to bring back Moore's gritty atmosphere in this volume of stories that serve as prequels to fill in the violent, flawed characters that inhabit Moore's original--putting the Comedian next to the Kennedy boys pre- and post-Vietnam, while Rorschach hunts down a serial killer and a drug kingpin in 1970s New York City during a blackout. Illustrators Jones and Bermejo do a fantastic job with the visuals; Jones brings beauty to the grisly images of Vietnam, and Bermejo applies a layer of grime, conveying the filth of the city and Rorschach's state of mind. The result is an entertaining and introspective look at the two characters. But the author doesn't quite give fans what they desire by not bringing back the quality of the original. Verdict Azzarello's creation is not as good as its predecessor; then again, he isn't trying to be. The book succeeds in giving readers a glimpse into the backstory of two of the more violent characters in comic book history. Recommended for readers of noir, crime, and the original Watchmen, with the latter being the ones to find flaws in the stories.--Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 July #3

Having milked the Watchmen cash cow for as many deluxe editions and reissues as possible, DC takes the only avenue left: prequels. In theory, finding out what happened to Alan Moore's troubled band of antiheroes between their 1940s glory days and the novel's 1980s apocalyptic denouement (a period only sketched out by Moore) would be a golden opportunity to expand on the themes of corruption, power, idealism, and heroism. But of course Moore is nowhere to be seen, and this volume collecting the backstories of Comedian and Rorschach dearly misses his wise and cynical voice. The near-ubiquitous Azzarello provides a punchy backstory for both characters, but he glides past any opportunity for deeper understanding of them--ideally the whole point for an exercise like this. Rorschach's arc is a faithful-to-the-original trawl through late-1970s Manhattan sleaze, with him battling scumbags and pining for a girl in a very Travis Bickle way (Bickle actually makes a heavy-handed cameo appearance). The Comedian's story line follows the cigar-chomping ultra warrior through race riots, assassinations, and Vietnam war massacres, in a glib James Ellroyesque conspiratorial history mashup. All in all, a pale retread that can only glance at the original's greatness. (July)

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