Before Watchmen - Ozymandias #2
Writer: Len Wein
Penciller: Jae Lee
Other info link: Here
Buying the Before Watchmen series is an expensive game, with one issue coming out almost every week. That being said for the most part it's excellent. The other part is disappointing. which issue falls into each category is entirely a matter of personal perspective as they are all boldly drawn and masterfully written. It is just a matter of tastes that separates them.
This particular issue however is an oddity to my sense of taste though. The first issue was so striking that I didn't see it's failings on the first read.
The first issue is an almost dreamlike autobiographical look at Ozymandias and his motivation for taking up his profession of masked hero. It's the autobiography of a man who's ego is so large that it skews is memory of things, as well as an intellect that remembers only the defining moments of his evolution. Because of this I could see why the artist chose to draw intricate characters against almost blank backdrops and a sense of place that would make you think of the mid 20's more than the late sixties (where the before watchmen appears to be set for the most part) but in this second issue those designed inconsistencies of place and time felt like an act of laziness more than style.
Comic books are famous for having covers that rarely give insight into the story contained within but in the case of this issue I can't see any relevance at all to the story, not even an echo of intent. It is however a very nice image that is both well realised and memorable. It's a great cover. I just wish it had a little bit of relevance to the story, just a little.
The art within is again very stylised but I quickly noticed that the use of shadowed backdrops although impressively fixing your eyes on the events of the story was boring as they became over used, if this is going to become a signature style of the comic its going to be a very visually bland experience.
There is one scene in the story where our 'hero' is shown to out maneuver a gang of drug dealing thugs by 'simply' calculating and predicting their moments, actions and results then acting accordingly. The waves of mathematics being visualised is shown well but the next two page spread is a silhouette of Ozymandias's moments and a white line showing his weapons trajectory, all housed in a neon yellow backdrop. It's very pretty but by the time I got to that moment I was already noticing the space in each panel and instead of this moment being a memorable show of power that is should have been it lost its impact almost totally.
The artist is obviously going for a specific look with this book but it is not one that I Enjoy. Each page is trying to be a piece of art on its own to reflect Ozymandias's own self obsession but as a method of story telling I find it boring to look at. This is only an opinion however and I can totally understand why people would like it.
The story is well written and the characters personality shines through with every line. His dark side and his obliviousness to it are obvious and almost understandable. He is blinded not by his own intelligence but by the lack of civilized behaviour he is seemingly surrounded with, granted he seems to seek out uncivilized people to make himself feel more civilized but he is unaware of this.
The real plot of this series begins to show in the last few pages as he begins to seek out Hooded Justice a character that we are well familiar with through the other Before watchmen titles. It's starting to look like this character is going to be the catalyst for the wider story arch in all the books and as much as I pick fault with this title I will continue to enjoy it if just to see how this shining ego makes the logical leap to the events in the Watchmen book.