Before Watchmen Wednesday!
This is exactly what I feared when I started hearing about Before Watchmen. Len Wein is tremendously loyal to the source material, but that leads to an entire collection that feels like it could have been left on the cutting room floor. It feels like the reason why we never really saw all this history for Ozymandias is literally because we didn’t need to see it.
Other than a few pages where we see him traveling the world to hone his powers, Ozymandias spends this entire series setting up the actions we know he takes in the core Watchmen series. Do you want to see him clone sweet Bubastis? Do you want to see him actually hire the sci-fi writers and scientists he will use for his master plan? Would you like to watch him scout locations for his arctic base? If that type of minutia scratches an itch for you, then you will actually like this series. For me, I found the main plot to be tedious and unnecessary, which weakened the aspects of the book I did enjoy.
I found it interesting that Ozy had been engaging in pretty morally repugnant behavior for a long time. I always enjoyed him as an “ends justify the means” type of hero, but having him kill off his assistants and employees certainly moves him into clear criminal mastermind territory.
I also enjoyed seeing the repeated confrontations with the Comedian. These two are pretty evenly matched, so their fight scenes (narrated by our unreliable narrator Ozy). Wein does a nice job keeping it unclear if Comedian would actually have had any wins or not; Ozy claims he lost on purpose in pursuit of different goals, but there is no way for the reader to be sure.
Jae Lee’s atmospheric and ethereal artwork is an interesting choice for the series. I almost think he brings more mystery and gravitas to the scenes than they actually need. Lee has always excelled in strange locations and atmospheres, and there isn’t a ton of call for that here.
On the scale of Watchmen projects, this one is skippable. We already saw Ozymandias’ finest moments in the main series itself.