Brian Azzarello’s contributions to the Before Watchmen mythos skew closer to Darwyn Cooke’s original stories than Len Wein’s well-meaning attempts to mine old ground. That said, of Azzarello’s two books, Comedian isn’t quite as compelling.
The Comedian’s story is very tied in to the time period, with the main crux of the plot involving the Kennedy’s, Viet Nam, and the politics surrounding both. I’ll admit there were a few times that I’m sure the impact would have been a bit stronger for me if I was more familiar with the players of the time period. (For example, that is G. Gordon Liddy working with Nixon, but I just don’t know enough about him to fully appreciate the interactions.)
As a back story, this doesn’t really explain why Edward Blake is the way he is. The guy is a violent monster in this too, and there is no true “origin” story to speak of. Now, Blake clearly has some sort of break while fighting for the US Government in Viet Nam, but we don’t ever see what made Blake quite this cruel.
What is interesting is that Azzarello gives us glimpses to a Comedian that understands how far gone he really is. There are quiet moments, moments between the massacres and beatings that show that Blake is capable of feeling something besides disgust and rage. When Blake and Moloch share a drink to mourn the passing of an American icon together, it is a great humanizing scene. There are enough scenes like that peppered through the collection to make it compelling.
I’m not sure I ever understood the actual narrative, though. The story doesn’t exactly have a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, this is a glimpse into the Comedian’s life during a very destructive era. It is an illuminating glimpse, but the lack of clear plot kept me from getting more immersed in the story.
J.G. Jones does a fabulous, job, as always. One thing is certain, after seeing his take on the different Comedian costumes (like the one he wears on patrol in Viet Nam); Jones has a knack for realistic portrayal of super-hero costumes. He has a gift for celebrity faces too, but I’m afraid that the constant touch points to the real world took me out of the story a bit.
This is a FAIR comic, but not required reading. I would have liked to have seen a few other Watchmen characters too, especially Silk Spectre, considering how important the two characters are to each other’s development.