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Putting vigilantism under a microscope, BEFORE WATCHMEN:
RORSCHACH, DC Comics’ new prequel to Alan Moore’s classic saga (debuting
tomorrow, August 15), is a darkly gritty and terrifically edgy read.
A psychotic killer known as The Bard is loose on the mean
streets of New York City, threatening the lives of everyday women, using a
scalpel as his pen and carving poetic lines on the flesh of his murdered
victims. His enigmatic messages send a chill down the spines of the detectives
investigating the gruesome case. Enter Rorschach, the masked vigilante, the
self-appointed executioner of every criminal. Hiding behind his mottled mask,
Rorschach shows no remorse as he viciously cripples and tortures those whom he
deems to have done wrong. Heartless and brutal, he is just another rabid animal
in the neverending jungle, surrounded by savages.
Just as he was in the magnificent 100 BULLETS, author Brian
Azzarello is incredibly comfortable here writing amoral and unethical
characters. Azzarello hits some rough spots capturing Rorschach’s haunting
voice as established in Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece, but he never
strays far from the foundation; Rorschach’s opening narration comes from the
mind of a traumatized, self-destructive loner.
Azzarello is faithful to the WATCHMEN mythology, and is
especially interested in exploring the original themes. In his descent into
darkness, Rorschach accepts that he can never get out of his personal hell.
Because he chooses not to escape, Rorschach wants to drag everyone else,
whether innocent civilians or guilty criminals, deep into his hellhole.
If you enjoyed Lee Bermejo’s glossy art in BATMAN: NOEL, you
will surely appreciate his work here. His panels are quite cinematic,
especially in the opening pages. Hinting at a connection between the serial
killer and the vigilante, the Bard’s carvings are eerily similar to the black
inkblot expressions on Rorschach’s mask. When Rorschach takes a violent and
bloody beating from a group of rough gangsters, Bermejo’s illustrations are
wonderfully detailed in their muscular poses; at one point, the images are
upside down, as seen from Rorschach’s point of view. Barbara Ciardo’s colors
are exceptionally vibrant, bringing ’70s New York to life. In the opening
splash page, there is an epic bird’s-eye view of a city in trouble, succumbing
to its decadence, and Ciardo's lively colors enrich the pages as Rorschach
stalks a drug dealer across peep shows and porn shops.
A promising introduction, BEFORE WATCHMEN: RORSCHACH #1 is a
solid revenge thriller. By the time readers reach the last page, they will
undoubtedly be wanting more. If the remainder of this miniseries stays focused
on the connections between Rorschach and The Bard, this could be a standout.
RORSCHACH is just one of seven interconnected BEFORE WATCHMEN prequel
miniseries; just as in the original WATCHMEN, there is a bigger picture
involved here. Readers will be missing out on the grand scale if they skip an
issue, and the other installments, such as Darwyn Cooke/Amanda Conner’s SILK
SPECTRE and Azzarello/J.G. Jones’ COMEDIAN, are also recommended. For more
information on the complete BEFORE WATCHMEN prequel catalog, go to DC’s
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