Written by Chris Micieli
On the surface the cover image isn’t much to get you excited. Then again, we could have a plain yellow cover, and just knowing we are about to read an entirely new ‘Watchmen’ story would be enough cause for that. You need to open the book and read the opening pages to really give this cover a fair rating. It’s the first in many attempts to mimic the original ‘Watchmen’ in both setting and tone. The opening sequence in the original comic was the classic ‘slow pan out’ of the Comedian’s bloody smiley face button. It’s as iconic as the story itself. Here, we get the slow pan out once again that starts with the close up of one of many protest signs from an angry mob that becomes more and more distant as we are given another “I’ll whisper ‘no’” moment, but it falls flat in comparison to the original.
Best Variant Issue:
Lenticular Cover. 8.5/10. A sweet lenticular that is nothing more than a close up of Rorschach’s legendary mask that when the issue is rotated switches between the usual random ink blots to the logos of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman (even if two out of three of those aren’t likely to be seen in this series).
What I Like:
The ‘Watchmen’ are back! Well, sort of. At least one of them is, for now. From the original group I mean, but there is more than just him. I have confused the hell out of you haven’t I? So let’s start slow.
First things first, the creative team absolutely nailed the feel and look of the ‘Watchmen’ series. Nine panel pages make their return! The series takes places not immediately after the original story, but some years later, so the mood and tone of the issue very much resembles that of its predecessor.
Which is also something I love. The series starts with the general public finding out that what Ozymandias did at the end of ‘Watchmen’ was all a fake, and they aren’t too happy about it. I think this is a great jumping off point and could lead to some great background story as the series goes on.
As far as characters go, we have some fresh faces we are going to get to know very well over the course of the series. It isn’t known why they are so necessary at this point, but Adrian tasks Rorschach with breaking a character named The Marionette out of prison. Did I just say Adrian and Rorschach are working together?? Yup! The man responsible for the panic and protests around the world is working with the man who was trying to stop him in the original story. Curveball thrown for strike 1. However, this is not the Rorschach we are familiar with. No, this is an all new Rorschach. One whose identity is not revealed, and probably won’t be until deep in the series. Another curveball in for strike 2. So what is Adrian’s plan? We don’t know that yet but it involves enlisting the help of Dr. Manhattan to get the crazy world outside that he created back to some sort of normalcy. So Adrian is getting help from a faux Rorschach as well as attempting to find Dr. Manhattan and ask for his help again to save the world when he’s the one who made the world afraid of Dr. Manhattan in the first place! He even goes as far as to call him Jon! What balls on this guy! On a first name basis with the man you exiled to….wherever Dr. Manhattan went. Curve ball #3, and I’m out.
Getting back to the Marionette, she won’t leave the prison with Rorschach without her husband who is also locked up in the same prison. To say this guy is a psycho would be an insult to psycho’s. He’s a mute (or as they call him the Mime), and a ruthless killer, which makes his character an incredibly interesting one to watch. He could be the wildcard in all of this that throws plans out the window just because he is out for blood. Seriously, the man is disturbed.
What I Didn’t Like:
I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn on writing a review for a singular comic, let alone the series as a whole. ‘Watchmen’ is comic legend to people, and for DC to revisit and renew the series hovers on the verge of sacrilegious. I think what makes it difficult for me is the fact that Moore and Gibson didn’t want DC to resurrect the series. To not have the blessing of the creators of the original puts DC in a difficult position to try and make this series on par with what Moore and Gibson did. Anything less would be considered a failure and the backlash of ‘why did they bother’ will undoubtedly occur. Having said that, will it even be possible to recreate what many consider the single most important book in the history of comics. They very well might be creating something that, compared to 99% of other stories, is a hit. But when you are following the story of ‘Watchmen’ you are already climbing up a hill that might prove insurmountable.
In terms of the story itself, I found it difficult to get behind whoever this new Rorschach is. He’s not Rorschach despite the several times he says throughout the issue that he is. This is nothing new to comics. We get new versions of classic characters with different people stepping in to wear a classic outfit all the time. It’s just different when it comes to Rorschach. Maybe as the series unfolds and we get to know him more, my feelings will change. For now, I think most readers are committed to 1986 Rorschach. There is a moment when Rorschach and Adrian are in the old holding bay of the old Owlship and the Marionette realizes she is standing right next to it and asks excitedly where Nite Owl is. The image we see next is the costume of Nite Owl hanging neatly almost paying respect to the old hero. Adrian speaks up and says he has retired. As excited as I was to read this, there were moments I thought ‘maybe all of them should have stay retired.’
I also felt the writers could have done a better job making us feel like the world is really on the verge of war and unrest. We see it in the opening pages, but it is never visited again. We get a small prison riot, but that event seems like it is a completely separate event from the things happening outside. If the general public really did find out Adrian’s plan was all made up, the backlash would be much greater than what we see. With this being a 12 issue series I would like to think we will get a much better grasp on the scale of how much the world is going down the drain than we get here.
I know I said I wasn’t that attached or crazy about this new Rorschach yet, but you can’t deny how goosebump chilling it is the moment we first see him in the issue. The first handful of pages are just like the original in that we are getting a voice over of the events happening around the world by Rorschach himself (and I’m sure we all read them in that Rorschach like voice), but we never actually see him. The writers made it a point to make his first reveal a special one. Real Rorschach or not, it was awesome.
Sooo…Superman has nightmares. I feel awful for him. If you want to say look at the bigger picture and his nightmares are just beginning with Dr. Manhattan lurking somewhere in this series, ok fine. That’s not what we are presented with here. He had a nightmare about his parents dying. I would think most people who lost their parents have, and my question would be what is wrong with Superman in that he HASN’T had any nightmares about his parents dying until now. Suppressing memories much Clark?
What I’m Looking Forward Too:
Ok, it might look like I’m not all that impressed with issue #1 of 12, and truth be told I’m not. Am I totally giving up on the series? That would be an emphatic no. Believe it or not, this early in the game I still am trusting DC to do what is right with the series. They have enlisted their ‘A’ team in Johns and Frank that I think can make this into another classic series. Right now it’s just all too nostalgic for me to get behind a new ‘Watchmen’ saga when the original was nothing short of perfect. You can tell this series is going to be of the ‘slow burn’ type and I do feel like by the end I’ll have made a place in my soul for this new series. They just have to prove their worth.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how Superman fits into all of this. At times, I forgot he was even apart of the series. It’s not till the issue’s final pages he is given a storyline, and by then I almost didn’t care to see him and start the beginning of another story.
Dr. Manhattan, we need you to save us again.