I don’t think that I’m the only one who was legitimately concerned about a Comedian miniseries. I mean, initially, I was skeptical of the entirety of the Before Watchmen series but a book focusing on rapist/serial killer/government assassin Edward Blake felt supremely unnecessary. He’s barely in the original book, mostly showing up in flashbacks and even then he’s not spectacularly interesting. I don’t really want to know the man I am supposed to hate. I just want to hate him.
Unfortunately, Brian Azzarello doesn’t exactly think the same thing. His work on the book seems to be intending to make readers associate with The Comedian, making us want to understand his motivations as he becomes a government attack dog, entirely bereft of morals. I’m not saying that the book is a complete failure but there’s nothing done so well that it couldn’t be found done better elsewhere.
The Comedian is one of the quintessential Alan Moore characters. An ultra-masculine, deeply unhinged sociopath focused solely on satisfying his own ends only to be destroyed by the smarter, more capable killers of the world. The purpose he serves in Watchmen mostly is as a representative of the evil we already know, the man in the guise of a hero who used his power solely to advance his own personal unhinged objectives. Moore designed him as the character we recognize but refuse to associate with.
That’s really my fundamental problem with Before Watchmen. Making Blake into a character that we are meant to see as uniquely human despite being controlled by the Kennedys isn’t something that makes him unique, it’s something that undercuts the vision of the character that Moore had. Even moreso, its a distinct difference in the character from the sociopath described in Darwyn Cooke’s excellent Minutemen #1.
There’s nothing wrong with the art in Comedian #1, although it may be a little bit pulpy for the normally realistic Watchmen series and the action sequences make Blake seem a bit too much like an actual superhero, and I liked the idea that the Comedian once had a different relationship with the government but he seems far too weak by issue’s end. As far as the timeline goes, we’re dangerously close to the beginning of Nixon’s presidency and where Watchmen begins to differ from our own timeline. Are we expecting this big of a shift of character from Blake? The ending Azzarello gives to issue 1 seems to imply that we can expect his character to entirely change to suit the one in the original book. I just want to ask, is that something we really want?