Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #2 sees Adrian get into the superhero game in earnest, first for revenge, and later because he likes it (isn’t it that way for all of us?). As with the first issue, Jae Lee‘s art steals the show, but Len Wein‘s story steps it up as well, exploring all-new material. As is the case with all the Before Watchmen books, DC‘s official description is just a quote:
“Why not just kill me now and be done with it?” And don’t miss the latest chapter of the CRIMSON CORSAIR backup epic from writer LEN WEIN and artist JOHN HIGGINS!
Adrian searches for the source of the drugs that killed Miranda, the (very brief) love of his life. In the process, he finds costumed adventuring is to his liking. This is a stroke of brilliance on Wein’s part. It’s not revenge that motivates the world’s smartest man to dress up and fight crime, but boredom. Best of all, Wein never states this specifically, but allows it to surface naturally.
The characterization is masterful, as is the plot, but some of the panel-by-panel storytelling is weaker. Through Veidt, Wein narrates a bit heavily, although even this is generally entertaining. For most of the book, Wein achieves a cultured manner of speaking befitting his genius protagonist, but occasionally his dialogue and narration are absolutely corny. That’s understandable though: writing characters who are supposedly more intelligent that any real-world person has to be incredibly difficult.
Any book with art by Jae Lee is inevitably one of the best of the week, and Ozymandias #2 is no exception. Lee’s Veidt is always kingly. Even when fighting, his gestures are regal, as befits the character. Not only does Lee elevate our main man, he simultaneously belittles all the other characters, so Veidt becomes an Olympian (or perhaps Egyptian) god, walking among mortals.
Even more drool-worthy than his pencil work are his layouts. Continuing Before Watchmen‘s use of visual motifs, each page features circular panels and items, picking up the iconography of Adrian’s headband. The flows of both action and lines are consistently circular, and John Workman even reinforces this with circular speech bubble arrangements. If there’s one problem with the art, it’s that some of the action scenes remain stiff. Lee’s lines are so precise that the figure’s details can belie their motion. However, even this deficiency is lessened from the issue one.
Ozymandias #2 is the first of the Before Watchmen books I’ve read to improve over its first issue, and based on the cliffhanger, issue three should be just as good, if not better. If you’re only reading one Before Watchmen series, Ozymandias should be it.