In a first for the event, not one, but two Before Watchmen series came out this week. Silk Spectre may have ended, but Ozymandias still has several issues to go. Issue #4 is particularly interesting for the look is offers at not only the Watchmen timeline, but of history in general. Here’s DC’s pull quote from the issue:
“It was somebody tidying up loose ends…”
Len Wein delivers some admirable dialogue and character work, but it feels like he’s working from a checklist. Rather than blazing new territory with Adrian’s past, he shows us things we’ve already seen. Or things we could have easily inferred from the original series. Or references things we’ve seen in other Before Watchmen books. Adrian’s involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis is a perfect example. In one panel of Dr. Manhattan #2, J. Michael Straczynski showed that Ozymandias was on hand to ensure the Crisis didn’t escalate. Wein spends several pages showing the build-up to and the aftermath of that scene, but nothing unexpected happens. That said, those pages do contain most of John F. Kennedy’s appearance in the issue, and his presence -along with Jackie, his brother Bobby, and Marilyn Monroe- is the highlight of the book.
Jae Lee’s exquisite artwork is still the main draw (pun intended) of this series, and issue #4 is one of the best yet. Not only do we open with an initially confounding, but ultimately very rewarding, splash page, but all those guest appearances are just icing on the cake. Marilyn and J.F.K. are both hypnotic to look at through the filter of Lee’s art, and the appearances by other major Watchmen players are beautiful as well. I particularly love the circular flows of action in the pages reserved for Rorschach and Silk Spectre.
Ozymandias continues to hit the necessary bullet points in the story, which may leave readers who focus on plot unsatisfied, but no one lays out a panel like Jae Lee. His art is fantastic, and worth the price of admission all by itself.