Like almost all comic series, Before Watchmen has had its hits and misses. Ozymandias has typically fallen in the middle, with excellent art from Jae Lee, but an overly cautious story from Len Wein that too often fails to break new ground, insisting on showing us events that Alan Moore was content to reference in passing. While issue five continues that pattern to an extent, there are a few welcome additions to the Watchmen mythology. The official description from DC is, as usual, just a quote, but for the life of me I can’t find it in the issue:
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
As I said, there’s once again a lot of rehashing of material, but two segments stand out. The first is Adrian’s search for a way to stop the seemingly inevitable nuclear holocaust. Wein makes the astute observation that the smartest man in the world is not necessarily the most creative. While this is undoubtedly true, it’s a bit convenient for the story, as Veidt has been shown to be plenty creative in the past. Nevertheless, his search for inspiration among science fiction books, films, and TV shows is amusing, even as it makes sense; he’s more than capable of implementing any outlandish plan, assuming he can find the right one. He ultimately settles on an episode of The Outer Limits called “The Architects of Fear,” a significant choice on Wein’s part.
The plot of “The Architects of Fear” is strikingly similar to the scheme Veidt carries out at the end of Watchmen, a fact that Moore and Wein (who edited the original series) only became aware of near the end of the series’ initial run. While Moore assuredly conceived the concept independently, he and Wein disagreed on its use, given that it had been done before. Moore ultimately moved forward as planned, but acknowledged the similarity in the series’ final issue, when narration from The Outer Limits episode is heard 0n Sally Jupiter’s television. Thus, Wein’s reveal of the episode as the germ of Veidt’s plan is, in a way, an acquittal of Moore’s use of a similar idea.
The other all-new scene features the creation of Adrian’s pet, Bubastis, whose presence is never significantly explained in the original series. In our cat-obsessed world, the image of a tiny mutant lynx is sure to please readers. Bubastis as the product of Adrian’s first attempt to create an otherworldly threat is a great source of humor in the issue, as is Adrian’s secretary Marla’s increasingly obvious exasperation with her eccentric boss.
I’ve spent four previous reviews of the Ozymandias series gushing over Jae Lee’s art. While it’s certainly still worthy of it – his layouts are especially masterful, and I particularly love the way the wings of Adrian’s chair follow the curved sides of one panel – colorist June Chung‘s work on this issue is a standout. She uses an assortment of popping primary colors, and most of the pages are dominated by a pair of contrasting colors or are themselves paired with a contrasting opposite page. Blue is especially common, played against solid yellows, reds, greens, and browns. One image of a towering blue Doctor Manhattan in front of a sinister red Vietnamese sky is excellent.
Casual fans of Watchmen may find Ozymandias #5 superfluous, but the dedicated will undoubtedly appreciate the insights and Easter eggs the issue holds. Jae Lee’s art wants for nothing and is further evidence that Before Watchmen has been an unquestionable masterpiece in terms of art, if nothing else.
Background Source on Moore, Wein, and “The Architects of Fear”: CBR
Zac Boone controls both the horizontal and the vertical. Follow him on Twitter @gingitsune23.