Drew Patrick and Peter are discussing Ozymandias 2, originally released August 8th, 2012. Ozymandias is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates). Drew: Patrick: Surprise! It’s actually going to be me taking lead on Ozy today. Drew had both his copy of Ozymandias and his computer stolen today. And that’s enough to make me want to put on an old Halloween costume and take to the streets for some righteous vengeance. And while I don’t plan on that leading to a life of crime fighting, there’s really no saying where life will take me, and which sources I will draw upon for inspiration. Whatever the case, I just hope it will be consistently rendered in breathtaking beauty (because otherwise, what’s the point?).
If issue number 1 can be considered “How Adrian Veidt Became Ozymandias,” then issue 2 is “How Ozymandias Became Ozymandias.” The story here is presented in the same writing-it-in-my-journal format as the previous issue. The very first time Adrian donned the yellow and purple, he was out looking for information that would lead him back to the man who supplied his late-girlfriend with the drugs that killed her. He does half the detective work in costume, and half out, eventually tailing a thug back to Porcini’s drug-factory / abandoned warehouse. While Ozymandias is severely outgunned and outnumbered, he strips the scene down to all possible conclusions and enacts his moves necessary to trigger the most favorable outcome. To Veidt, a room full of armed guards, cocaine and one drug lord is a multitude of Rue Goldberg machines, you just need to know which domino to set in motion first.
When he gets clear of that adventure, his predictive skills reach out a little further: what is the life of the costumed hero? After a little too much depressing research at his local library, Veidt decides he needs to do whatever he can to escape the mistakes of those that came before him, and he seeks out Hooded Justice. The clues lead him to the waterfront, where he realizes he’s not the only cape out there hunting down HJ – Ozymandias has competition in the form of the Comedian.
The critical consensus around these parts was that issue 1 told kind of a lackluster story but that the mind-blowing art justified the book all the same. You can make a similar argument about this issue and not be totally wrong. But probing a little deeper – some interesting patterns are starting to emerge. Veidt was obsessed with following the trail of Alexander, and that’s part of what inspires him to live up to his potential, but he is also inspired here by non-ancient heroes. By looking into the more recent past, Veidt hopes to inform his own future and avoid the same mistakes. He reaches into the past to secure a better future. The groundwork is being laid for Veidt’s special brand of hyper-detached justice.
And that’s where I think this issue finds value not found in the previous. The challenge laid out by this miniseries is to explore the motivations of a man capable of executing the devious plot at the heart of Watchmen. The original material keeps a respectful distance from Veidt’s psyche, instead making him an instrument of cold, passionless logic. It’s that depiction of Ozy as logic-incarnate that had me squirming a little bit toward the beginning of this issue. The very fact that he mourned the loss of his lady-love rubbed me the wrong way. Further, the fact that it motivated him to costumed vigilantism seemed trite to the point of embarrassment. But the story that Len Wein weaves here quickly turns from one about a man seeking revenge to that of a man working out the ultimate puzzle. Veidt doesn’t like to editorialize, but he does have to admit that when he puts his marvelous room-clearing plans into effect, he is having “more fun that human beings should be allowed to have…”
Artist Jae Lee obviously agrees with Ozy’s assessment here. The sequence where Ozymandias takes out all of Porcini’s guards is amazing.
The extremely limited color palette, coupled with this really interesting two-dimensional look, emphasizes the similarity to a logic puzzle. But the whole thing is so kinetic, we don’t have any boring-residue on our hands. Not only can I see why Ozy finds this activity fun and engaging, I find it fun and engaging too.
The pacing of this issue is also much improved over the previous. While that told a long meandering story that we all already knew, this focuses largely on two specific outings, which focuses the narrative. Additionally, a lot of the storytelling was done via actions and dialogue, instead of inundating the reader with voice-over boxes. There’s still a fair amount of voice-over, but more of it takes on that Batman-quality of detailing his tactics (which is objectively awesome). Actually, in terms of technique, Batman and Ozymandias have a lot in common: they both know everything there is to know about their opponents and their resources.
The problem that persists is that it’s so damn hard to get close to this character. Ozy keeps his emotional distance from the reader, which is absolutely necessary for the character. But that does make it tricky to find a peg of humanity on which to hang our hats. I’m encouraged by the appearance of The Comedian – who better to tease out your beliefs than the man who appears to have none?
Peter: I too enjoyed this issue. Like you said, Patrick, the pacing was much better, and it wasn’t nearly as scatterbrained. I found this issue — in addition to being action packed and full of fantastic art — to be a bit more introspective into Adrian.
Ozy clearly has all of the angles figured out. That’s part of being the smartest man in the world. I would argue that he already has gotten into his special brand of hyper-detached justice. He shows no emotion, no remorse; he’s cold and calculating. He even has Rain Man-esque moments.
I think that my favorite part of this whole book, other than the awesome fight scene above, is Adrian’s clear obsession with perfection. Not only his own, but his perfecting of the art of the superheroics. He wants to study the other heroes that have come before him, and make sure that he doesn’t go the way of the dodo bird. Because of his obsessions, Veidt is already focusing on the imperfections of other people, thus leading him to want to blow everyone up.
I still felt that this book is lacking a bit. The central flaw with the focus on Adrian’s early years, is that it is very narrow. There really isn’t anything being said here that we don’t already know. As books like Batman: Year One prove, there can be a great deal of entertainment in watching a hero learn the ropes and struggle with establishing their reputation. The problem is that Ozymandias by his very nature doesn’t struggle. There is no sense of danger in the book. Even Batman can impart danger to me, but Ozymandias doesn’t.
However, Wein has Veidt’s voice down pat. There is a lot to like here. Unfortunately there is more to dislike. The introduction of the Comedian was a surprise to me, since there is never any mention of these two coming into contact with one another prior to the first Crimebusters meeting. With the Comedian being a very good foil to Ozymandias, the next two issues could prove to be very interesting. This book is continuing to be a solid representation of the Adrian Veidt character, and coupled with the phenomenal art, is still going rather strong.
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