Before Watchmen – Curse of the Crimson Corsair 7-13

Today, Peter and Shelby are discussing Curse of the Crimson Corsair 7-13, originally released July 18th (in Silk Spectre 2), July 25th (in Comedian 2), August 1st (in Nite Owl 2), August 8th (in Ozymandias 2), August 15th (in Rorschach 1) August 22nd (in Dr. Manhattan 1) and August 29th, 2012 (in Minutemen 3). It is also available for free on DC’s Source Blog. Curse of the Crimson Corsair is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).

Peter: The question of ‘Why?’ has come up a lot with the Before Watchmen project. The biggest why has got to be around the Crimson Corsair story. The Crimson Corsair is really the oddest duck in the brace of ducks that is Before Watchmen. Unlike the Tales of the Black Freighter, it plays no real role in the storyline as a whole, which is a loss connection anyway, but also it just doesn’t flow like the Black Freighter did. It’s just gets 2 pages stuck on the end of each issue, and is very out of place. It’s also just difficult to keep up with, because of the way it’s published and spread out. It’s to the point for me really, where I just skip it over it.

Thankfully DC took the difficulty of reading this out of the equation and collects it all on their website.

Issue 7: Gordon McClachlan finds himself a member of the crew on the Flying Dutchmen and her captain, The Crimson Corsair, cursed to sail the seas for all time. Issue 8: Gordon doesn’t want to serve, so the Crimson Corsair outlines how Gordon can get off the boat forever. He must produce 1. a gold earring from an unborn child, 2. a tattoo from a dead man’s chest, and 3. something that will be revealed at the appropriate time. As Gordon protests the ship grabs hold of him. Issue 9: The Corsair reaches his hand inside Gordon, all Temple of Doom-style, and plucks out his immortal soul, so that Gordon will always be bound to the Dutchmen. Issue 10: Gordon wakes up on a beach, and while wondering if this was all a dream, is ambushed by a group of Frenchmen, who, since Gordon is English, decide to kill him. Issue 11: The French ‘kill’ Gordon and he drifts off into a crazed dream-style sequence. Issue 12: Gordon continues his post-death-vision-quest, examining the fate of his soul and his future. Issue 13: Gordon is still having this oddly self aware, out-of-body experience, until he is he revived in the belly of a slave ship, being nursed back to health by the slaves on board. He’s also terrified of a scary looking woman that reminds him of the snakes in his fever dream.

Ugh, that got ugly really quick. I, like everyone here at Retcon Punch, don’t particularly care about this story. I’m mostly peeved now because most of the plot is ripped out of the movie franchise, which I don’t particularly care for either. It’s not really that inspiring, or profound, nor does it really provoke any interesting thoughts. Even the Before Watchmen books I don’t really like are at least interesting to some extent, whereas is just a story, and reads like an Illustrated Classics story. Until, Issue 11, when the train runs off the tracks and we get something that reads and looks like a someone took Sandman and Crimson Corsair and shoved them together.

I guess the one thing that I do find intriguing is the constant presence of the the Crimson Corsair character throughout Gordon’s fever dream, as well as the symbolism of the two C’s placed back to back on the Corsair’s head wrap. Also, the fear that Gordon feels for the Corsair and having to serve on the Dutchman the entire time. But I’m not sure how that it is going to develop, if at all as Gordon heads off to what I assume is America with the slaves.

I have yet to meet someone who actually likes either the Tales of the Black Freighter or the Crimson Corsair. I’m sure that there is someone out there who does, and I welcome them to come out and explain to me why. I would really love to hear from that person. Unfortunately, the most often response I hear is something along the lines of ‘Because Alan Moore said so’. Which I don’t think is a justifiable claim, because, while he is good at what he does, just because his name is on it, doesn’t automatically make it the best thing I’ve ever read.  Shelby, I think you like Watchmen more than I do, how do you feel about the Black Freighter?

As I mentioned, I’m not really even reading these anymore, except for catching up to write this review. Shelby, do you get anything out of these stories? Would you want them to even tie into the greater Watchmen story more? Is Gordon, or the Crimson Corsair somehow connected to the Black Freighter?

ShelbyWell, as far as Tales of the Black Freighter,  I like the role it serves in Watchmen. As a story by itself, I don’t really care about it; it’s just a dark pirate story. But it highlights the main story in a way I can appreciate, plus it helps ground Max Shea as a contributor to the alien launched by Ozymandias. Is it necessary? Probably not. Does it interfere with my reading of Watchmen? No, not really.

Crimson Corsair is a wholly different beast. I don’t know how it could tie to any of the Before Watchmen stories because they are so varied and individual. It’s doled out in such small portions that any plot points are rendered almost meaningless, and a new cliffhanger every week is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. The writing is fine enough, I think, but again I can’t appreciate it in such small portions. The art is far too muddy for my tastes. The limbo/dream sequence is especially tough. That would be a tough concept to illustrate at all, let alone spread out over a couple weeks as an afterthought.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this title. There might be something of substance here, but there’s no getting to it when it’s told in this format. I can see the appeal to including a pirate story, in homage to the original, but I can’t see the point of this particular story. Reading it separately in big chunks makes it easier, but there’s still nothing special enough here to really grab my attention; I’ll probably just ignore them all again until I have to write another review on it, and then read them all at once. Also, think about this: we just now have basically seen a full issue of Crimson Corsair, and I still can’t remember the main character’s name without looking it up.


For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

11 comments on “Before Watchmen – Curse of the Crimson Corsair 7-13

  1. There are some pretty solid connections one can draw to Pirates of the Caribbean, which is astutely noted Peter. But I think you blow off that connection a little prematurely. One of the reasons Black Freighter even exists is because pirate comics are in vogue in the Watchmen universe. And while the same may not be true of our own universe, we sure do like pirate movies – specifically Pirates of the Caribbean. I don’t have the whole theory worked out yet… let’s put a pin in that.

    • It makes it weird, though, that Crimson Corsair doesn’t seem to exist as a comic book in the Before Watchmen universe like Black Freighter does in the Watchmen universe.

  2. New suggestion: we review the entirety of Crimson Corsair, but only in single-paragraph installments tacked onto the back of each Before Watchmen title. Let’s see how cohesive that project ends up being.

  3. I think that we need to hold off I looking at this until it is completely done. At something like 60 pages, it’s gonna end up being about an Annual-and-a-half, but I think it will be best read as one continuous story. It’ll be like a small graphic novel, like Leviathan Strikes.

  4. Glad I’m not the only one skipping these over. I “jumped ship” around the same time Len Wein stopped writing it, and I wasn’t thrilled to that point anyway. I enjoy Black Freighter in the same way that I enjoy the segments from Hollis’ book within the framework of the original story because of the story-within-a-story element that can only be realized in a comic book. With the book chapters its more obvious because it’s cross-medium and you’re changing the way you take in the story, but the pirate comic works for me too because you could only show real, illustrated comic pages as a metaphor within your media if that media was already a comic book to begin with. It’s the least part of the original story for me but I understand why it’s there, I think, which is more than I can say for Crimson Corsair. To me Crimson Corsair is just a useless, totally unrelated back-up story.

    • It’s weird how much work must be going into these pages we so flippantly refer to as “filler.” I don’t disagree – they serve no purpose, but I feel like that might be an unfortunate result of the absurd form imposed on it.

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