Today, Michael and Shelby are discussing Ozymandias 6, originally released March 13th, 2013. Ozymandias is part of DC’s Before Watchmen prequel series. Click here for complete Before Watchmen coverage (including release dates).
Michael: What you don’t show is as important as what you do show. If a story is told well, you can thankfully take this writerly aphorism for granted. We’re free to focus on what we are shown, because it’s gripping and we care about these moments over others. The rest — the implied events — blends into the background. It might be important. It might be necessary we know about it, but it isn’t right in front of us, on the page, and that’s OK. Unless that story is Before Watchman: Ozymandias 6, then it’s not OK. Every grinding gear of a story must be on display. It’s my own fault. I crave the supplemental information and shifts in perspective — I’m just upset when it doesn’t work out.
Veidt’s master plan is entering it’s final stages and loose ends must be tied. After attending the funeral of the assistant he killed, Veidt assembles his island “film crew” — composed of scientists as well as creative-types — to make his world-crushing island clone-monster. He has everything in place — a PR strategy, a new assistant, and a desperate Moloch ready to be metastasized. Unfortunately, Blake the nosy Comedian stumbles upon Veidt’s secret island while looking for Sandinistas. When Blake finds a prototype of the squid-alien, he immediately understands the implications of what he sees and flees the island — whimpering quite a lot in Veidt’s telling — and runs to Moloch’s to sit creepily and disillusioned on his bed in that familiar scene. But now, we see that Veidt is listening — he has Moloch’s place bugged. Then Veidt displays his gift for making a big moral imperative out of everything, rationalizing endlessly to himself as he retires to his secret cave-locker to get his lucky black murdering hat. Veidt then scales Blake’s building in a needless display of skill, considering he bursts into the apartment from the hallway. As Veidt murders and justifies concurrently, he takes a moment to muse over the irony the he is the one (and not Blake I guess) tying up loose ends.
This is not a bad Ozymandias issue. It contains a lot of trademark standing and thinking as well as action-delegating to subordinates. Unfortunately, just like other Ozy issues, this one pulls back the curtain too far, revealing Veidt’s fastidious involvement with every beloved Watchman moment of every level, from the grandest act of violence to the most banal administrative task. I usually don’t mind, but I love Blake’s murder in the original Watchman. It’s perfect — inglorious and mysterious (even if you know Veidt is personally responsible). I don’t need to know the soup-to-nuts details. I like the original scene because it held back some information and allowed to appreciate the starkness of the moment. As much as I resent the meaning behind the image, I do like this meek, Molochy-looking Blake drawn by Jae Lee.
It’s not just that Veidt is ruining other Watchmen’s stories, he’s also damaging his own reputation. I used to marvel at his impossibly far-reaching influence, his prescience, his strategy. But now, it’s a lot like when concert violinists or magicians warn you that if you had any idea how often or hard they practiced the thing you enjoyed for two minutes, you would be more dismayed than impressed. Veidt has revealed too much effort to maintain any mystique.
I always assumed that Blake had to be dealt with because he was just a crazy loose cannon, not because he ran screaming from Veidt’s island and couldn’t keep it together. I could have done without that. What do you think about this supplemental telling, Shelby? Also, what of Veidt’s status-obsession? I’ll bet he only agonizes over murdering his famous friends. He probably didn’t do that for his poor assistant.
Shelby: I am both happy and sad this mini-series is finished. I am extremely happy to no longer have to read Len Wein’s pedantic retelling of a story we already know. Of all the things I would want to learn about Adrian Veidt, the details of his meeting with Max Shea is not one of them. This title has alternated between telling us details we already know (often times verbatim from Watchmen proper), and telling us mundane, extraneous details that add nothing new to the story. Veidt’s encounters with Shea and the rest of the artists and scientists on his island are a perfect example. Michael, you say that Veidt has ruined his own image by telling us too much of what’s behind the curtain, like a magic trick that you just can’t enjoy once you know the secret. I’ll go so far to say that Veidt has rendered his own story too outrageous to be believed. I’ll be honest, even in my first reading of Watchmen, I thought Veidt’s plan extremely far-fetched. The concept of a greater enemy forcing the world to call off World War III makes sense, but a fake, telepathic alien created by a team of scientists and artists who believed they were making a movie? Wein, however, has showed me the way to push that hard-to-believe situation straight into Completely Unbelieveable Land: show me the mundane details of how he did it. Am I really supposed to believe that these intelligent people can be paid to abandon their families, to clone a human brain, and assume it’s all fine, it’s for a movie? That’s fucking dumb.
My biggest problem with this title continues to be the expository narration. On the one hand, Adrian’s approach does make sense for him as a character. If there’s anyone who thinks his every minute act is so important as to be recorded for posterity, it’s going to be Adrian Veidt, especially the cold, arrogant asshole we see here. On the other hand, no matter how much sense it might make for the character, the constant exposition is so boring to read.
Honestly, anytime I realized the dialog boxes were just going to describe what I could see Adrian was doing, I didn’t even bother reading them. If Wein were writing a novel, an expository journal-style narrative would probably work well to show the character as particularly detached, but this isn’t a novel. When I have beautiful images of what is happening in the story, hundreds of unnecessary dialog boxes only get in the way.
It’s those beautiful images that make me sad this miniseries is over. While Wein’s word-for-word retelling of Adrian’s story bores and frustrates me, I would happily stare at a retelling of Watchmen as drawn by Jae Lee. Really, I would happily stare at anything as drawn by Jae Lee. I was so pleased with his interpretation of Moloch’s encounter with Eddie.
Now, that is gorgeous. We aren’t covering any new ground, but Lee has interpreted the scene in a way that is new and fresh. The silhouettes are graphic and eye-catching, and the red and blue haze calls to mind both Eddie’s costume and his perceived patriotism in his role with the U.S. government. It’s simple, elegant, and stunning: now if only it wasn’t mucked up with all those silly speech balloons…
This title has ended up on the negative side of the Before Watchmen spectrum for me. As much as I adore Lee’s work, Wein’s sluggish, expository story has left me far less than impressed. It’s a shame; Adrian Veidt is the closest thing to a villain Watchmen has got; Wein could have shown us a man tormented by his choices, a man whom I believed truly understood how “heavy the head that wears the crown.” Instead, we got nothing more than we already had; less than that, even, if you consider the coldly impersonal Veidt we see here.
I saved the post and closed my laptop with satisfaction. I knew then that finally they all would truly understand my feelings for Ozymandias. Satisfied smile still on my face, I got off the couch, brushed my teeth, and went to bed.
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?