Patrick: You can’t understand Rorschach. Sorry, it’s true. The character is designed to defy your analysis and your close reading. So why attempt to explore the character’s past in Before Watchmen? What do we stand to gain from exploring the abyss? Brian Azzarello and Lee Barmejo bring the Rorschach mini-series to a close without answering these questions, leaving us to ponder what we expected of this whole experience.
Shelby: One of the many intriguing aspects of the Watchmen universe is the view of our actual history it offers. Alan Moore took the world we lived in and tweaked it just enough to allow for caped superheroes and one very real Super Man. It’s my favorite kind of science fiction; as much as I like far-flung fantasy, I’m most affected by books and stories set in times and places I believe in, that I can personally relate to. Looper is a great example; set about 40 years in the future, the people live basically the same lives we do now, the wealthy just have nicer phones and toys. Brian Azzarello has already shown us he’s very adept at blending history into the Watchmen universe with The Comedian, and with issue 3 of Rorschach, he shows us he’s actually been doing it the whole time here as well, we just didn’t notice.
Patrick: Rorschach’s a hypocrite. I don’t know how clear that is in the original series. When you consider the costumed hero type, there’s a little bit of hypocrisy built right into the concept of “the law doesn’t apply to me.” One of the first things we see Rorschach do under Alan Moore’s pen is break a man’s fingers for essentially no reason. But Rorschach also distrusts humanity because he sees people as inherently self-interested and unwilling to help their fellow man. Moore makes this point explicit in issue #6, as Rorschach relays the story of Kitty Genovese to Dr. Long:
Kitty Genovese. Raped. Tortured. Killed. Here. In New York. Outside her own apartment building. Almost forty neighbors heard screams. Nobody did anything. Nobody called cops. Some of them even watched. Do you understand? Some of them even watched. I knew what people were then, behind all the evasions, all the self-deception. Ashamed for humanity, I went home.
But Brian Azzarello adds another layer of self-deception, this time to Rorschach himself.
Drew: Before Watchmen has a uphill battle to climb as far as justifying its existence. We’ve already gone over our reactions the the idea, but I feel compelled to reiterate my main objection: Watchmen is a singular and self-contained book, and treating it like a universe where cool stories happen or one of a series of adventures this particular group of characters had is missing the point. That said, I do like these characters, and their universe, but it’s incredibly difficult for me to tell if that means I want to spend more time with them, or if I’m simply drawn to them because of their allegorical significance. The successes of Before Watchmen have side-stepped this issue by delivering stories so outside — or even contrary to — our expectations, they really stand on their own (allowing me to ignore any potential desecrations). I was particularly impressed with Brian Azzarello’s work on Comedian 2, where he managed to find enough unclaimed space within the strictures of the character’s history to tell (or at least set-up) a compelling story, which gave me high hopes for his work here. Unfortunately, Rorschach 1 finds less room to breathe, yielding decidedly mixed results. Continue reading →