Another week, another Before Watchmen #1. This time, we delve into the history of the “smartest man in the world”, Adrian Veidt, also known as Ozymandias.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1
As the final moments before Vedit’s greatest accomplishments tick away, he begins to recount his history in the event that he fails and is never heard from again. He tells the tale of his parents escaping Nazism in Europe and coming to America so he can be born here. He then goes into his childhood and how his intelligence and lack of social graces to make friends caused him to become an outcast that was bullied each day – until he mastered Kung Fu. After his parents died, Veidt decided to follow the footsteps of his hero, Alexander the Great. Upon his return, he begins to build an empire in the stock exchange and finds love. However, when that love story ends tragically, his masked adventurer life as Ozymandias is born.
Prior to this mini-series, the other stories told to this point had really felt like what this was – a collaborated effort to tell stories that existed outside Watchmen completely and totally. There were some good stories in there, like Hollis Mason’s recounting of his fellow adventurers, or Mason’s interaction with the second Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg, or the early life of the second Silk Spectre before she grew to be a jaded adult. There were a couple aspects that I felt was either pandering too much to the original story (like the almost complete retelling of the first Crimebusters meeting in Nite Owl), or tried to simply be a readjustment of a character for nothing more than what came off as shock value (like Comedian’s soft spot for the Kennedys or Jackie Kennedy’s desire to have Marilyn Monroe offed).
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, this story seems to really belong with the original Watchmen story. We knew the thought process behind Veidt wanting to kill so many in order to bring a greater peace to the world. We knew his obsession with Alexander the Great. We really didn’t know much about his earliest youth or a great deal about what brought him into being Ozymandias. Some might say that perhaps it’s best we don’t know absolutely everything about Veidt’s background because it, ultimately, isn’t as important as what we already knew, but I can’t think of a better person to tell this story than Watchmen’s original editor, Len Wein.
Wein is someone who has an inside track on how Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons told the original. As important as Adrian Veidt was to the original story, we really didn’t know much aout him. In some ways, you could say he was kind of like Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars saga. We know important moments of the character’s life, but if we were to learn more, what’s truly important to learn? Unlike Darth Vader, these characters haven’t been used in other canonical aspects, so Veidt’s importance to the entire world of Watchmen is limited to what others have said about him, what he told us himself, and what we see play out over the final issues of the story.
All this leads to the potential trap in which Wein could have fallen into… A great literary character should be one that you are constantly debating motives or actions. It’s someone who does something that can be read from several philosophical angles and could be a subject of theses and scholarly papers. Adrian Veidt is one of these characters. We don’t question the way Rorschach goes about doling out justice, or Nite Owl’s sexual inefficiency, or Dr. Manhattan’s coldness toward humanity. When Watchmen is said and done, it all boils down to whether or not Veidt was correct in his thinking and what did others do from that point forward.
Wein isn’t changing this with this first issue. We can still look at his upbringing or his life in general and draw lines that intersect with, or parallel, his ideology when the greater story is completed. The only thing that Wein adds is the character Miranda as Veidt’s love interest. Veidt’s true sexuality was called into question by Rorschach once, but it seemed to be almost a throw away opinion of a ultra-conservative who couldn’t possibly understand Veidt’s mental capacity or why there never seemed to be a woman around. We do see in this a brief, and pretty well suggestive, scene in which Veidt may have had affairs with men, but by the end of this book, we see Veidt’s motives change based on a love he had with a woman. This ending the way it did, with Miranda overdosing on drugs she got from the Moloch, angers Veidt into becoming a masked hero even though it would appear he’s taking his anger out on crime based on her stupidity. This proves to be somewhat of a different angle seen from the world’s smartest man.
Where Wein really triumphs with this story is not trying to connect two points in time. No, instead he fills in the story by adding things that we weren’t shown before without really trying to bring any revelation to anything. Unlike the Comedian tale, there’s no grand scheme to punch us in the brain and shake our understanding of this character. That’s when a project like this works. There’s no need to add that sort of thing to any of these books. Instead, Wein just tells the story without us needing to either slap our forehead and exclaim, “OH! Now that’s something we should have seen before!” or scratch our heads while wondering why the hell something was added to completely change our perception of the character.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Double dose of great Len Wein works between the main story and the Crimson Corsair story. No real attempt to shake our understanding, but instead just a solid story about one of the more interesting characters in comic book history. As expected, Jae Lee’s art is haunting and gorgeous.||None.|