ART: J.G. Jones
Up until now, I could have said that I thought Brian Azzarello was one of DC's more talented writers on hand. His work on Wonder Woman has been amazing (if a little slow going), so I was very interested to see his take on the Comedian for Before Watchmen. The bad news is that it's total shit.
From the unfortunate cover art, to the ridiculous plot points and silly insinuations, Azzarello totally misses the mark, instead delivering a muddle piece of garbage that doesn't improve the character at all, or give us any real sense of narrative. J.G. Jones' cover art feature the Comedian wearing a leather gimp mask (something we've never actually seen him do before...) while holding a giant cigar between his clenched teeth. The gimp mask is just stupid looking, while the cigar doesn't make physical sense; you can't have an inch-thick cigar held by a smile - the anatomy doesn't work. Plus, the blood splatter on his head is obviously copied and pasted from the Watchmen logo - it's so shoddy that Jones doesn't even bother to revise the image to make it look like it's on a head instead of a flat surface.
And that was just the cover.
Comedian's story takes him to 1960s America where he's, apparently, good friends with the Kennedy family, taking such liberties as calling old Jack on the White House's direct line and 'taking out the trash' for a frustrated Jackie. It might be an interesting twist in character for anyone else, but Eddie Blake is supposed to be shallow and empty - that's kind of the point of his character. Comedian is an asshole, a piece of shit whose only reason for anything is for himself. No one wanted a deeper, more complex version of the Comedian, yet Azzarello tried to convince us that Eddie has some good in him and that the Kennedy's were some of the only people to see it.
It's also bad form to write JFK as such a lout. Throughout Comedian #1, John and his brothers act like pigheaded frat boys who think they can do whatever they want. I'll never ask any writer to censor history for narrative's sake, but Azzarello never met John F. Kennedy, and I'm venturing to guess he didn't do much in the way of researching the man's personal mannerisms for a comic book series. To me, it seems disrespectful and unnecessary.
And then, Azzarello does the one thing all the detractors of Before Watchmen were so worried about: he changed continuity.
Alan Moore strongly hints that the Comedian assassinated JFK through a cruel turn of events that made the weak-looking Kennedy a liability in the eyes of the US government. Zak Snyder's 2009 film adaptation explicitly shows Eddie Blake shooting the President before finishing his giant cigar. But none of this matters to a Brian Azzarello who probably said, "But what if the Comedian was framed??? Huh, guys? What if?" to an unresponsive audience. It's a stupid idea. With one page, Azzarello has managed to deconstruct the history of Watchmen while simultaneously proving the critics' point and pissing off millions of fans. And why does he do this? I guess I'll have to read Comedian #2 and see if Azzarello is intent on fucking up one of the greatest characters in comic book history. I'm also scared for the Rorschach mini-series now, knowing that Azzarello might turn our favorite detective into a news reporter or something...