When DC Comics announced that they were going to produce more Watchmen stories without Alan Moore, it created a huge controversy. Issues such as creator’s rights and touching the holy bible of comics being the two biggest. We decided to not just give you one opinion on the first issues, but several. With a subject as broad and diverse as the comic, its characters, and the controversy behind it, we thought this was only fair. This week we look at The Comedian, issue #1.
Review: The Comedian #1 opens with Edward Blake sitting in bed late one night, a blonde bombshell asleep next to him. He's looking at a signed baseball, and having a moment, as Dion's "The Wanderer" plays over the radio. "They call me the wanderer. Yeah, the wanderer. I roam around, around, around..." The tradition of using music or dialogue from a film as a through line in Before Watchmen has never worked so well as it does here. Maybe it's because "The Wanderer" was literally the last song to play on my iPod before I pulled up at my comic shop to pick up The Comedian #1. It was an odd coincidence, but one that solidified Brian Azzarello's intentions in using the song to define the character. Most people think "The Wanderer" is all fun and games after a quick listen, but it's actually about an extreme feeling of loneliness and an inability to belong. It certainly fits Edward Blake, AKA The Comedian, to a tee, but Azzarello does us one better, and shows us a time when Blake actually had someone he cared about. The interesting thing is it's not a lost love, or an estranged child, it's JFK.
Those who've only seen the Watchmen movie might cry "But didn't The Comedian kill JFK?" The answer is no, not in the comic, but there were some hints. Azzarello gives us the answers, and inserts Blake into some serious bits of history. That blonde sleeping next to him at the beginning of the book? Well, she's not sleeping, and if you keep JFK firmly in mind you can probably guess who it is. If Minutemen #1 was a glorious love letter to what the golden age was really like, and Silk Spectre #1 was teen angst in full bloom, then The Comedian #1 was the movie your parents went to go see and left you with a sitter. This may sound slightly odd, but there's something wonderfully mature about this book, and it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise since it comes from the mind of Brian Azzerello (100 Bullets).
It's risky to insert a new character into history, and even more so when you go for the gusto and put that character smack in the middle of the Kennedy family. Some may cry foul, but the relationship between Blake and the Kennedys is put together well, and really illustrates just how lonely Blake actually is. There are a few things that aren't so great. Jackie O gets a fairly one note scene, and JG Jones' art isn't at its best. I actually think he's the right choice, and there are a few standout pages (Blake's nocturnal contemplation comes to mind), but I get the feeling this issue was a bit rushed. Overall this is yet another exceptional entry in the Before Watchmen universe. "I roam from town to town and go through life without a care, I'm as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I'm going nowhere."
Review: Well if the first two issues in the Before Watchmen series featuring Minuteman and Silk Spectre were appetizers, we’ve finally reached some meat with The Comedian #1. The character whose murder became the lightning rod for the original series takes center stage in a book set in 1962 – 1963. The Comedian was one of two superheroes (along with Dr. Manhattan) to still be sanctioned by the American Government after the rest of the heroes were banned. We get an idea of how deep The Comedian (Edward Blake) was within the government as the issue opens to him playing a game of touch football with President John F. Kennedy and his two brothers, Bobby and Ted. This seemingly innocent game speaks to just how powerful the Comedian had become.
As interesting as this scene was, even better was the next as Edward has a private conversation with Jackie Kennedy. The dialog of Brian Azzerello is brilliantly crisp as the pair finish each other’s sentences, perhaps hinting at secretive desires for both. At the center of their conversation is “that drug-addled peroxide whore” as Jackie refers to Marilyn Monroe and the danger she poses in a current relationship with a well-known mobster.
So along with your usual 1960s conspiracy theories we can now add that Blake may have had something to do with Monroe’s death by “drug overdose”. But what’s also clear is that as well entrenched as Eddie seems to be with the current power-brokers, he can be used like any other pawn.
This is the first of the Before Watchmen titles that actually felt like a Watchmen title. Not that the previous two were bad, but The Comedian has those elements of paranoia and conspiracies that made the original series so good. Easily the best of the bunch so far.
Review: Although I was under the impression that the entire BW project was going to be Darwyn Cooke’s baby, I was psyched to see Brian Azzarello at the helm for BW: COMEDIAN #1. The Comedian has always been my favorite character in the WATCHMEN canon and this ish threw me for a loop and I wound up loving the mixture of real life history with comic book lore. The Comedian has always been that likable sociopath from the original series and was played to perfection (imo) by Jeffrey Dean Anderson. But throw away the movie for this because the two have a huge conflict especially with this pre-chapter. I am a big time JFK buff so this backstory of The Comedian had me at page one and by the end it had me wishing this was more than just a one-shot. I say that because I still really have no idea how the collective writers & artists are going to be collaborating this uber-Watchmen project. So far I have just not gotten the gist.
As a huge fan of Azzarello’s 100 BULLETS, I could not help but harken back to an outstanding one-shot from years ago where an unnamed ballplayer is given the untraceable firearm to take out the men who murdered his starlet wife. Obviously they were going for DiMaggio and Marilyn in that and The Comedian’s backstory issue made me immediately think of how Azzarello’s writing can touch such a nerve so fast. He quickly snares us into the luster of Hyannisport and the Ivy League life of America’s best and brightest. In just a few frames, he shows that there are far worse men in the world than he and the things he does to get by. That The Comedian is just a cog in a far bigger machine is eerie to ponder. But it is the truth. Eddie is just a grunt in a far bigger picture of what real crime-fighting is and the actual cost of trying to change things in the worldview.
No one dressed up as a costumed vigilante will ever make the difference that a “real life hero” can. The “real life hero’s” life is far more disturbing than Eddie’s life ever could be. Far more layered with secrets and betrayal, darkness and lost souls. It is a world of disposable pieces on the chessboard of life. Eddie is just happy to be on the board. He may lurk in darker alleys than say the President of the United States where things seem clean and pristine, all blue-bloody and nice--but the truth is that The Comedian is small time. To see a real human emotion from the one character I did not think had one was an insurmountable task that I thought would never be challenged. I was wrong. And now I think I finally have some insight into what made Eddie think it was all so funny.
Grade: AReview: Oh boy. Those of you who have been patiently stoking the coals of your anger, waiting for the issue when the Watchmen prequels get their hands filthy, this may very well be it. I can't be an accident that it's on The Comedian's watch; this is far too calculated of a feather ruffling. Continuity isn't actually breached, nor is anything retconned, but you will come away from this issue with a profoundly deeper insight into Eddie Blake. However, those who are most familiar with the movie version will likely be confused (there's never a better time to read Watchmen or give it a fresh once over).
As this insight is central to this book (and likely this 6 issue miniseries), it's important to establish it boldly; which writer Brian Azzerello does with style and panache. The verbal sparing and innuendo fencing presented here is far more thrilling than the actual physical combat (which is still pretty boss). It's a testament to excellent writing and clear forethought. Musical lyrics are put to marvelous use here once again, as they where in last week's Silk Spectre #1. The song used here is "The Wanderer" (originally recorded by Dion) and I'll go on record that it's a much more effective scene here than in the previous issue.
This issue ends on a bomb shell that should serve to hook readers into riding out the whole series. I didn't see it coming and it rocked me back onto my heels. If you dig the alternate history aspects of Watchmen (or in general) or love conspiracy theories, you really can't afford to miss this six issue series. If you already hate the prequel concept to it's core, this will probably push your back further up against the wall; your flame thrower hungering to incinerate the unclean. I'm most interested in seeing where this places the folks who are riding the fence of indecision. Up until this point, the prequel issues didn't come close to rubbing elbows with the original works' continuity. This doesn't change it, but it comes close enough that we should expect more folks to join a solid side, rather than remaining in the grey.
Review: The Comedian was never my favorite character in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. His presence is ulitmately felt throughout the book in flashbacks and as his murder unravels. Much of what is told in the Watchmen deals with his backstory. What else is there to say about Eddie Blake? With that said, I found Brian Azzarello’s tale ultimately refreshing. We open with a simple innocent game of friends playing football. We discover that the Comedian, Eddie Blake, is having a care free game with the most prominent family in America, The Kennedys. A perfect, if not refreshing twist on Moore’s character. Sure we know where Blake will end up, disillusioned, depressed, and alone. Where the final joke will be on himself. Here Azzarello reveals that the Comedian’s story has a few more panels left to tell. A full story is developing here, one where the last bit of the Comedian’s innocence is truely lost. The issue’s final moments have a perfect parallel to the innocent game at the beginning. Blake’s path is truely set out before him and the ride there is one worth taking.