BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/ CRIMSON CORSAIR (DC, 2013; Hardcover)
Collects Before Watchmen: Ozymandius Nos. 1-6, Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill No. 1, and the Crimson Corsair back-up stories from Before Watchmen: Minutemen Nos. 1-5, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre Nos. 1-4, Before Watchmen: Comedian Nos. 1-4, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl Nos. 1-3, Before Watchmen: Rorschach Nos. 1-3, Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan Nos. 1-3, and Before Watchmen: Moloch Nos. 1, 2 (cover dates August, 2012- May, 2013)
Writers: Len Wein and John Higgins (co-writer on the Crimson Corsair back-up stories)
Artists: Jae Lee (Ozymandias), John Higgins (Crimson Corsair), and Steve Rude (Dollar Bill)
Colorists: June Chung (Ozymandias), John Higgins (Crimson Corsair), and Steve Rude (Dollar Bill)
Len Wein is a true legend in this industry, and yet he never seems to get enough props. The guy's track record speaks for itself: He co-created the Swamp Thing with Bernie Wrightson. He retooled and relaunched the moribund X-Men, setting the stage in just two issues for Chris Claremont to take over and turn it into one of the biggest comic books of all time. He also co-created a little known character by the name of Wolverine. Never mind his respectable run on Spider-Man in the '70s.
In this book Wein writes Ozymandias, which is a fantastic mini-series in it's own right. It fuses elements hinted at or ever so briefly touched upon in the original Watchmen series with the handful of original developments and ideas from the film. This may make the purists wince but it makes for a great read. I love how much story Wein crams into each issue. This is definitely not one of the collected editions that you can polish off in an hour or so. No siree, this is best digested slowly over several days, the better for it to sink in.
Ozymandias' childhood and early days as a crime fighter are fascinating to witness. These are things that I have always wanted to see. You want to know something else? I'd love to see more prequels of this stuff. There are plenty of empty spaces where you could insert untold tales. As long as the talent is equal to Len Wein and Jae Lee, then why not?
The Crimson Corsair is a good story with spectacular artwork by John Higgins. I didn't sit there and compare it with the comic book that was being read in the original series, so I am not sure how it fits in with everything there. The most interesting thing about it is how the whole thing is presented in 2 page increments, giving it a serialized Sunday strip vibe. It was a back-up feature in many of the Before Watchmen comics.
The Dollar Bill one-shot once again touches on events hinted at or told in the text pages of the original series. It's a more lighthearted tale than Ozymandias' origin...at least until the end. Steve Rude does the artwork, and I would love to see him do more stuff.
So does this surpass the original series? Of course not. Does it ruin Watchmen for all time? Nope. Folks will still be talking about that series decades from now. I just think that too many folks got uptight about their sacred cow getting molested by other creators. I'd be more than willing to buy more prequels or, dare I say it, a sequel to Watchmen.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Aside from the warped paper (see below), these DC Deluxe Edition hardcovers are really nice. The image is printed on the hardback itself, with no dustjacket included.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: A variant cover gallery in the back of the book which collects the following:
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 1 Jim Lee with Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 1 Phil Jimenez with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 2 Phil Noto variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 3 Massimo Carnevale variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 4 Michael Wm. Kaluta variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 5 Jill Thompson variant cover
Before Watchmen: Ozymandius No. 6 Ryan Sook variant cover
Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill No. 1 Jim Lee with Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair variant cover
Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill No. 1 Darwyn Cooke variant cover
2 pages of Ozymandius sketches by Jae Lee
Crimson Corsair character sketches by John Higgins (1 page)
Crimson Corsair art by John Higgins (1 page)
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. This book is made in the United States, which is a huge part of the problem. I'd love to see everything made in the USA once again if the products are as good as what we get from the Chinese sweatshop printing presses. US paper mills use trees which are not allowed to cure properly once cut, which means that the trees are green when they are made into paper. The result is shitty, warped paper like the stuff found in this book. My books are all stored in a climate controlled environment, and yet this one has warped paper all over. Books made in China from virgin Amazon rainforest trees do not have this problem.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Glued binding in hardcovers this thin is not a deal breaker. The book lays reasonably flat.
Hardback cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. This has a super thick waxlike coating which is impervious to damage when handled as the product is intended. The black Beyond Watchmen band, spine, and section of equal measure on the rear cover have a different, dull texture which is really nice.