Rorschach stomps, kicks, punches, and brawls his way through a litany of the type of criminals that populate 1970s crime dramas like Taxi Driver (1976), Death Wish (1974), and Dirty Harry (1971). He busts through doors at peep show private rooms where perps sit with their pants down while shooting up. He stalks streets where hookers (that look too attractive to be handling the low end of the streets and clientele) perform sex acts in alleyways and pay their pimps and buy their drugs in front of movie theatre marquees that blare porn movie titles. Rorschach is lead, literally, into the sewers by some criminals who have set them up where he faces off against a villain who looks like Jigsaw of The Punisher War Zone (2008) fame. He's beat nearly senseless, after which the Jigsaw lookalike cruises Manhattan in the biggest 1970 model Cadillac ever made. Meanwhile...a truly deranged killer with a cutting fetish and a taste for beautiful women stalks the streets. Welcome to Before Watchmen, Rorschach style.
The beautiful looking, but mostly uninspiring, Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1, really does look like it was lifted from the most violent and gritty crime dramas of the 1970s. It's fitting since the story takes place in 1977 New York. The tone and look of the book fits Rorschach's mentality and characterization perfectly. Azzarello exposes us to the street level world of the Watchmen Universe, and it's darker, dirtier, and more explicit than anything that we've seen in any Daredevil comic from (and set in) a similar time (that was supposed to be being turned into a film recently). As far as developing any new insights into Rorschach as a person and vigilante though, Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1 doesn't deliver. The story is just getting started though. Azzarello is a brilliant writer and when Rorschach is forced to confront the crazed (most likely serial) killer over the course of the next few issues, I'm sure that Azzarello will have something spectacular in store for us.
Lee Bermejo's art is near flawless, as usual. The grime and slime (metaphorically) of 1970s crime is masterfully recreated with excellent detail, right down to the haircut on the prostitute featured on page 4. Barbara Ciardo drenches the whole affair in the alternating bright neon and incandescent glow of the crowded New York streets and the dark and heavy air of the back streets and sewers of a hot July night in New York.
Off to a solid start, even if it isn't anything new or insightful (yet) into Watchmen's most popular character, Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1 is one of the better Watchmen prequel first issues.