Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 Review
By Andy Frisk
Jun 21, 2012 - 1:07
Writer(s): Brian Azzarello
Penciller(s): J.G. Jones
Inker(s): J.G. Jones
Colourist(s): Alex Sinclair
Letterer(s): Clem Robbins
Cover Artist(s): J.G. Jones
Spoilers aplenty here so you might want to read Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 first…or not.
Edward Blake always struck me as the most extreme character of the Watchmen narrative. Yes, Rorschach is pretty extreme too, but he doesn’t exactly seem to have control of all of his mental faculties. The Comedian on the other hand…now there’s a true nihilistic extremist. Alan Moore’s metaphor for an out of control right wing agenda, one that truly has no conscious beyond its self-preserving psychopathic behavior, was as timeless as it was scary. So when accomplished scribe Brian Azzarello cozies Eddie Blake up to JFK and RFK (Teddy doesn’t get that much attention here) and has him kill Marilyn Monroe because Jackie Kennedy doesn’t like her husband’s dalliances with her, he manages to do two things: he turns the character of The Comedian on its head and sullies the character of one of the most respected First Ladies in the history of the American Presidency. If this were a tale that was meant to stand outside the continuity of Watchmen, or didn’t star Eddie Blake/The Comedian, it would be yet another controversially introspective and intelligent upending of status quo storytelling and the preconceptions of historical characters and incidents, like the Camelot of JFK and Marilyn Monroe’s death. This is supposed to be the backstory of The Comedian as he appears in Watchmen though, and as that it fails.
Ozymandias and Blake both allude to the probable fact that Eddie Blake, as The Comedian, and working for the sinister and extremist Richard Nixon of Watchmen, most likely assassinated JFK, thus fast tracking Nixon’s rise to power. It made sense, even if Moore didn’t intend it to be true. Eddie had no quarrels with killing anyone, anywhere, at any time if the act fit his existential needs (which metaphorically symbolize the military industrial complex’s sociopathic existence and motivations). Nixon was a member of the party of the complex and JFK was (at least topically) a member of the antithetical party so JFK had to go, of course. Jackie Kennedy’s suffering on that fateful day in Dallas, and her poise and command of herself and her children over the next few days inspired millions of women across America and the world. So, when Azzarello makes Eddie Blake into what is essentially another Kennedy brother, removes him from even being suspected of being JFK’s murderer, and makes Jackie into a vindictive and cold hearted killer behind the scenes, not only does he screw up The Comedian’s characterization, but he unnecessarily tramples upon the character of a pretty decent former First Lady.
Again, Before Watchmen: Comedian #1 would be some pretty interesting revisionist historical fiction/fantasy (once again demonstrating that history is just a text that can be damaged through an agenda motivated reinterpretation of its facts) if it didn’t destroy the potential it had for existing intertextually with the original Watchmen (as Before Watchmen is supposed to do), which was already a pretty interesting revisionist historical fiction/fantasy itself. As much as I like Azzarello’s work. I cannot accept his interpretation of The Comedian, which is quite accurate in some areas, but is totally ruined by his friendship with JFK.
Sadly, I now fear for the next installment, which is the one that I’ve been waiting for. My favorite character in Watchmen is Nite Owl II. I wrote an essay about him here at ComicBookBin during my early days as a comic book commentator that I still stand by. Hopefully, the character that Alan Moore built up in Nite Owl II will be reinforced by J. Michael Straczynski like Silk Spectre and the Minutemen's were by their writers, not damaged almost irreproachably as The Comedian was here.
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