DC Comics is publishing a number of titles under the Before Watchmen banner, which leads up to the events in the original “Watchmen.” The fifth title to premiere in the prequel series follows the wealthy Adrian Veidt and his fascination for history and antiquities, Alexander the Great, and justice.
Of all the titles in the Before Watchmen series, Issue #1 of six in the series entitled “Ozymandias” was the least compelling. Told in first person by genius Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias, the story follows his journey through childhood to his present day location at New Karnak with his genetically enhanced feline companion Bubastis. Adrian relates how his family’s wealth flourished after they fled the impending war in Europe during the late 30’s. He discusses his self improvement through the school of hard knocks by bullies, and how he trained with a martial arts instructor to become a highly formidable opponent at such a young age. A genius and prolific reader in his youth, Adrian had plans in the works even as a child. After graduating high school cum laude, he attended Harvard and majored in History with the emphasis on the brief but remarkable life of Alexander of Macedonia. Notified that his parents had died in a horrific car accident, Adrian has a chance to live a life of luxury, but instead after considerable thought, gives his inheritance away to some charities.
Making the decision to travel the world and follow in the footsteps of his namesake, Alexander of Macedonia, Adrian treks his way across the middle east, northern Africa, and Tibet. He consumes a small ball of hashish given to him by a male “acquaintance.” The experience gives him a new vision and transforms him forever. Arriving back in New York, Veidt takes what little money he has and plays the stock market. He is extremely successful and amasses a great fortune. In the process, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful and voluptuous Miranda. She is good for him and compliments Adrian’s taste in beauty, but he makes the unfortunate move to let her go out alone one evening due to his monetary ambitions. She meets the infamous villain Moloch in one of the city’s underground clubs. She is vulnerable and decides to experiment with drugs, and winds up overdosing. Her death provides the catalyst that Adrian needs to give himself purpose. He cobbles together a costume and swears to make whoever poisoned Miranda with drugs… pay. Justice will find him in the guise of Ozymandias.
This brief summary gives proper background to the unremarkable Adrian Veidt. Not one of the most classy origin stories in comics, it falls within the plot of Alan Moore’s original “Watchmen.” Adrian gave a brief history of himself in the original series, but writer Len Wein fleshes out what was only referred to in only a few passing sentences. Wein does a terrific job of showing Veidt’s narcissism with his first person storytelling approach. Other than that, Wein gives expansion to Adrian’s sexuality where he came across as a homosexual in the comics, and the point was made more apparent in the film. He is made to be more bisexual with his love of the tragic Miranda. Rorschach certainly inferred that Veidt’s sexual preference was a morality flaw. What bearing this plays in Adrian’s future, one can only wonder. Jae Lee’s artwork is done in a washed out style lending credence to the plot by appearing as a flashback. Beautifully and hauntingly drawn, it is stunning to look at and quite picturesque. Lee compliments Wein’s story and Adrian’s life perfectly.
Finally, there is an attached two-page back up story that is a continuation of “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep” (part five) story, which debuted in the first issue of “Minutemen.” The story begins on the deck of the Pendragon and follows a sailor, Mister McClachlan, who witnesses a shipmate being keelhauled for petty theft. After the horribly mutilated body of his crewmate is pulled from the water, Mister McClachlan is outraged by the orders of Captain Chane, and the lack of compassion the captain has for the dead man. He decides to gallantly take matters into his own hands and points a gun at the captain while accusing him of “Cruelty and Butchery.” Unfortunately, the Captain isn’t worried. He is saved by another member of the crew who gets the drop on Mister McClachlan by pointing a gun at his head. Mister McClachlan is tied to one of the deck cannons in order to be administered the punishment of fifty lashes before his court-martial. In the midst of being lashed, a Spanish frigate closes in on the Pendragon and attacks. The Captain is killed and the vessel is damaged. The ship lists causing the deck cannon with McClachlan tied to it to fall into the ocean. While sinking to the ocean’s bottom, McClachlan loosens his bindings and surfaces for some much needed fresh air. He discovers that the ship he was on has vanished. Apparently, a round from the frigate’s cannons had struck the powder stores and blown the Pendragon to bits. McClachlan decides to swim for it and after a time encounters a make shift raft occupied by fellow crewman Raleigh. Unfortunately, Raleigh has mysteriously perished. McClachlan casts Raleigh’s body to the briny deep. Later, McClachlan looks into the water only to see Raleigh’s face staring back at him. At that moment, Raleigh’s body breaks the surface of the sea propelled by a large Great White Shark. The shark has taken the opportunity to feast on Raleigh’s remains. When it is finished with its meal, the shark goes for Mister McClachlan. It attacks the raft. In desperation, Mister MacClachlan breaks a piece of railing off of the raft and jams the jagged piece of wood deeply into one of the shark’s eyes. The mortally wounded shark tail dances on the waves in agony, and then sinks beneath the water to succumb to its injury. McClachlan, who is exhausted by his unending ordeal collapses into a deep, deep sleep. The next installment of this story will continue in “Minutemen,” issue two. Until then, readers will have to wait.
The “Ozmandias” story is written by Len Wein, with art by Jae Lee. “The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep” (part five) is by Len Wein & John Higgins, and is lettered by Sal Cipriano. The comic is Rated M for Mature Readers.
Here are the other titles in the Before Watchmen series: “Minutemen,” “Silk Spectre,” “Comedian,” “Nite Owl,” “Rorschach,” and “Doctor Manhattan.”