Every week, Chad Nevett and I will be reviewing an issue of Before Watchmen through a discussion of each issue. We continue with Comedian #3 by Brian Azzarello (writer), J.G. Jones (artist) and Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina (colors).
Chad Nevett: This was one of my favourite Before Watchmen issues so far. More than almost any other issue of this series, this one seemed like an odd sort of summation of the character it was focused on. We saw all sides of Eddie Blake -- and, mostly, how fucked up he is. His walking into the riot like that... christ, that one panel is just fantastic. The Comedian boiled down to a single image. Don't you agree, Brian? Say you agree, Brian!
Brian Cronin: At the very least, this was clearly the boldest of all of the Before Watchmen issues. I mean, come on, you don't get much bolder than the Comedian dressing in "yellowface" during the Watts riots.
That said, yes, it was impressive to see Azzarello try to capture the many facets of the Comedian, and really, Eddie Blake is likely the character with the most room for exploration of all the main Watchmen characters. Here, Azzarello nicely showed us all the reasons why Eddie is so fucked up. Let me try to detail them, bullet point style...
1. He's a sociopath
2. He's a sociopath that wants to belong to something bigger than himself, if only because it allows him to do what he wants
3. He's a sociopath that presumes he should be viewed as a hero
4. He's a sociopath that IS viewed by many as a national hero (leading to the brilliance of him rightly pointing out that he is one of the few people who actually could show up in the middle of a riot and things actually would pause for a second)
5. He's a sociopath that is obsessed with the innocence of his daughter, Laurie (even if he has absolutely no idea of how to deal with this relationship, since he's, you know, a sociopath)
6. He is a sociopath that places great value on those that call him friend, since they number so few
7. He is a sociopath that can see the truth of a situation, even if he doesn't give a shit about it himself.
8. Most of all, he is a sociopath who does not like to be restrained. He believes we're all savages at heart, so while he will work with so-called "civilization" to serve his own purposes, he is not going to be restrained by its conventions. He only does things because he CHOOSES to do so. Don't expect him to be obedient.
He really is a fascinating guy. He totally sees the legitimate problems that the rioters have, but since he is employed by the other side, he'll take them down in a disgusting fashion (while wearing yellowface, which is basically blackface) but then throws shit at the Los Angeles police chief. He is a man who knows how to get the job done, even if he also understands how despicable that job is. He just doesn't care. Since he's a sociopath.
We were wondering last issue how Eddie was going to break with the Kennedys, well, this is the answer. He is not going to be restrained by the conventions Bobby Kennedy expects him to follow. I imagine next issue we will see Eddie's next step, to become closer to Nixon.
This was likely JG Jones' best issue. It was a very fluid issue. And Jones really knows how to nail spotlight panels (something made clear in Final Crisis), which he did with the major panels of this issue (the yellowface bit and the shit throwing). Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina did a fine job on colors.
I liked the touch by Azzarello of having the song "Jerk Baby Jerk" playing in the beginning. It was a West Coast record. I love that Azzarello knows enough about music to have stuff like a song that was only popular on the West Coast playing in Hawaii.
The back-up by John Higgins...well...it continues in this issue. That's about all I can say about it.
CN: Hell, he takes down the rioters in a way that both benefits and hurts them by giving them a chance to do some looting (which would presumably lead to them running home after since who keeps smashing stuff with a TV in their arms?). The riot stops, yet everyone goes from being a rioter to a thief. It's one big example of his cynical worldview at work as he shows that people ultimately only care about themselves. The so-called 'cause' they were rioting over was selfish and easily replaced by physical items. The dismay of one of the rioters at how it works is both sad and funny in context...
The scene where Eddie arrives at the airport is equally telling. As you say, he has a weird obsession with the innocence of Laurie and the girl there who looks like her is an easy (and obvious) stand-in. Her naive 'give a flower to the Vietnamese so they know all Americans aren't like you' crap is something that you would expect him to laugh off, make a snide remark, or provoke some rude display... yet, it gets to him. The way Azzarello uses language, though, makes his reaction to the girl getting hit by a tomato (one of the rare moments where I thought Jones's art failed to communicate exactly what was going on) made it unclear what had pissed him off so much -- the girl, the tomato thrower, or even the fact that someone else had stepped in before he had a chance to do his thing. It becomes clear (I think) that it is because he felt some connection to the girl (because of Laurie) and hated that someone would treat her (his daughter) that way. I really enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the scene.
BC: Yeah, it was an interesting piece of commentary on the nature of riots. I don't know if Azzarello really believes said commentary, but Eddie Blake certainly does. And yeah, the reaction of the one leader of the riot - very sad.
That's a great point that Jones really did fail on the reaction from the girl who got hit with the tomato. I didn't know what was going on there, visually.
By the way, "Are we going to play or are you going to just stare at my ass all night?" "Both" "Then my knees are going to hurt." That doesn't really make sense, innuendo-wise, does it?
CN: HA! No, it doesn't. I spent far too long puzzling over that bit of dialogue, struggling to figure out what I was missing. Judging from your reaction, not much. That said, I did like the closing line/wordplay. But, that's the thing with Azzarello: I like about 80% of the way he uses language and the other 20 falls flat in some way. But, damn, that 80 per cent... that's some good stuff.
BC: Maybe she has really bad knees and if she plays pool all night they will hurt? Yeah, that's the ticket!
And yeah, Azzarello has a clever ear for dialogue and he's always trying hard, but sometimes when he reaches it just falls flat. The end comments, though, were great. A perfect encapsulation of a guy who just doesn't give enough of a fuck to be clever, so he just makes cheesy jokes. "I'm the Comedian, we both know we're going to fuck, so why bother being clever on you?" Also, as we know from Watchmen, he is not a guy who is going to ever use a condom. He just doesn't give a fuck.