"Before Watchmen: Rorschach" #2 is a gritty crime comic that delivers a handful of high quality and brutal moments. As far as making Rorschach a nasty hero and making his world reflect his outlook, this book is great. This is "Taxi Driver" with a lead just a little more open in showing his derangement. The issue might be a little thin on narrative progression but it certainly tries to make up for it by bringing as much pulp as it possibly can.
In all honesty, this isn't a bad book. In fact, were this not part of a line-wide pillaging of the DC sacred cow, this book might have gained more traction with the intended audience. This book takes Rorschach and puts him into a tale where he should fit. This allows him to make more sense, even though most of his original charm is that he was so out of place against a super genius and an omniscient power being. By placing Rorschach back where he belongs, he ceases to be as special as he once was.
In the last issue, Rorschach was left for dead by a crime lord known as Rawhead. Now, Rorschach wants revenge. It's a simple enough concept but sadly relies on the last issue setting it up with a ludicrous series of events. This issue highlights the stupidity of it all and a character is shot for it. If the villain of the book needs to make a handful of ridiculous moves that hold no logic just to get the story rolling, the overall product is in jeopardy.
Plot holes aside, Brian Azzarello understands how to make an audience cringe through implications and dastardly circumstances of events. He also has a knack for turning phrases well on the page. He sets one character up to say one thing so an introduced character can turn the scene on its ear with one well placed phrase that provides continuity within the juxtaposition. It's a feat requiring a great deal of natural skill.
Lee Bermejo's art is pitch perfect for this project. He understands the tone Azzarello is setting and matches it pound for pound in every scene. The torture scenes are intense and the Rorschach poses and action comes off as fluid, yet also very stylistic. Bermejo uses the closure between panels very well to convey motion and time. Barbara Ciardo does a great job with her colors to lend emotion but also world weight to the people on the pages. This is a good looking book.
"Before Watchmen: Rorschach" #2 is thoroughly enjoyable and well structured, while also managing to show how little story there actually is. The man might take center stage, but it doesn't completely feel necessary. Rorschach was a supporting character in the original "Watchmen" -- a damn fine one -- and seeing him inhabit a world that reflects his views is confronting while also making him seem more two dimensional. It's a conflicting experience because the book gives readers the character in an appropriate setting, but it ends up being somewhat unsatisfying.