Before Watchman: Ozymandias #1 – Page by Page Review
The title of this issue is “I MET A TRAVELER…” which is the first line of the poem about Ozymandias written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818. Here is the poem…
“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away”
Of course in the original series by Alan Moore
and Dave Gibbons’
issue #11 was titled “Look on my works, ye Mighty…”
also taken from this poem. Issue #11 is referenced a great deal in Before Watchmen: Ozymandias
, so much so that it could almost be considered plagiarism on Len Wein’s part.
The first caption reads “October 11, 1985″. This date is significant because it is the day that Adrian Veidt murders Edward Blake, The Comedian, by throwing him out his apartment window. We know this because of Rorscharch’s opening line in issue #1 of the original series, “October 12th, dog carcass in alley way….”.
So, Adrian Veidt is recording his life’s story in the slim chance that Edward Blake will overtake him and kill him instead. But I also think that Adrian is just in love too much with himself and likes to tell this story as many times as he can (in fact, he will tell the same story to his servants just 20 days later at his Antarctic headquarters in issue 11 of the original series). No, Adrian knows he can take Blake, and I think Blake knew that as well – always knew that – this is just Veidt praising himself, to himself (or to Bubastis, who is pretty much his only friend).
And let’s just get this out of the way here in the first page, Jae Lee’s art on this issue….. spectacular. I could go on for days about the work Lee has accomplished in this issue, but let’s just say that it is fucking beautiful art and this issue is a must read because of that fact alone. This first page is an indicator of things to come in this issue. Lee’s use of squares, rectangles, and circles instill a sense of order and perfect construction of Veidt’s word. Most of the panels are a “head-on” shot, again giving us a sense that everything in Veidts world is straightforward, like a horse with blinders on – he has no desire to view the world from any other angle.
Again, Lee’s use of the squares and rectangles brings to the forefront the geometry of perfection. The building blocks of creation that Veidt feels a responsibly to look after and care for, by any means. Veidt talks about on this page that despite his greatest efforts, mankind continues to roll headlong towards its own destruction. Veidt has taken on the burden of all mankind to see that we do not destroy ourselves as a species – to save us. And the only way he knows how to do it is by “forcing” it to happen.
The circle dominates this page. Early science, particularly geometry and astrology and astronomy, was connected to the divine for most medieval scholars, and many believed that there was something intrinsically “divine” or “perfect” that could be found in circles.
This page is also where Wein starts to recite Moore’s issue 11 verbatim. I do like how little Veidt is spelling “Genius” with his building blocks. He also learn that Veidt’s father sold perfume. Adrian himself would soon follow in his fathers footsteps by selling his own scent “Nostalgia”.
Notice the raven outside of Adrian’s bedroom.
Adrian asks his father, “why must I be the one to hide my light under a bushel?” This comes from the Bible, Matthew 5:15, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” There is a also a great quote from Carl Jung
in issue 9 of the original series, “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.
” Carl Sagan
, another great Carl, talks about how Science is a candle in the darkness of this world. Is this the “light” that a young Adrian Veidt is talking about? As a boy, Veidt has yet to see the true horrors of the world. Could it be that Adrian was “good” at this early point in his life? His parents seemed to be good people, so where did things start to go wrong for Adrian? What made him do things he did? Nature vs. Nurture. It is clear that Adrian’s parents did indeed nurture him and loved him, so then it was always in Adrian’s nature to become the man he became and end up killing 3 million people in New York City. Veidt was a bad from the start, he just didn’t know it yet.
and to drive this fact home, we see the poster hanging in his bedroom, “The Thing From Outer Space.
” This “thing” will become Veidt’s light to the world. No longer hidden. And that light will cleanse them all.
Jerry becomes Veidt’s introduction to the harsh realities of the world. That there are people out there that don’t give a shit about you and are evil and deserve to be punished, but are not always done so. Jerry is the first block on which Adrian’s life is built. We all experienced bullies in our youth, but rarely did any of go to the lengths that Adrian does to exact justice. Jerry is the catalyst.
Jae Lee uses the same panel layout as page 3 – with the circle being the prominent shape – that page also featured Adrian’s parents as well. The circle is less harsh a shape then the square, softer, more open. Veidt tells us that the beatings by Jerry lasted for months, everyday at lunch. It seems unlikely that Adrian’s dad would allow this to take place for so long and not intervene. but maybe his son had more influence over him then he realized.
Not sure that tree looks that safe to have two swings on it. Maybe Veidt has been watching those girls swing all this time waiting for them to fall. Is it just me or do you get a little “Scott Farkus
” vibe from Jerry?
We’ll pause here to talk about Jae Lee’s art again. I’ve been a fan of Lee’s since I first saw his work on Namor
and The Inhumans
for Marvel, and Hellshock
for Image Comics back in the 90′s. His style has changed over the years and now, if you took a page from Ozymandias and compared it to one from Hellshock you would think they were drawn by two different people. Lee has grown in my opinion into a better artist and his work now is lighter and less “dark”. Also, he is doing more with backgrounds then he did in the 90′s. It seems lee has put down the Ink pen in favor for a pencil.
On this page we get more insight into Adrian Veidts psyche. He claims that busting a bully’s leg almost in two is “justifiable” act towards getting his sandwich stolen and roughed up by Jerry. Veidt thinks in complete absolutes – right and wrong, not necessarily “good” or “bad”, because Veidt isn’t “good”, but he feels that he is “right” in his actions.
Here Lee’s use of the square and rectangles enhance the narrative of a turning point in Veidts life – the death of his parents. Again, the building blocks are being put into place, piece by piece. I also love the birds flying by the library window in the second panel. The second time birds are used as a omen or harbinger of things to come.
I’ve come across rumblings about this issue of Before Watchmen and how it shows Adrian Veidt as “disturbed” from the start. And that in the original series he didn’t start to crack until after the Crimebusters first meeting. That in the original series he was basically good and had good intentions at the start but along the way he lost himself, and became the villain we see at the end of the series. But there is a single panel in the original Watchman that speaks volumes and leads me to believe that Adrian Veidt hid his true self from the world. And that here, in Before Watchmen, Len Wein is showing us that true face. The panel in question in in issue 11 page 8 of the original series. It is almost, “blink and you will miss it” sorta panel. It is the one where after Veidt’s parents have died he is at the graveyard, sitting on top of their tombstone, chewing on a twig, almost like he is picnicking. This panel to me shows there is no heart in Adrian Veidt. That his soul is cold and black and always has been that way. He sits on his parents grave almost as if he is sitting on a tree stump, watching girls swing from a tree.
That scene shown here, in Before Watchmen, is a bit different, with Veidt casually throwing roses on their graves, but I think the same feeling comes across – Veidt is a bad seed. He wants to do good, but doesn’t have the proper wiring in his brain to let him know just what “good” means, and how to achieve it.
A few more telling lines of dialog here on this page. Veidt stands at the statue of Alexander of Macedonia
, looking for an answer to his question, “how had someone so young come so close to uniting such an ancient and primitive world? How did one man drag a civilization barehanded from the blood and filth of such barbarity?” Veidt gets his answer from “the voices in his head”. cuckoo, cuckoo.
He also tells us that he expects to meet Alexander in the Hall of Legends. Delusions of grandeur to the n’th degree!
Notice this page and the panels how they are constructed to resemble an hourglass. The circle panel in the bottom half of the page is a falling grain of sand. Time is running out. But for who? For the world? For Veidt? For the predators that are following Veidt? All of the above.
That grain of sand continues to fall into the next page here, with the circle at the top of the page, representing the passage of time during Veidts travels. We also learn here on this page that in Memphis they proclaimed Alexander “Son of Amon” “, judge of the dead, whose name means “the hidden one”. This is Adrian Veidt in a nutshell.
More eluding to his fight with The Comedian in panel 2.
Then in panel 3 Len Wien confirms what many of us thought already – Veidt is homosexual.
Side-note: Rorschach thought Veidt might be homosexual in issue 1, page 21 of the original series. After visiting him he writes in his journal, “Meeting with Veidt left bad taste in mouth. He is pampered and decadent, betraying even his own shallow, liberal affectations. Possibly homosexual? Must remember to investigate further.”
But I tend to think he is more Bi-Sexual as we see in the few more pages that he falls for a woman. But even still, with these scenes I feel Veidt has no need for sex. That he is Asexual
. That perhaps he finds it helps past the time between plans to unify the world to be with a man. To taste all the pleasures life has to offer him. It seems to me that he is looking for happiness in anything he can. But the only thing truly makes him happy is his “quest”. We will finally see just how happy he is when that quest comes to its end in issue 12 of the original series and Veidt raises his hands, tears streaming down his face, and he proclaims “I DID IT!
I gotta say Jae Lee’s interpretation of Veidt’s hashish vision blows Dave Gibbons out of the water. Too bad Len Wein pretty much copies word for word what Alan Moore wrote in issue 11. Word. For. Word.
Well, looks as if time did indeed run out for the “same pack of animals” that were following Veidt in an attempt to rob him. This pages layout is identical to page 12 except that it has been turned upside down and there is no circle (or grain of sand) falling anymore.
I dare you to count how many squares there are on this page.
I love Gunda Diner!
I also love the introduction of Miranda. A new character to the Watchmen universe. It’s too bad she o.d’s two pages later.
Again Lee uses the hourglass page layout, made even more significant with the giant clock in Veidt’s room.
Panel 3 = “Cum” joke number 2 in the Before Watchmen series.
Here for the first time Jae Lee incorporates “V’s” in to his drawings.
And it is clear that Veidt is not interested in sex, as I said before. Miranda was simply “something” to help past the time in between plans. He equates her to “wasting time”. I do think that Veidt cares for her, it’s just he has no heart in which to truly love her. He mimics the act of love when he feels he needs to – but it’s all part of the plan, so to speak.
Moloch sure was a busy super villain. Seems like that dude pops up everywhere!
I like how Lee constructs the panels on this page to mirror that of the syringes that Moloch displays in his coat pocket.
PAGE 21 through 23
So Miranda o.d’s and Veidt swears to get revenge on the people that did this. But did he really love her that much? I don’t so. Again, I think Veidt feels that “this is what I’m suppose to feel and do when something like this happens.” He is almost robotic in his thinking. Like an android trying to figure out why humans cry. I don’t believe Veidt for a second when he says that he wept. I think he is telling a bit of revisionist history – that when anybody listens to these tapes years from now they won’t think him such a cold and uncaring person.
Veidt becomes Ozymandias, which allows him to be larger then life. He is a super hero now – exacting his justice to world (like he did when he was a kid to Jerry). It makes perfect sense for a person like Adrian Veidt to become a super hero. Sure, a part of me believes he did it because he is bored to death. - he will soon retire from the superhero business before any of his other compatriots and reveal his identity.
“Fuck you DC Comics!”