Personally, as a bit of a creator’s right advocate, Before Watchmen seems like a morally questionable thing to do on DC’s part, Alan Moore (the creator of Watchmen) wasn’t a fan of the idea and DC later did what I feel was a worse offense, blaming the new 52 reboot on Dr. Manhattan and expect us to think that means the event that is tied into that idea will fix DC comics main line-up overall because the new 52 reboot needed fixing, except the thing is the new 52 wasn’t really broken to begin with (except for that darn logo that was on every collected edition) and the whole thing makes me just want to hunt down more obscure titles (no matter how event driven the titles are, it may just be because I read a lot of comics, but what I read of DC’s main lineup is all meh now).
But anyway, Before Watchmen, it was a series of prequel mini-series with each one dedicated to a separate character from the maxi-series Watchmen, the roster of said characters who were lucky enough to get this mini-series treatment were Ozymandias (of whom actually I always kinda wanted to like... don’t judge me…), Silk Spectre (both of them, actually), Nite-Owl, Dr Manhattan (whose Before Watchmen story is just a drawn out version of issue #4 of the original Maxi-series with a Ozymandias plot line halfway through), Moloch (did you see that coming?), Dollar Bill (the perfect argument against capeless heroes) and everyone’s favorite: the Comedian! But today, we’ll be looking at Rorschach’s mini-series (who is my personal favorite. A unpopular opinion, I know). However, before we start, I believe little history first: y’see, Alan Moore once teased that he might make two Watchmen prequels after the Maxi-series ended if he was able to get DC on board (since DC owned the rights), Alan Moore failed to do so and later looked at Watchmen and thought “This already uses enough flashbacks that making prequels would be pointless, this comic [in the sense of needed it’s story getting continued, mind you,] is SO DARN DEEEAAAAD!!”, (that quote literally came from his mouth once, except if only I didn’t make it up,) unfortunately for him, DC did not get the memo and after being rejected by the offer that Moore would get the rights to maxi-series (if not the spin-offs as well) if he wrote the spin-offs that he once said he was gonna do. So when DC got a different publisher to do the Rorschach series, they had him effectively avoid giving Rorschach character development land a interesting story like the plague in order to give Alan Moore more creative freedom as a apology for hogging the rights to Watchmen in the past. Instead, it just left whoever that touch this mini-series in anyway long enough to become a poor soul. The only way to free yourself from it is to either never remember you were ever responsible for its existence or somehow trick yourself into thinking you watched the Nostalgia Critic or AVGN of Caddicarus or whoever you watch on youtube freak over this book like his life depended on it in the most hilarious way possible so that all heartbreak that came with the very memory of the fact that you tricked yourself into pushing yourself to read the whole thing through (unless this is your first dab into noir detective superhero comics, in which case, if you happen to like it, you may be a poorer soul than you realize). Of course, this is a review, I need evidence to prove my point.
So where should I start? I know! The fact that the story was as generic as possible. Nothing new is done with Rorschach except for two things, one, he used to have a typewriter, two, he once had a girlfriend (nitpick session alert). The latter weirds me out seeing as the original maxi-series built up Rorschach as a man who was immune to lust, and actually seemed to find it a disgusting part of the world. Sure Rorschach was supposed to have a unreasonably traditional, if not stereotypically medieval, sense of right and wrong, but the amount of emphasis on his bad fued with sexualization makes me fail to see him as a guy who would seek a relationship because of his childhood trauma and I’m not sure of the actual odds of him having a virgin relationship, because he ain’t got time for that and (spoilers ahead for Watchmen) I doubt being a sugar thief, that guy who goes around holding a sign saying “THE END IS NIGH!” and the holder of a apparent blank stare would get someone a partner (and this is the stuff he does when he’s not wearing his black & white mask with a shifting pattern while inflicting cruel and unusual punishments on criminals). Thankfully for Rorschach, I don’t think the woman he asked out in the Before Watchmen mini-series noticed the look in his eyes, or seen him with the sign (of which I thought the Nite-Owl mini-series suggested he should be carrying around now-and-then by now, especially since the story takes place after the Kene act) or noticed sugar disappearing at the restaurant she works at (sugar of which I think her bf would take for himself whenever nobody’s looking… oh wait, he did it right in front of Nite-Owl in Watchmen. Rorschach ain’t gat no lack of shame... that was a triple negative... Of course the whole thing is a bit of major subplot and seems like a weak thing to justify not liking this book over, and it isn’t, I just needed to get you a better idea about the plot, you’ll kinda understand VERY SOON though, but anyways, we should probably look at the rest of the story to give it better criticism, the rest of the story of which is just the most insultingly uninspiring thing you could do with the character. The story basically starts with a few panels focusing on a corpse that has supposedly been killed by a killer going by the name The Bard due to the fact that the body has “poetry” carved on to it. Does this bard guy seem important? Yes he does, and he kinda is, which is why you should lock up your memory of him until the final issue because he ain’t the main villain but rather a plot device used in order to make the ending more “dramatic” and all you need to know is that the girl Rorschach fell in love with got slice a bit and survive. You can guess this using the power of trope knowledge, I swear! The answer is: Rorschach goes after the killer around the time I’m guessing he basically VOWS TO SHUN THOSE HE LOVES FOR THE SAKE OF FOCUSING ON HIS “JOB” or something supposedly righteous like that (after beating up the Bard)! NEVAHR HAHRD DAT 1 BEFAHR!! Except I did and just because it’s been done before and multiple times doesn’t mean that the cliche itself was a good story element but rather end up feeling incredibly stale, of course there are such things as exceptions these require the use of the trope to be linked to something unexpected like a uncommon consequence or a unexpected cruel dose of believability, something that this comic doesn’t really do. Unfortunately, even if that were the case for the ending, the main villain is actually the leader of a intimidating chunk of the criminal underground and a majority of the plot.
So after a bit of a violent wild goose chase, Rorschach ends up getting catched by the guy’s thugs. This crime boss of which ends up stealing Rorschach’s mask and causes havoc on the city during a blackout, with one of the panels showing him making the mask show a evil smile-like pattern (with the smiley face thing being more prominent than past times when I swear Rorschach’s mask was replicating a smile in the maxi-series). Man this comic was bland. Sure there was one scene where Rorschach was driven to a destination by a driver who supported his ideals which is a decision that makes sense to me and the maxi-series didn’t do much, but Rorschach filled that role for comedian so there’s not much excuse for that scene to save the comic from being a complete waste of time. The protagonist still lacks development through the story, the main antagonist still isn’t the serial killer and it does nothing new other than reveal two “major” things about Rorschach that were of not much consequence of the maxi-series, especially when you consider only one of those things had any significance to begin with. It’s even worse when you consider that if they only decided to have the story take place before the flashback shown in issue #6 of the maxi-series where Rorschach was finally pushed to the edge that lead him to kil, we could’ve at least know a bit more about what the more “peaceful” Rorschach was like… sigh… at least the Nite-Owl mini-series showed us where the sign came from… THE SIGN! Because that was something we were all dying to to know about. I mean, how does one write in a sign that says “THE END IS NIGH” into a story without giving it a dramatic backstory and accept the readers will be fine with it?... Answer, they just do.