Who's it by?
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 is written by Len Wein and illustrated by Jae Lee. The Curse of the Crimson Corsair back-up is written by Wein and drawn by original series colourist John Higgins.
What's the story so far?
Adrian Veidt is perhaps the most complex character in the Watchmen universe. Regarded as the 'smartest man in the world', the master strategist could be considered either the world's greatest villain, or its saviour, by the end of the story.
Veidt, known as Ozymandias during his crimefighting days, is on a quest to save humanity from itself and guide the world towards utopia in Watchmen, and his prequel miniseries takes readers back to the start of this journey.
Ozymandias #1 quickly whisks us back to Veidt's childhood, portraying him as a prodigy alienated due to his extraordinary intellect. As we move along his timeline, we learn more about his motives and perhaps sympathise with them a little more.
The reader witnesses the building of Veidt's empire, and discovers that one of his personal relationships was the catalyst for his decision to don the mantle of Ozymandias and fight crime.
What's the verdict?
Ozymandias #1 attempts to delve beneath the surface in a more meaningful way than the other Before Watchmen titles have so far. Writer Len Wein tells much of the story through the character's inner monologue, a result which pays off to a certain extent.
Veidt was always a complicated and layered character, and learning more about his past reopens the debate about whether his actions were right or wrong. However, as we've pointed out before, Watchmen's ambiguity is central to its effectiveness, so Wein is treading a fine line here.
Some of the narrative is insightful. There's a lengthy segment juxtaposing Veidt with Alexander the Great, which works well, but the character's inter-personal relationships have been sorely neglected.
Veidt was always something of a solitary figure, yet there are events detailed in the issue involving his parents and a lover that are supposed to have played a pivotal role in shaping the man depicted in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's seminal work. Unfortunately, said characters appear on little more than two pages, so it's impossible to form any kind of emotional attachment or take Veidt's feelings towards them seriously.
Jae Lee's artwork is a great fit for a character like Ozymandias. He's portrayed as almost god-like throughout, and Lee's divine illustrations reflect this, and give the book a very distinct look. The artist really shines when conveying body language and facial expressions, relaying things that words cannot in the medium of comics.
In closing, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 isn't the worst book of the prequel series so far. The reader comes away with a little more insight into Veidt's motivation and the events that shaped his destiny, but his poorly fleshed out relationships make the issue feel rushed.
Going forward, there's the greater concern that the title could compromise the character's moral ambiguity and dilute the overall story, a pitfall that Comedian has already plunged into. But should these fears prove unfounded, Ozmandias could prove to be one of the better additions to the fold.
> Read our review of 'Before Watchmen: Nite Owl' #1
> Read our Before Watchmen interview with Dan DiDio
Watch a trailer for Before Watchmen below: