6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds. (The Last War in Albion Book Two Part Twenty: J. Michael Straczynski and Before Watchmen)
Previously in The Last War in Albion: J. Michael Straczynski wrote Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan. Badly.
|Figure 911: Adam Hughes likes drawing breasts. (Written by J. Michael Straczynski, from Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #2, 2012)|
This sort of sloppiness is a tough pill to swallow in the context of a high profile prestige project like Before Watchmen that seeks to pair allegedly superstar creative teams like Straczynski and Adam Hughes (who, though good, is a somewhat odd choice for Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan, given that he’s generally best known for so-called good girl art, although he manages to find plenty of occasions to frame panels so as to focus on women’s breasts anyway). But it would be one thing if Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan were a sloppily written and incoherently plotted comic that at least gave some interesting insights into Dr. Manhattan’s character. But it doesn’t. The most significant and weighty character moment Dr. Manhattan gets is a revelation that he was a childhood immigrant from World War II whose Jewish mother was killed during their escape. As with most of Straczysnki’s additions to Watchmen, this is first of all just difficult to square away with the original text – Straczynski has this be the reason Osterman’s father became a watchmaker, which requires compressing the family’s settling in America, his father’s mastery of watch repair, Jon’s following suit, and his father’s ultimate rejection of it in favor of nuclear science into a five year period. But it’s also just boring. It’s a cliche cribbed clumsily from Holocaust literature, with the Holocaust serving mostly as a shorthand to let Straczynski sketch a major tragedy in just eight pages instead of having to do the work of generating emotional resonance himself, made all the crasser by the fact that there are already a wealth of historical connections between the German persecution of the Jews and both superheroes and atomic science, none of which Straczynski draws on while treating the Holocaust as a handy plot device.
|Figure 912: Unsubtle Christ imagery. (Written by J. Michael Straczysnski, art by Eduardo Risso, from Before Watchmen: Moloch #2, 2012)|
Perhaps the more illustrative example of the particular pointlessness of Straczynski’s additions to Watchmen, however, comes with Before Watchmen: Moloch, which was hastily added to the Before Watchmen schedule after launch but before DC realized the project was a boondoggle and scrapped the Before Watchmen: Epilogue one-shot. The two issues for a life history of Moloch, with the first issue going from his birth to his release from jail and the second issue being the events around his death. But the overall effect is to tie almost everything into the teleology of Watchmen and specifically Ozymandias’s plan. The first issue’s cliffhanger is Ozymandias waiting for Moloch on his release; the second deals with Moloch’s involvement in Ozymandias’s plans, which mostly consists of Ozymandias heavily manipulating Moloch’s Christian faith (that faith having been largely inspired by meeting Dr. Manhattan in the first issue).…