In this issue, we learn the secret origin of the Smartest Man in the World, Adrian Veidt, otherwise known as Ozymandias, the man who would ultimately prove to be the antagonist in ‘The Watchmen.’ The tale is excerpted from his memoirs and discusses his childhood and how his immigrant father urged him to downplay his intelligence in order to fit in at school. That didn’t really work and Adrian wound up studying martial arts in order to defend himself from bullies. His retaliation is especially brutal and he is nearly kicked out of school, until his father bails him out.
Adrian is obsessed with Alexander the Great and studies everything about the conqueror. After the deaths of his parents, Adrian gives his inherited fortune to charity and follows Alexander’s path throughout the world. He also continues his martial arts training with equal fervor and is soon a master. He takes hashish and has a vision, realizing that Alexander was flawed and that his empire fell and that the pharaohs were truly immortal.
Upon returning to New York, he analyzes the stock market and in no time becomes a billionaire. He also meets and falls in love with Miranda St. John and what happens next results in his adopting the costumed guise of Ozymandais.
This is another excellent book in this collection of prequels! Veteran writer Len Wein delivers an intelligent, literate tale that further embellishes one of ‘Watchmen’s’ central character, adding just loads and loads of depth while leaving the original book unaffected. There are several nice nods to the original. Adrian and Miranda meet at Gunga Diner. Villain Moloch makes a cameo. There’s even a nice reference to the “giant squid.”
The art by Jae Lee is drop dead beautiful. So rich a lush, gorgeously detailed, moody… all around top notch work. It almost has an Art Nouveau feel at times. The colors, by June Chung are also simply lovely. I will say, it all feels like it was set in the 1920s, which is a tad anachronistic, but it was clearly an intentional design choice and I’m okay with that.
I hope all the naysayers that condemned DC for even daring to revisit The Watchmen’s universe are reading these and realizing how phenominal they all have been. As much as I love Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner’s work on ‘Minutemen’ and ‘Silk Spectre’ so far, Ozymandais has been my favorite of these books, but that’s no slight to the others, which have also been great. It just shows how good I felt this book was.
BEFORE WATCHMEN – OZYMANDIAS #1
Written by Len Wein
Art and Cover by Jae Lee
Variant Covers by Phil Jiminez with Romulo Fajardo Jr and Jim Lee with Scott Williams