The Smartest Man in the World, Adrian Veidt launches his career as costumed adventurer Ozymandias following the death of his girlfriend Miranda, as shown last issue. He spreads his copious wealth across New York City until he finds a lead, a petty-but-stacked drug dealer. The drug dealer puts up a fight, but Veidt is not only mentally perfect, but physically, having mastered the martial arts. With cold precision, he coaxes a lead to the dealer’s drugs from him and leaves him for the police.
He follows this lead, once again demonstrating his guile, tailing a thug to a drug manufacturing facility. His infiltration and confrontation with the crime boss in charge is masterfully rendered by Jae Lee. First he considers every possibility and outcome, then factors out coincidence, before slicing into the thugs and the building itself, slinging his headband with possibly unbelievable exactness. Th police arrive and Ozymandias announces his existence to the world.
Over the next few weeks, he begins collecting his adventures in scrapbooks and investigating the past generation of heroes, The Minutemen, in order to learn what had befallen them… so that the same thing would not befall him. He uncovers one unsolved mystery, the fate of Hooded Justice. He sets about trying to uncover the truth and comes face to face with a fellow costumed adventurer.
Disturbingly, I thoroughly enjoyed both last issue and this issue immensely… up until the very endings. Last issue, I felt the character Miranda was too hastily shoe-horned into the story and then too quickly dispatched. Her romance with Adrian wasn’t fleshed out enough for her death to pack the emotional blow needed to spur the stoic Adrian into becoming a crime fighter to avenger her. In this issue, it’s more an issue of timing. On the first page, the time period is established as 1985. The Minutemen debuted in 1939 and had basically all disbanded and disappeared within a decade. That’s a long gap. Yet here, Ozymandias goes to investigate Hooded Justice’s death as if it happened yesterday, even taking note of dried blood on a pier. How would a blood sample still be intact, outdoors, near water for roughly 36 years?
But beyond that, this book is still intelligent and intriguing, with stunning artwork that adds a layer of moodiness and atmosphere that serve the book wonderfully. There are several simply beautiful devices employed: the scene of Veidt surveying the room and weighing all the possibilities; the two page spread of him shutting down the drug facility; the sequence of him clipping out newspaper articles about him, rendered in grayscale… all clever, all gorgeous.
Ozymandias certainly comes across as undeniably intelligent– and therefore suitably full of himself– yet you can’t help but buy what this guy is selling. He’s a mixture of Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Snake Eyes and Bullseye. And Watson, the all-knowing computer from Jeopardy. Seeing him in action, even in silhouette, is like watching an amazing gymnast or dancer in his absolute fluidity and precision. He isn’t exactly likable, but you must respect him.
There isn’t yet a clear, over-reaching plot. The first issue was dense with information, yet flowed like a long montage showing Veidt traveling the globe in his quest to find himself. The pace slows in this issue, focusing in much greater detail on his fledgling career in crime fighting. Here, we get longer, fuller scenes with more dialogue and interaction between various characters, mainly Veidt and the criminals he confronts. I’m curious how next issue will play out, as there isn’t any indication– yet– of where this book is headed.
I was blown away by the first issue, but had a few issues with this one… but even so, this is one of the best, most literate, intelligent books out there right now, so even with any flaws, it’s still…
BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS #2
Written by Len Wein
Art and Cover by Jae Lee