Monday, June 28, 2021

Mini-Run Review: "Rorschach," is the Strangest Mainstream Comic Coming Out Right Now and That's a Good Thing

The first issue of Rorschach didn't really wow me so much as it confused me. I wondered why exactly it was a sequel to, "Watchmen," in an alternate 2020 as that's a tall order to tackle. I also had concerns as it was basically an insult to Alan Moore that DC was doing stuff with characters that by all rights should've reverted to his and Dave Gibbon's ownership until DC screwed them over years ago (for more on that just look basically anywhere online). Then I found the politics odd as it seemed to be about an extremist left-winger trying to kill a right-wing candidate when we all know the alt-right and so forth pose a bigger threat to safety than any liberals (just turn on the news). I loved the art, though. I read the second issue and found it a bit more engaging, but I was not wowed. Then, slowly, "Rorschach," morphed into the most bizarre mainstream comic coming out right now and things clicked into place.

One complaint I offered about, "Rorschach," was the main character--an unnamed detective--was such a blank slate I had concerns if the story would work with them so dull. Well, we've still learned nothing about our protagonist, but in a way, he isn't the main character--the people he's investigating are. A dangerously misled right-wing woman named Laura Cummings who was raised to be a killer and an aged liberal comic creator named Wil Myerson tried to kill a Republican--Governor Turley--who is running for President against longtime leader Robert Redford. How they ended up coming together involves a love of comics and her preying on Myer's self-loathing and hatred of those who took advantage of him.
Then things get stranger when a real-life tape of comic creators trying to contact the dead has its background altered for this story and an alternate-universe Frank Miller appears as himself (with permission from the actual Frank Miller) and gets sucked into a surreal cult of sorts. A relatively straightforward attempted assassination mystery has morphed into what, "Watchmen," was at points--a comic about comics. After all, "Watchmen," itself imagined a World where comics were popular but due to the rise of real heroes pirates became a big thing. 

That continues to be riffed on by King with Miller having done a famous, "Dark," pirate hero (shades of his Batman work), and the mysterious tape that exists in the real World explains a lot about why someone like Cummings would turn on a Republican despite being far-right herself (a mysterious voice seeming to instruct Turley be killed mixed with his idealization of The Comedian being off-putting is a big element). Things seem to be getting only stranger after the most recent issue (#9) hints at an even grander conspiracy. This is a maxi-series so if King can land this story as the finale approaches remains to be seen, but man if this hasn't become an utterly bizarre (and quite readable) comic.
It should be noted Jorge Fornes continues to absolutely nail it on art every single page, with a complicated layout in the eighth issue where three different people have their alibis all displayed simultaneously on the pages managing to be fantastic thanks to Fornes. As this is a comic about comics it only makes sense it would play with the form in clever ways such as in the eighth issue or even the most recent one where flashbacks and the present suddenly collide in an ingenious manner when our unnamed detective starts piecing together more and more of what exactly might be going on, e.g. Cummings and Myerson may have had even more politically-powerful help in their plot to kill Turley than anyone would've imagined. Between King's writing and Fornes's amazing talent, "Rorschach," has morphed from a book that seemed a bit dull to a must-read mind-bender.

It still sucks Alan Moore is getting screwed, though, and it always will.

5 out of 5 stars (for the most recent issues of #7-#9).

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