Robb Ghag reviews Before Watchmen: Rorschach #4…
“Before The End was Nigh.
Before Watchmen, there was Rorschach.”
In the final issue of Before Watchmen: Rorschach, we start where we left off, as our anti-hero gets blindsided by Lucky P., one of Rawhead’s henchmen, who obviously has military training as he pummels Rorschach with punches and kicks. The scene is equally disturbing as Rawhead gleefully disco dances in the adjacent panels. With Rorschach barely conscious after his beating, Rawhead removes his mask confirming “…he’s nobody without his mask”.
Out of all the Before Watchmen books this one has delivered the most memorable dialogue (Brian Azzarello) and the darkest artwork, aptly provided by Lee Bermejo. In book #2 when Rorschach is torturing another of Rawhead’s henchmen, the culprit while tied to a chair tells Rorschach to “Go to Hell”, to which he simple replies “I plan to… Once you give me directions”. It’s the perfect response one would expect from one of the most uncompromising heroes.
With Rorschach struggling to stay conscious, Rawhead puts on the mask, before punching him several times in the face. A blackout has encompassed the city, and the waitress Rorschach was supposed to meet, is frightened and alone. The citizens have taken full advantage of the blackout as looters empty the stores, and the waitress looks on, confused and frightened. We never see the face of the man she met in issue #3, but he walks along side her advising her it’d be best if they get off of the street, to avoid the savages. As they walk down the dark alley, the waitress is taken unaware as the man (presumably the Bard Rorschach has been hunting since issue#1) grabs the back of her neck and pulls out a straight razor. The look on her face is pricelessly drawn by Bermejo as you see the utter shock.
As he slowly regains consciousness Rorschach is tied to the bed, and Rawhead is straddling him. Mocking and laughing, he wears the mask and begins calling himself Rorschach. Rawhead looks down at all the looters in the street, and after speaking with Lucky P, decides he will take up the role of Rorschach. And as the new “hero” he will go down among the criminals and clean the streets up.
As Rawhead leaves for the streets, he casually orders Lucky P to kill Rorschach. Lucky P begins to open his tool kit, and pulls out a set of pliers. Before killing Rorschach he asks him why he does what he does? Rorschach doesn’t answer.
Meanwhile on the streets, Rawhead confronts the looters, who begin to gather bricks, bats and stones. Lucky P gets aggrivated at the fact Rorschach doesn’t answer his inquiries, and begins to cut his nose off. Just then, Rawhead’s tiger attacks, as Rorschach had let him lose in the last issue. Rorschach escapes as the tiger continues to eat Lucky P. In subsequent panels we see the crowd on the street over powering Rawhead in Rorschach’s mask. We see Rawhead collapse, and red is seen flowing from the back of his head.
In the bottom panel the lone figure is seen walking out of the dark alleyway holding rhe bloody straight razor. Rorschach walks outside to find Rawhead’s body. He kneels over and pulls his mask off his head. This is where we see Rorschach’s famous catch phrase “…Hurm” as he walks down the street among the city’s looters.
In the bottom of the final splash page we see an entry of the infamous Rorschach’s Journal. Bermejo captures the moment perfectly, as Rorschach crouches on top of a building at sunrise. He pulls out binoculars and spies across at a man feeding pidgeons. Rorschach writes in his journal, that five years ago he made his last mistake. We see the naked waitress from five years ago, she walks out of the alleyway… Rorschach writes, the Bard had attacked her, but mistakenly let her live.
Rorschach continues writing in his journal that the Bard was a regular customer at the diner where the waitress worked. That’s why she followed him, and when he mistakenly let her live, she was able to testify against him.
Five years later the Bard is free and the waitress fled out of town. Clearly this forces Rorschach on a path of vengeance as he walks up to the Bard’s apartment. In traditional Watchmen fashion, Rorschach continues his fury at the filth of the city. As the blinds are drawn we see Rorschach walk into the Bard’s apartment and begin to exact his revenge.
The final page of the book is reminiscent of the original Watchmen. A nine panel grid which ends in the shadows, as Rorschach ends the beginning of his journey.
Alan Moore’s Watchmen is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time, and with Rorschach as my favorite character in that book, I started off reading it with skepticism. The dialogue and the artwork quickly made me a believer, and I think Azzarello channels Alan Moore in a lot of what Rorschach, thinks, says, acts and writes. Bermejo’s dark but lifelike style adds a sense of realism as we feel every kick and punch Rorschach goes through. We feel the compassion and the fear in the waitress’ eyes.
Before Watchmen: Rorschach was a fantastic read, from start to finish, and I cannot wait to delve back into the world of Rorschach again, before the end is nigh.
Robb Ghag works for an Arts & Entertainment Brokerage in Toronto Canada. An Animation and Film school graduate, he specializes in Risk Management of Animation and VFX studios throughout North America.