Walter Kovacs is dead. Blown apart by Doctor Manhattan in 1985, the masked vigilante known as Rorschach has been gone for a long time. However, in the wake of an assassination attempt on a Presidential Candidate by a man wearing his costume, the police must ask, who is this new Rorschach?
For a man who usually writes about the human condition of the subjects of his books, Tom King’s new Rorschach series is a little bit lifeless. Taking place in a 2020 that seems a bit more like the 1990s with beepers and landlines, Tom King crafts a political thriller/mystery story revolving around a man dressed in a Rorschach costume and his accomplice after they are killed during a failed attempt to assassinate the Conservative Presidential candidate by the name of Turley.
The book follows a detective, whose name we’re never given, as he works to uncover the identity of this new Rorschach and his motivations for the assassination while the titular character himself acts as a Jason Voorhees like figure. However, until the final page stinger, we’re not really given a reason to care about this other than the fact that the perpetrator was wearing a Rorschach mask.
The detective has no personality to speak of and seems to be more so of a stand-in for the reading audience itself as he listens to the stories of those involved in stopping the assassination and the forensic expert that consults him on the findings. Even the reveal of the suspect is underwhelming as he just seems to be a radical liberal artist that snaps, until those final few panels of the issue and everything is turned on its head.
Most of all, I question what the themes of this are meant to be. Are we supposed to be engaged with the idea of almost surface-level political radicalization in the Watchmen Universe when even the show had similar ideas? And turning a symbol of Objectivist fascism like Rorschach against the idea of Conservatism is a good twist, but loses impact when the character behind the mask is given up instantly and just seems like a lunatic like Kovacs himself.
Jorge Fornés absolutely does his best with the art in this issue alongside colorist, Dave Stewart. Fornés always has a penchant for amazing sequential shots and absolutely makes the best out of the panel layout he’s given to show the passage of moments to make the most out of them before pulling back to give readers a wide angle shot, usually shot downwards. This gives us these grand scenes that make things look like they have immense scale and weight to them, like when Rorschach is shot dead on the catwalk just above a campaign rally celebration.
Rorschach and the assassination attempt itself is made to look miniscule by comparison and this is further reinforced in a later panel with his and his accomplices costumes laid out on an evidence table – almost as if they don’t matter as much as the mystery does, which gives a little bit more credit back to King if that’s what he’s trying to convey in the script.
Dave Stewart accentuates every scene with appropriate color and lighting by giving them the appropriate darkness to balance the noir mood when needed with hazy purples, warm oranges for flashbacks and sterile light blues during the autopsy of the assailants. Stewart’s colors also pop the most whenever there’s even a hint of red, almost as if to draw the most attention to it for reasons unknown at the moment.
Overall, the art in the book is spectacular, but honestly when do they do a bad job? For the most part, they help to elevate this book from being a mediocre read to something worth looking at with amazing visuals alone.
I like Tom King’s work for the most part and first issues have a high bar to reach for continued reading, but this one just misses the mark in both regards. Whether this ambivalence is due to fatigue from Doomsday Clock, the HBO show or just simply wanting the world of Watchmen to take a rest, I don’t have the highest of hopes for this series as it just seems superfluous at best. Jorge Fornés and Dave Stewart are almost worth it, but it’s not enough.
Rorschach #1: You’re Trapped in Here with Me
Writing - 6.5/106.5/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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