16th Oct2020

‘Rorschach #1’ Review (DC Black Label)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Tom King | Art by Jorge Fornes | Published by DC Black Label (DC Comics)

Marmite. Only way to describe any book featuring Watchmen characters, or any ongoing series with Watchmen characters. Fans either go with it, or steadfastly refuse to read or acknowledge those books existence. I think nearly everyone by now knows the level of dislike between writer Alan Moore and DC over their views on Watchmen. If you don’t, Moore was promised that when Watchmen went out of print, the characters would revert back to him, as he created them. DC didn’t tell Moore that they would never allow that to happen, by keeping the trade paperback permanently in print. You could call it clever sleight of hand, or using the letter of law to your advantage, but the fact is it’s like lending something to someone and then they keep making excuses not to give it back.

I make no judgements either way ultimately, DC are a business exploiting an intellectual property, Moore a writer who feels the goalposts were moved unfairly. On a personal note, Watchmen was something I actually bought off the stands (actually from the local newsagents here in the UK) when it came out, and it was Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons name that sold it to me. It redefined what comics were, and I can see why DC want to utilise that goodwill to sell books, and why today’s creators are happy to take a shot at these characters, as they probably hold them in as much reverence as we all do. Tom King’s writing certainly bears something of a debt to Alan Moore, and he seems an excellent choice to take on this Rorschach book. Being a Black Label one too, the restraints are off, so we’ll get full speed Tom King.

Let’s jump in.

This being Tom King, we start with Rorschach getting shot in the head. Well, A Rorschach. Shot dead on a gantry over a political rally along with a young girl. An investigation starts to find out who these two were, and what they were doing. The investigation is from the Turley presidential campaign, running against the long time incumbent Robert Redford. They smell a rat, some sort of conspiracy, and talking to an injured guard makes this seem even more likely. He was shot by this Rorschach, and his colleagues were murdered by him. Secret service were supposed to be back up but were suspiciously late getting there. This was a nice introduction by King, a few references to continuity and so, but quite conformist.

Then it all starts going where you would expect with King, and gets very meta. The elderly Rorschach turns out to be William Myerson, who created the comic book character Pontius Pirate back in the 1960’s, and who had become something of a recluse but with a very loyal fan base. In his pocket was a tape, which seemed to be recording a séance at Otto Binder’s home, where Myerson was present along with Frank Miller…told you it was meta. To add to the general insanity, the fingerprints taken from Myerson’s dead body came back with a match. Not from him, but a certain Walter Kovacs. The original Rorschach. The original, very dead Rorschach. Hrrrm.

I had to read this through twice, to make sure I picked up on everything and that, to me, is the sign of a great book. You can enjoy on two levels. One, as a straightforward, relatively speaking of course, murder mystery set against the backdrop of the Watchmen’s world. The second level is that bit deeper. I think Tom King here is making comments on the whole Alan Moore/ DC feud. Myerson seems to be an amalgam of Alan Moore and Steve Ditko (the reclusive, adoring fans etc), which is apt as Ditko created the Rorschach predecessors/ inspirations The Question and Mr. A. King also made a big deal of the fact Myerson created the comic book character Pontius Pirate, and we see a nice shot of a movie billboard advertising a new Pontius Pirate movie coming soon….intellectual property disputes anyone? The séance bit is anyone’s guess, but wonderful stuff.

The cover, design and look, and interior artwork by Jorge Fornes is equally superb. It manages to evoke the ‘feel’ of the Watchmen universe while retaining its own look. No nine panel pages here, just nicely drawn panels and nicely paced layouts. For me, it had the feel of a 1970’s thriller, Fornes framing everything very cinematically. The colours by Dave Stewart are also perfect, giving the book that washed out 70’s feel at times.

Superb first issue, I loved it. Can’t wait to see what Moore Tom King has in store. Ahem.

***** 5/5

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