Rorschach by Tom King, Jorge Fornés and Dave Stewart
DC Black Label, hb, £19.76
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
In the 35 years since Ozymandias killed thousands in New York by dropping an enormous interdimensional squid on the city, the public’s opinion on superheroes has split. Most see them as troublemakers and untrustworthy. Others still see them as champions against evil. Then, Rorshach reappears at a failed assassination attempt on a presidential candidate’s rally years after dying in prison. Can anyone see through the lies to the truth behind the mask?
Rorschach starts by appearing to kill the titular character, later identified as a comic book artist, Wil Myers, and a female assassin named Laura Cummings. What follows is a blend of past and present as an unnamed detective traces the steps that lead to the failed attempt. The past sections are mostly in chronological order, and Dave Stewart uses browns and oranges, creating a sepia effect for the past panels, making them easy to follow. I appreciated this as we often get the same scene in both the present and past as the detective gets eyewitness accounts. In a two-page spread, the detective retraces Laura’s steps as she meets Will in his apartment while being given a rundown of the apartment’s security. The overall effect is clean, sharp and intelligent. These moments occur throughout the book, my favourite being in #6, where the detective’s actions are overlaid with a televised speech by Governor Turley, the failed assassination’s target. It reminds us this is not a detective story about discovering the true identity of two dead bodies but a larger agenda that could change the political landscape for good.
In fact, Fornés and Stewart’s work with the art and colouring is so perfect you can almost overlook this story’s saggy middle. As we get close to Myers and Cummings’s final steps, the breaks come on, and a story that is already stately in pace becomes sluggish, particularly when three characters are interviewed/tortured for information. That issue felt too long while stunning works of art, and we could have gotten that information much quicker.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a typical superhero comic. Tom King exploring the character of Rorschach was always going to be anything but. Instead, we study the psyche between those who act and those who don’t and how far people will go for their goals. With muted colours and focus on the clues rather than characters’ faces, the atmosphere matches the detective genre and stays true to the antihero spirit of Rorschach.