By Jeff Jensen
June 18, 2012 at 04:56 PM EDT
DC Comics

Until now, “Before Watchmen” —  a new DC Comics franchise composed of prequel mini-series to the acclaimed mid-eighties super-hero saga Watchmen — has courted controversy by simply existing. Telling more Watchmen tales without creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons? For some fans and industry pros, that’s heresy, regardless of the quality of the work, which so far has been quite good. The next installment in the endeavor is sure to be provocative for another reason altogether. In the opening pages of The Comedian #1 (on sale Wednesday), set in the sixties, the titular character — a morally murky vigilante turned black ops bag-man (real name: Edward Blake) — is not only revealed to be surprisingly tight with the Kennedy clan, but is tasked by a certain iconic First Lady with eliminating a certain iconic movie star famously linked to her husband (and brother-in-law).  The story comes from writer Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) and penciler J.G. Jones (Wanted), both highly regarded comic book artists known for edgy work.

“Each one of the ‘Before Watchmen’ books has a particular point of view, and The Comedian is political,” says DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio. The Watchmen world presents a version of post-WWII history that has been radically impacted as a result of super-heroes, “and The Comedian is smack dab in the middle of it,” says DiDio. “He’s the match that lights every fuse.” The character’s six-issues prequel evokes a tone and approach reminiscent of James Ellroy’s “Underworld USA Trilogy,” which examined sixties America from the perspective of the shady agents and seedy operatives that served and executed the wills, wishes and whims of the decade’s power elite.  DiDio says that in Edward Blake, readers will meet a man who was once dazzled and even inspired by the idealism of “Kennedy Camelot” — for better and worse. “It was the one thing he actually believed in. He will do anything for that family, to make sure they achieved what they believed in,” says DiDio. “It’s a very bittersweet story, because what you’re going to see is the creation of this cynical, almost psychopathic man. You see how events keep changing him, and pushing him down the path that turns him into the character that you’re familiar with from Watchmen.”

Our exclusive preview begins on the next page, and we join the story in the midst of a classic Kennedy family recreational activity… (Warning: Some Mature Language)

Twitter: @EWDocJensen