Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reading the Watchmen: Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is where the plot, as they say, thickens. The main line of the story is the funeral of the Comedian, as each of the main characters remembers a key moment in their life that involved him, leading us to understand just what kind of a miserable bastard that he truly was. From him almost raping Sally Jupiter in the Minutemen's trophy room, to his murdering the Vietnamese woman he got pregnant during the war, all these terrible acts show us the dark side of America that he had come to represent. These flashbacks also tell us a great deal about the characters themselves. Most interesting is the realization of just how disconnected from humanity that Dr. Manhattan is. After murdering the woman in Vietnam, The Comedian chides Manhattan for imploring him to stop, but doing nothing about it, "You coulda turned the gun into steam or the bullets into mercury...but you didn't do nothin' about it!" The Comedian becomes a character that allows the reader to view each of these heroes in extreme circumstances and gives us a true window into the America of this book.

So after seeing how horrible a person The Comedian can be, it makes it all the more amazing the revelation that Rorschach has while investigating Moloch, an old villain. The pages featuring a drunk, sobbing Comedian, seemingly confessing his sins and rambling on to Moloch are a beautiful lesson in foreshadowing. In fact, the whole issue is. Really, the whole mystery of the book is solved right there. From watching Ozymandias stare at the burned map of America after his comments that, "Given the correct handling, none of the world's problems are insurmountable. All it takes is the right intelligence." To The Comedian commenting on what he saw on that island, and that Moloch was on "the list". It's all right there.

The book is capped by another excerpt from the original Nite Owl's memoir, this portion detailing the beginnings of his career and the formation (and downfall) of the Minutemen. Not as revelatory as the portion from the previous issue, but still it helps to fill in some information on the world the book is inhabiting.

Reading this again years after first reading it, the big thing that stood out for me was, during the flashback showing the abortive formation of the Crimebusters, Rorschach is speaking with a normal word balloon, instead of the (I have no idea how to describe it) shakily-drawn one he usually "speaks" in. Just another thing to illustrate that one, even Rorschach was a somewhat sane individual.


Bill said...
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Bill said...

Wasn't the "normal" word bubble a way to illustrate how Rorschach was before encountering and getting involved in the kidnapping case of the little girl examined later in the book and subsequently confronting her abductor? How that case and its events truly made him Rorschach and no longer "soft" on crime as he states he was before it happened.

The thing that's really gotten me about these books is the crazy amount of detail put into them. Over the years I've always tried to find any inconsistencies from panel to panel to no avail.

Jason said...

You know, I had meant to say something about that. During one of the flashbacks, The Comedian says something to the effect of, "Rorscharch was an OK guy until he got involved in that kidnapping case and it made him wierd." I'm sure I'll get into that more in the later chapters.

Yeah, so far it's just amazing how tight and dense of a piece of work the book is. I really do think it's flawless.

Bill said...

Yep. At the threat of "over-praising" a piece of pop culture, I really believe that all accolades the Watchmen recieve are not only well deserved but entirely appropriate as well. It really is the model for what comics can (and sometimes do) become.

It never would have occured to me to use the "indices," if you will, as a way to color in and describe the world and the history that the books inhabit. Crazy.