Sunday, February 08, 2009

Reading the Watchmen: Chapter 3

With the introductions and the world-building of the first two chapters out of the way, chapter 3 kicks the story into high gear. The plot against Dr. Manhattan is put into place, as he is confronted with the information that many of his previous associates have been diagnosed with, or even died from cancer. Manhattan's way of dealing with this information is to freak out on live TV and vanish, first for Arizona and then Mars. His disappearance, literally throws the entire world into havoc. Up until this point, Dr. Manhattan was the ultimate Cold War weapon for the United States, there was no weapon that the U.S.S.R. could produce that could hope to counteract him, so, as we've heard in asides previously in the series, the Russians pretty much had to be happy with saber rattling and accepting whatever America wanted to do. Now, with his disappearance, they immediately invade Afghanistan, with their sights set on quite a bit more. This shows the reader just what the stakes are, for those of us who grew up in the 80's, we all knew that nuclear war was a possibility (hell, a probability depending upon what type of rhetoric Reagan and Thatcher were spouting that particular week), but in the world of Watchmen, it's even far more likely, and closer than ever.

In this issue, we are introduced to the news-vendor, who serves as a bit of a Greek chorus to what is going on in the world. He gives the reader a view into the everyday existence of the book and how the goings on are effecting everyone. Also introduced is the in-book, comic book, The Black Freighter. Picking up with a sailor who stands abandoned on an island with nothing to keep him company, but the rotting corpses of his dead shipmates, his narration of his own story also serves as narration to the over-arching story of the book. I'll be honest, the Black Freighter portions have always been the most impenetrable portions of the book for me. I know what Moore is going for, but this time around I had an easier time seeing the comparisons between the Sailor's thoughts about God abandoning him and Manhattan abandoning humanity.

The back-up is the third (and I believe final) excerpt from Hollis Madison's memoir of being the first Nite Owl, bringing us through the end of their Golden Age and through the beginning of the Silver. The only thing I was left to wonder about was whether DC got the idea about the Justice Society's break-up in the 1950's over being targets of the McCarthy hearings from Watchmen, seeing as how that's essentially what happened to the costumed heroes here, or if it was an independent decision. Just something that occurred to me.

Another great issue of this series, though I really need to pick up the pace if I'm going to get through nine more of these before the 26th. Hope you all had a good weekend!

No comments: