Friday, February 27, 2009

And The There Was The Time...

And then there was the time when Luke Skywalker fought
some crazy chick with a laser whip....

This fight originally published in Star Wars Vol. 1 #96, and it is yet another reason why the Expanded Universe can suck it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading the Watchmen: Chapter Five

This was my favorite issue yet of the series. Alternating between the various stories running parallel in the book, the plot is moving quickly towards the moment where everything goes to hell.

Rorschach continues his investigation into the murder of the Comedian and the shaming of Dr. Manhattan. Through this we can again get into his head and see the pure black and white world view that he subscribes to. He sees the evil in the world and he is on a crusade to end it, all of it.

Along with that, we return to the Greek chorus of the book, the nameless news vendor, offering his opinion to any and all about the state of the world, all while the boy reads through the comic-within-a-comic, "The Tales of the Black Freighter". That narration of that book, serving to also narrate our story.

All of this culminates with the framing and capture of Rorschach, revealing him as the bum who we've seen earlier silently carrying a sign reading, "The End is Near". This leads you to wonder, is he really any type of hero at all?

This was just a fantastic issue, and a horrific one. The horrible visuals of the Black Freighter story only serve to heighten the feeling of dread that comes through the entire story. The back-up in this issue, is an excerpt from a book about the pirate comics that ruled the newsstands in the world of Watchmen. The amount of detail that Moore puts into just those three pages is just amazing and I wish that they had managed to put together some of the stories they discuss in there for real, as they all sound pretty amazing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reading the Watchmen: Chapter Four

Chapter four of this book is a tough nut to crack, perhaps because it is the most straight-forward so far. It features Dr. Manhattan on Mars, recounting his life story. From boyhood, teaching himself to be a watch-maker (Hey there symbolism! Glad you could drop by!) to becoming a physics researcher for the government, to the accident that turned him into something far more than human.

Essentially, we also get a brief history of the latter 20th century of the world of Watchmen. Manhattan's very existence serves to completely tilt the balance of the Cold War so that it's no longer just a balance between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., instead (as is spelled out in the essay in the back), it's now a ticking time bomb until Russia finally gets fed up and decides to put "America's Superman" to the test by asking him to catch a whole gang of nuclear warheads.

Manhattan has made the whole of humanity obsolete. In a telling scene between the first Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan at Owl's retirement party, he mentions to Manhattan that he's going to fix cars. Manhattan immediately responds that the new electrical cars he has made possible will be even "simpler" than current automobiles. Poor Hollis Mason, the man is effectively pushed out of two lines of business by Manhattan's arrival, and he seems to be the stand in for everyone.

The one thing I question about Dr. Manhattan is that he is most likely the book's biggest tragic figure, since he can see the future and obviously knows both the horrors that are to come, but that he is also powerless to stop fate, but I don't know if he can feel the tragedy in that. It's been shown that he does feel emotion (his outburst of anger when the press turned on him, for one), but while do get overtones of sadness from him, I don't know how he feels about all of this. I'll keep a look out for that as we go along.

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!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

New Music - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart S/T

It's Saturday morning, and since it looks like it's going to be a pretty nice day here in the Chicago-land area, I figured I'd start it out with a song. Some friends and I were discussing this article at the AV Club regarding what bands you'd like to see one more time, and I started getting nostalgic for my college days and the music that we would listen to over and over again. And fortunately, it just so happens that Thursday night I had downloaded a new album that sounds exactly like the sort of stuff I would have played over and over back in those days. Well, not just in those days, since I've been listening to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's self-titled album pretty much constantly and enjoying quite a bit. It's just the perfect type of fuzzy pop magic that I loved then, and I love it now. Here's an appropriate song for the day of the week:

If you'd like to read (and hear) some more, head on over to good friend Ditching Boy's blog.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ladies & Gentlemen: A Major Metropolitan Newspaper!

I had to post this, simply to confirm that it wasn't some type of fever-dream. Today's Chicago Tribune (Section 1, Page 3) featured a 3/4 page spread comparing Rahm Emmanuel to ROM: Spaceknight, here it is in all its glory:

[Edit! You can now click to embiggen!]

So, have I been (as TwitterPal Robert Clark posited) been somehow transported to the Marvel Universe? I don't know, but watch out for Dire Wraiths!

[Edit: It was actually TwitterPal Matt Springer (of PopGeek and AlertNerd) who made the livin' la vida Marvel comment. Oops.]

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.