Monday, August 11, 2008
Watchmen Book Club: Chapter II
Chapter II: Absent Friends
The funeral of Edward Blake, The Comedian, affords a number of characters the chance to reflect on their experiences with him, turning the entire chapter into something of a eulogy for the man. Adrian Veidt, Dan Dreiberg, and Jon Osterman (in government-mandated clothing) attend the burial, while Sally Jupiter has her own trip down memory lane after her daughter Laurie pays her a visit in California. Jupiter flashes back to the days of the Minutemen, the first organized collaboration of masked adventurers which included, among others, Hooded Justice, Captain Metropolis, the Silk Spectre (Jupiter), the original Nite Owl (Hollis Mason), and a teenaged Comedian. We see Blake's attempted rape of Sally Jupiter that Laurie alluded to in Chapter I, and it's brutal, if a bit cliched ("C'mon, baby, I know what you need...").
Veidt remembers the Comedian as a part of a second attempt at a superhero collective: the Crimebusters. This group included more familiar faces -- Laurie and Dan as second iterations of Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, respectively, Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and Veidt as Ozymandias -- but similar discord. Blake scoffs at the group's thinking they can make a bit of difference locking up criminals in the post-nuclear age, in particular demeaning Veidt's status as the world's smartest man. Osterman recalls his time spent with Blake in Vietnam -- we learn that Dr. Manhattan brought the U.S. victory in that war -- and alludes to Blake's sadism and cruelty in battle. We also see Blake end a violent encounter with a Vietnamese woman he's impregnated by shooting her dead. Osterman is repulsed, but Blake notes that he never moved to stop it. Drieberg recalls working with Blake to calm the anti-superhero riots back in the States that obviously led up to the passage of the Keene Act. He recalls Blake's unseemly zeal in beating back the masses.
Later, we follow a sickly old man home from Blake's funeral, only to see Rorschach get the jump on him (by...leaping from inside the fridge?). The old man is Moloch, a former arch-criminal who spent the '70s in jail for his crimes and who is now dying of cancer. He says Blake paid him a visit before he died, and his memories might be the most illuminating of all, as we see an uncharacteristically penitent (and, okay, drunk) Comedian, begging for forgiveness and blabbering on about an island, something that frightens him to his core. The ultimate joke.
Stuff to talk about...
-- I love the structure of this chapter -- like I said before, this is Blake's eulogy, from several different eulogizers. I also like how, in all the flashbacks, Blake was challenging his fellow superheroes at their most basic levels: the limits of Veidt's intelligence to solve the world's ills; Dr. Manhattan's inability to connect with humanity; Dan's utter uselessness. Even the attempted rape cuts to the core of Sally's ability to be both sex symbol and crusader.
-- The image of Blake as the "sad clown" isn't the most original idea (the Pagliacci joke had me rolling my eyes a bit), but the idea of the Comedian "laughing at the joke" of modern society -- laughing while it burns and lighting the torch besides -- is central to his character. Is he just s sociopath? Symptom of a violent and crumbling society?
-- You'll notice Rorschach's speech patterns in the flashbacks are more on par with the other characters. No monotone. No squiggly font.
-- Sally Jupiter's old-lady hair made me laugh a bit, being the exact same 'do as when she was in her prime, only white now. Reminded me of Vanessa Redgrave in that last scene in Atonement, with that sad little barrette in her hair for seventy years.
-- The Comedian's relationship to Vietnam is interesting, as narratively, the entire weight of American atrocity in Vietnam is put on his shoulders. And I don't think his line that if America had lost the war "...I think it might have driven us a little crazy" is insignificant.
-- Once again, Hollis Mason's excerpt at the end of the chapter is a highlight. I love the minutiae of a superhero designing his costume. Always. Loved it in Spider-Man, loved it in Batman Begins, love it here.
That's enough from me, though. Discuss!
The next post, on Chapter III, should go up on Thursday, August 14.