Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Watchmen Book Club - Chapter X

[Let's try for a big finish, you guys, how 'bout it?]

Chapter X: Two Riders Were Approaching

Lots -- LOTS -- happening this chapter. Nixon heads for a secure location. The world stands on the brink of Armageddon. Things in the "Black Freighter" comic take a turn towards the murderously insane. Max Shea and everybody else on that mysterious island get blown to kingdom come.

But the most important thing that happens is that Dan and Rorschach thing they've uncovered the man behind the mask-killing plot, and it's Adrian Veidt. DUDE.

Anyway, my notes:

-- Getting a look around Veidt's Antarctic fortress has been one of my very favorite parts of the book. Love it so much. The mixture of the technological and the regal is so perfectly Ozymandias. Also loved Adrian reading the TV screen like tea leaves -- and coming out with such bizarre ideas (invest in the sex industry!) that are undoubtedly correct. And if you think I'm not taking notes so as to weather this current financial crisis, you're crazy. THE MAN LIVES IN AN ANTARCTIC PALACE! He clearly knows what he's doing.

-- Rorschach is all over the place this chapter. We see his moment of utmost cruelty (outing his whore neighbor in front of her kids), uncomfortably "comforting" Dan after Dan has a rare Rorschach moment of brutal honesty, and then offering some unexpected respect for Veidt by saying he "could not imagine a more dangerous opponent."

Dan's arctic owl parka might rival Rorschach's mask for my favorite superhero costume in this book.

Anyway, get to discussing. Were you expecting the story to take the turns it did in this chapter? Where do you think the next two chapters will take us? What about showing Nixon for all of three pages?


michelle @ TNS said...

the reading-the-tv-screens part is one of my favorite parts of that book, in no small part because of how it influences the way spider treats television sets in transmet. transmet being my all-time favorite book, immense love and respect for watchmen notwithstanding.

but the cold-weather owl costume? doesn't jingle my bells.

(i haven't been part of the book club, but happened to re-red my watchmen trade last week and then wandered here).

jessica said...

I think most of the book club people have fallen by the wayside, michelle, so your comments are certainly appreciated.

I was surprised, actually, how compelling I found the Black Freighter comic this time around when up until this point I found it all pretty distracting.

The stuff with Dan and Rorscharch going to Antarctica for Veidt seemed like forward progress on that front, and the TV-tea-leaves was indeed a nice touch, but the relatively vague and unexplained destruction of Max Shea and the mysterious island people is sort of frustratingly stagnant, to me, this late in the game. I feel like the book is rapidly approaching the end point and there are still several unresolved issues. I guess I'll have to see how everything wraps up in the next two chapters.

Jon said...

I find the Max Shea stuff to be the most annoying thing about this book. I don't mind a mystery that's not solved until the end, and I don't mind background events the importance of which you don't realize until the end. But Max Shea is just this very obvious yet meaningless side show -- until it's not.

I love that it's Veidt, in the end, but I also think that when the whole thing is read as a single book it becomes pretty obvious. He's the only character with any agency at all that's still at odds by that point. So when you're holding the book and you see that there are only about 60 pages left, it's not a big shock that he's the guy. I suspect that reveal would have had a lot more impact when this was published in comic form, because it wouldn't have been so obvious that we were near the end of the narrative.

And I love the snow owl parka. Nite Owl just reminds me why Blue Beetle was my favorite Charlton character when I was a kid -- he's all about the gadgets, exactly the right one for the right situation.

sb said...

I believe this was the point in the book where I COULD NOT stop myself from reading. After the reveal about Veidt, I had to find out what happened.

I agree the Max Shea stuff was felt a bit out of place. I think if we had spent more time with the island and it had been made more of a subplot, it wouldn't have been so obvious that something important and bad was going on there. Then again, it's not like we haven't known that since the Comedian told us about the island in the second or third chapter, so the abrupt interludes with the island didn't bother me so much.

Dan's reaction after he finds out Hollis is dead was fantastic. A sudden outburst of rage, followed by a more intellectual response, seemed really in character for him. And I loved Rorschach offering revenge as a comfort to Dan, and Dan stopping himself from saying anything about it. What a delightfully dysfunctional friendship.

The best part of this chapter for me was the uncertainty our "heroes" faced. Superheroes are usually self-confident and assured about their actions, so it was nice to see Dan (and Rorschach, to a certain extent) expressing their doubts over whether they could actually save the world. Dan says "What do we do? The stakes are so high and humanity is so close to the edge..." and that shows what I love so much about this comic: the idea of normal human beings becoming superheroes, and all the issues that brings up. Dan's uncertainty is so true to what anyone, I think, would feel in that situation. It's just fascinating stuff.

dan mac said...

To echo what Michelle said earlier, I too enjoy the Veidt reveal because of how Ozymandias resonates with another Warren Ellis character, Henry Bendix, the Weatherman. Veidt's plan, to unite the world through crisis, seemed very similar to Bendix's plan for world domination in Ed Brubaker's excellent The Authority: Revolution.

Anyway, this specific example aside, one of the joys of experiencing Watchmen for the first time so late in my comic reading career is seeing how much it influenced the later works of some of my favorite authors. It's almost like making an archaeological discovery, this realization that you're reading a work that set in motion many of the ideas that came to define modern superheroes.

dan mac said...


This doesn't relate to the book club specifically, but I know I'm not alone here in being amped for the Watchmen film in March. Apparently Snyder screened 30 minutes of footage for reporters yesterday. I expect coverage will be blowing up over these internets today; here's a link to SciFi Wire's write up. Thought I'd share.


Mertseger said...

As per dan mac's previous post, there was a test screening of the entire film in Portland, and several comments escaped the NDA and onto the internet. If you which to read a couple of major, and debatably crucial, spoilers see this link (via AICN).