Thursday, September 18, 2008
Watchmen Book Club: Chapter IX
[Again, my life has been absolute chaos for the last couple weeks -- and, if I'm being honest, it will continue to be for at least one week more -- so again I have to apologize for the delay in these Watchmen posts. I will no longer insult your intelligence by pledging not to do so again, but I do hope you keep reading them. Almost to the finish line!]
Chapter IX: The Darkness of Mere Being
We spend the whole chapter up on Mars, this time around, as Dr. Manhattan tells Laurie all about how she's going to try to convince him to come back and save Earth from the impending nuclear war and other such calamities that await it (uh...what's Dr. Manhattan doing these days?), and how he's going to decline to do so, because he's just that bored with humanity and their primitive little lives.
You have to feel for Laurie in this chapter, at least a little bit. Jon's detachment from humanity is understandable and his unique experience of time and space is explainable, but god damn must that be a bitch to deal with, day-in and day-out.
My personal favorite thing about the chapter was that while it takes place on Jon's home turf, Laurie's the one who becomes unstuck in time. She doesn't appear to be able control the onset of memories, one after another, that start to fit together like pieces in one terrifically fucked-up jigsaw puzzle. In the process, she re-experiences these events and learns what she realizes she knew all along (specifically that Edward Blake is her father, BLECH). Jon would totally understand.
Jon's obsession with nature, desolation, and molecular structure is what draws him to Mars and keeps his eye turned away from Earth. But it's the same kind of obsession that kept Dan Dreiberg studying owls for a decade instead of fighting crime. And it's exactly the kind of obsession Rorschach has with the awfulness of mankind. He can't live without it, he insists you can never eradicate it, and he can't for one moment imagining a life without it. All three of these men find some way of distracting themselves from the wretched human condition (even if Rorschach does it by immersing himself in humanity's bowels until he can't see the forest for the trees). I'm just glad to have found one thread connecting Jon to the rest of the superheroes.
Jon's change of heart ultimately seems flimsy -- Laurie's horrific revelation of her paternity reminds him that human lives are random and thus beautiful? Hey, whatever gets him to stop the bomb, right? But I did like seeing how similarly fragile Jon's Martian castle turned out to be. One bottle of Adrian Veidt's "Nostalgia" cologne (a fine recurring panel for this flashback-heavy chapter) and it comes crashing down. The whole thing turned out to be as delicate as spun sugar. (Or, if you'll allow me a dorkus-y reference, something the Doozers might've built on Fraggle Rock.)
-- I don't think I noticed the first time I read this that Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis were apparently gay lovers. Huh.
-- Blake's paternity revelation was laid out wonderfully. Total Keyser Soze moment.
-- Jon forgetting, at first, to provide Laurie with means to breathe on Mars is kind of...hilarious, actually.
-- Also funny? Jon being able to conjure up any beverage Laurie wants inside his little decanter thing. Not the most subtle of Christ references, but I enjoyed it.
-- Jon's line, "Human life is brief and mundane," made me think of Neil Gaiman's Sandman books, specifically "Brief Lives." I really should go back and read those again some day.
Get to discussing, you guys! Home stretch!