Monday, September 01, 2008

Watchmen Book Club: Chapter VII

Chapter VII: A Brother to Dragons

So we've come to our Dan Dreiberg-centered chapter. As you might expect, it's full of all the uptight nerdery that characterizes our second Nite Owl. As you might not have expected, it's also full of flabby man-ass.

The anal-retentive nature of Dan is underlined, bold-faced, and italicized. It's all awesome. His behemoth of an airship could easily be the most badass thing in the city, but seeing all the meticulously labeled buttons, the jazz music that plays for its rescued passengers, even the name ("Archimedes") all serve to undercut any coolness. It's a huge contrast, of course, to the Rorschachs and Comedians of the world. Dan's idealistic, nostalgic (not a coincidence that this is the chapter we get the first reference to Adrian Veidt's "Nostalgia" cologne), and sentimental. "Soft," as Rorschach would say, but a decent man. And yet, for the last 10 years, he's watched the city degrade into violence and hopelessness and he's done nothing. You can see why Rorschach would despise that.

Similarly, Laurie's unwavering distaste for men like Rorschach, underlined once again as she and Dan discuss his imprisonment, certainly helpss her seduction of Dan make sense. The juxtaposition of Veidt's feats of gymnastics on the TV while Dan is getting back on the horse, so to speak, was priceless. And yet, surprise surprise, Dan finds himself impotent. It's an incredibly obvious metaphor, to be honest, even before Dan pretty much makes it explicit later in the chapter.

Obvious or not, that impotence drives Dan to take up his costume, and indeed his manhood (as wearying a theme as that tends to be), and take to the sky again, this time with Laurie by his side. (The fact that Laurie either still has her old Silk Spectre costume or was able or improvise one out of a bathrobe and negligee tells me she shares at least a bit of Dan's nostalgia.) So Dan gets to save the day for the victims of a tenement fire, then gets to successfully bone Laurie, and finally, his transformation back to superhero now complete, he wants to rescue Rorschach. Much to Laurie's chagrin.

Some notes:

-- I'm not sure if Laurie was comforted very much by Dan's reveal that the Comedian made the same lighter/flame-thrower mistake she did.

-- Yet another mention of missing writer Max Shea. Hmmm.

-- When Dan and Laurie head toward the tenement fire, the panel shows Archimedes as a silhouette in front of the moon, so that the moon looks like an eyeball. LOVED that. Watching the Watchmen indeed.

-- Laurie's inherent grumpiness flowers into gorgeous bloom during the evacuation ("Listen, I'm Smokey the Bear's secret mistress...").

We're certainly hitting our stride as we head into the book's final five chapters. How's everybody liking it so far?


jessica said...

Surprisingly, given my distaste for Laurie and my ambivalence towards Dan, I liked this chapter a lot. You pretty much touched on everything I noticed: the physically failing Dan paralleled with the physically masterful Veidt, the emotional impotence of not being a hero anymore, the fastidious geekery of all things Dan, the mention of Shea, the (for once) delightful bitchery of Laurie.

The fact that Laurie seduced him is by no means a surprise, though I still find myself waiting to see if she'd been attracted to him for a while or just bored by Jon and looking for anything or what. Their interactions in past chapters seemed so forced, I want to believe it was an intentional characterization of Laurie and not sloppy plotting by Moore. Just a nitpik of mine.

I like that we've gone back in time somewhat, and that, after having seen the destruction of the psychiatrist's psyche by Rorschach, we meet him at a time when he's still open and optimistic. And I felt a stab of pain for Rorschach -- was offended on his behalf, as a matter of fact -- when his landlady accused him of making sexual advances. It's like the worst insult, right?

I definitely like Dan as a hero. He seems more focused, more action-oriented. Virile instead of impotent. It gave the book a definite upswing of hope, for me, at least until the next horrible thing happens.

sb said...

So . . . I think Dan's my favorite character. That's weird, right? There are other characters that are infinitely more interesting (Rorschach, the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan), but I really kind of love Dreiberg. Part of it's that I never feel completely comfortable rooting for a morally and ethically ambiguous character, so Nite Owl, in his Batman-esque idealism and morality, is a hero I can get behind without feeling guilty. Then there's the fact that he's so pathetic. I mean that in the makes-you-feel-for-him way, although, honestly, I kind of mean that in the more pejorative sense of the word, too. I just feel so bad for the guy. He's such a geek, but when you read the "Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas" article at the end of the chapter, you realize he's a PASSIONATE geek, and . . . wow, I'm really fan-girling out about Dan Dreiberg, huh? I'll stop doing that now.

On a different note, how much comedy gold was in the last three panels of this chapter? Panel 1: "We should rescue Rorschach!" Panel 2:*beat* Panel 3: "WHAT?" Loved it.