Moore finishes Watchmen with two obvious questions. There’s the big one the final panel closes on and a smaller, cuter one from a couple pages before.
But there are a couple other questions he raises this issue. Two people, who have no reason to lie to anyone, lie. It’s as though Moore gives the more innocent characters a way out while still showing the complexities for the rest.
He also implies the complexities of the human condition with the old Silk Spectre, bringing Watchmen back onto the mortal plane from its grandiose heights.
But the issue is nowhere near as successful as the series’ best issues. Moore and Gibbons succeed in providing a satisfactory conclusion; sadly, that conclusion doesn’t have any other the narrative enthusiasm Moore shows elsewhere in the book.
In fact, the ending is so genial, so affable… it’s surprising Moore didn’t have a followup planned.
Adrian revealing his master plan, or just rambling on about himself, takes up most of the issue. At first, the amount of ego Moore gives him is a little jarring, but it soon becomes almost soothing, all because Moore understands the importance of a great final gag. Even when it’s about the end of the world.
While his unveiling is great, the best part of the issue is the supporting cast all coming together across the street from the newsstand. Moore lets his cynical characters clash with the idealistic in little and big ways–the lovers physical fight, the marrieds argument, the comic book reader rebuffing the newsstand vendor’s overtures of friendship–it mirrors the unvoiced conflicts of the main characters.
There’s also, finally, Moore’s subtle reveal of title’s origin. Just one dialogue balloon, it’s a jarring reveal, because it shows how much Watchmen is about.
Moore overreaches, but gloriously.
Moore wastes no time investigating the series’ mystery and resolving most of its questions. He took two issues to set up the conspiracy and less than one to resolve it. There’s a lot with Nixon and “The Black Freighter” here, so Rorschach and Dan’s investigation isn’t even the issue’s focus.
The character stuff sells this issue, particularly between Dan and Rorschach. It’s an awkward but tender comedy. But there’s other little character moments, some with the newsstand, for example. The best small one is actually between a couple surpurflous characters. Moore uses them to move along a scene about the mysterious island and its dark purposes and ends up with an incredibly touching moment.
Gibbons’s art excels this issue; there are a lot of first person panels and he executes the timing and emotion well.
In the home stretch, Watchmen‘s shedding its excess baggage. It’s sad to see Moore reduce.
It’s the Laurie issue, finally, and guess what? The Laurie issue doesn’t work.
Moore opens the issue with some more of the layered, simultaneous present action between issues, moving Laurie and Jon to Mars–and the issue does have the wonderful moment of “Oh shit, I’m on Mars,” but Moore doesn’t do anything with it.
In Watchmen, Moore’s created a superhero world where wonderment is still possible but he avoids it.
Anyway… this issue, the Laurie issue, is supposed to be about Laurie’s self-examination and Jon’s admiration of that self-examination.
It doesn’t work.
Moore’s gone too far showing Jon as incapable of such a reaction. Even if he hadn’t, Laurie’s realizations are a little too pat. They don’t extrapolate big enough.
There’s breathtaking art from Gibbons, maybe his best design work so far, but Watchmen isn’t about the art.
It’s about the story… and there’s not enough here.
This issue is mostly action. Or the Rorschach jailbreak makes it feel more like action than any other issue so far. There’s still a lot of content, with Moore playing around with the issues’ present actions, overlapping them. As a narrative move, it isn’t exactly profound but it creates a sense of events jumbling. Events jumbling fits Watchmen.
Moore opens the issue with Hollis Mason and Laurie’s mom talking on the phone and there comic, for the first time since Jon’s issue or some of the early Comedian flashbacks, becomes about aging. There’s a quiet, gentle sadness, especially given how the finish mirrors the opening.
The humor is also important again, with Rorschach’s time in jail being–in some ways–quite funny. The jailbreak sequence closes with Gibbons and Moore almost moving cross-purposes. Moore’s writing talking heads, Gibbons is drawing medium shots. The disconnect works.
The issue’s fine work.
And here’s the Dan and Laurie–sorry, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre–issue. It’s an exceptionally strong aside from the rest of the comic. Moore sticks to only the two characters. The rest of the cast is either on TV (Rorschach and Adrian) or just present in the air (Jon). It’s a gentle issue, full of humor–and pop culture references.
Most of the issue’s a talking heads book, with the present action taking place over an evening. Dan’s finally picked up some sugar and he and Laurie start talking about his Nite Owl days and the technology behind it.
The visual pacing of the talking heads stuff is interesting, with Gibbons filling in a lot of detail he probably didn’t need to include. The pages are packed with dialogue. The rest is eye candy.
Then towards the end, when the issue opens up, Gibbons changes over to lush visualizations.
And now the Rorschach issue. Even though Moore borrows the hacksaw from Mad Max, a lot of people have borrowed the vicious vigilante in jail from him so it evens out.
It’s an excellent issue with one little problem. Moore’s too hard on the psychiatrist. He’s supposed to be this goofy happy guy–one’s got to wonder if Cliff Huxtable was the model–and his experiences trying to interview Rorschach turn him into an abject fatalist.
It’s a great idea and it works out well in the end, but he’s not in the issue enough. I can’t even remember his name and I finished reading it ten minutes ago. The Rorschach flashbacks, their horror, overshadow the present action of the issue.
Like I said, the issue works. It’s horrifically disturbing and it’s a great comic. But, for the first time, Moore clearly states his goal and he doesn’t fully succeed.
Given how much effort Moore puts into giving away Rorschach’s identity before the final page’s unmasking, it’s embarrassing I didn’t know the last time I read Watchmen. Or, more to the point, the first time.
Any twelve issue series, even Watchmen, is going to have a bridging issue or two. This issue is the first bridging issue. The big ending with Rorschach versus the cops hides the issue’s lack of content.
Oh, there’s a little with Dan and Laurie, but only a handful of pages. Moore and Gibbons probably spend more time on the “Tales from the Black Freighter,” which provides distracting filler. Or the detectives getting pages, even though I’m not sure they even have names.
Adrian shows up for a scene, but it’s hard to read Watchmen again without being suspect of how Moore allots his time.
It’s excellent comic book writing and illustrating, just not particularly compelling.
This issue of Watchmen, with Dr. Manhattan heading to Mars, giving up on the human experience, has always been my favorite. Moore does a bunch with it–he uses Jon, who’s deliberating on how little people matter to him, to better introduce the cast and their histories.
But Moore also brings in watches.
Watchmen is a comic of its time. Without the threat of nuclear destruction, without the awe of the atomic bomb, Watchmen doesn’t make much sense. This issue, with its immortal protagonist, is also about aging. More than anyone else in Watchmen, Jon ages.
The various watch images tie the issue together, removed from the title of the series itself, because this issue isn’t about Watchmen, it’s about Jon. He’s the fullest of Moore’s characters here, thanks to this issue.
A character capable of absolute self-reflection.
It’ll probably still be my favorite issue, after I’m done again.
There’s a lot this issue, a whole lot. Moore introduces some characters and implies some back story, but he really is just bringing the world powers situation into focus. While there was talk of the Soviets before, this issue–especially the ending–finally establishes the ground situation. Moore had been keeping it a little bit of a secret.
This issue also features the introduction of the “Black Freighter” comic, alongside the nuclear fears, so it’s hard not to see the two tied. Even though Moore uses the comic-in-a-comic as transition occasionally, the connection’s clear.
Other big things, narratively speaking, include fully introducing Jon only to send him off into exile. Moore’s very subtle with his build-up to events; it isn’t just Jon’s TV interview being an aside in dialogue, it’s Dan realizing he’s out of sugar.
Watchmen is a gentle book, after all.
The issue’s amazing.
I found another issue with rereading Watchmen after knowing so much about Moore’s writing process on the series. I keep thinking about the structure, particularly this issue, since it has flashbacks and Moore added those later. Rorschach’s investigation closes the issue, but lots of flashbacks open it.
Laurie goes to visit her mother, giving Gibbons the opportunity to visually show the mom being passive aggressive. Sure, Moore focuses it with dialogue at one point, but after its already played out as subtext.
The flashback scenes–whether the attempted rape, the Comedian killing his pregnant girlfriend or quelling a riot–are all very effective. But none are sublime. The sublime Moore reserves for the present day, it seems.
It’s also interesting to think of the series as a monthly, since almost no characters get a reintroduction here. Moore expects readers to pay attention. Otherwise, they won’t understand.
He’s got a point.
Before starting Watchmen this time–at least my third time reading the series, if not fourth–I wondered how many times one can read it and still get something out of it.
The second reading, of course, is to see how Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons layered it all, with Rorschach’s early appearance, and then the final zoom mimicking the first one.
But once Dan and Laurie went to dinner–to be honest, I had to look up her name (I thought it was Sally)–I realized one can probably reread Watchmen quite a bit.
It’s not about the layering or the commentary on comic books, it’s about the fun. Moore’s writing is exceptionally strong and gleefully inventive. For example, the romance between Dan and Laurie is expertly handled, with not even a line foreshadowing here.
Watchmen is, on a fourth read just like the first, an excellent comic book.
Moore has a great time with this issue, featuring Tom Strong and his family on an intergalactic vacation. It also shows how much Moore’s willing to change Strong to keep himself engaged.
The issue is split into three stories, all set during different points in the vacation. The first story, dedicated to a sick Tom McWeeney, has Hilary Barta on art. Tom and the family (Tesla’s still a baby) are on an absurdly hostile planet. It’s Tom as a dumb husband; it’s hilarious.
Sprouse and Gordon take over for the rest of the issue.
The second story is Tom and Dhalua on a planet where their hidden desires are made real. While it’s all fantastical, it shows a lot about the characters (who readers are already seeing forty-five years earlier than usual).
The final story’s an action-packed sci-fi number.
Great issue; Moore’s playful narrative is subtly revelatory.
While this issue features some incredibly cool writing from Moore (more on it in a bit), it also has amazing art. It’s a five-part story, with Sprouse and Gordon on for the prologue. Then it’s Russ Heath (doing a teenage Tom Strong), Kyle Baker (doing the bunny Tom Strong analogue) and, finally, Pete Poplaski doing the finish. Poplaski makes the whole thing feel very Golden Age and it’s simply a superior visual experience.
As for Moore, he plays a lot with time travel and its effects, but he also comments briefly on the “imaginary story” genre. Tom Strong, it seems, has no imaginary stories. Moore gets a lot of mileage in figuring out how to make this one real.
There’s some great villainy from Saveen, though a lot of the dialogue refers to very distant events.
It’s also a mini-Captain Marvel homage with the “wizard.”
Simply wonderful stuff.