Watchmen at Thirty, pt. 10: Two Riders Were Approaching...

Pt. 10:

"Oblivion gathers closer, favoring the spur, sparing the rein."

The gathering of oblivion is a recurring theme in Chapter Ten, as is the idea that it approaches on a horse. Throughout the issue we see background graffiti for an end-of-the-world bash at Madison Square Garden by the band Pale Horse aka the steed of Death from the Book of Revelations.

With Very Special Guest Krystalnacht. Naturally!

The story opens with the President and Vice-President being flown to their Defcon-One bunker. Actually, they're only at Defcon-Two, despite one of the military personnel in charge of safely getting them into the bunker saying "Defcon-One has been achieved." Maybe that's just to throw off any Russkies listening in. Moore is far too meticulous a writer to make a mistake like that - and it would be odd if no one else caught it, either - so I can only assume this Defcon-disparity has some real-world explanation of which I'm unaware.

The Motion Picture Comic emphasizes the Vice-President's tripping as he gets out of the helicopter - a blink-and-miss-it nod to 70s SNL.

Kind of hard to convey without seeing him sent sprawling, which would have been too much.

Outside of the amazing Black Freighter stuff - and if you're just joining this series, that and all the supplemental stuff is being saved for the Coda - most of the issue is Nite Owl and Rorschach piecing together the rest of the mystery.


I kind of hate how any story with two guy protagonists is instantly called a bromance. I think we should reserve the term bromance for a particular kind of two-guy-protagonist movies. But I appear to be outvoted by the entire online community. So it goes. Anyway, of any issue of Watchmen, this is the closest the relationship between the two former partners comes to what I'd call a "bromance."

The banter.
Laying low after crossing the law by busting one of the gang out of prison.
The breaking up...
the getting back together.
The awkward gestures.
And finally, their comradery re-established on what will almost certainly be their final mission.

They eventually break into Veidt's office and discover that he is the missing piece of the mystery and the puppetmaster behind all the events seen thus far. 


Dan probably should have been tipped off from the ease at which he unlocked all the master files, conveniently laid out for him, that he and Rorschach were headed into a trap. Rorschach, as well. But they're overtired and cranky and not thinking clearly, as we see when they take Archie to Karnak, Veidt's Antarctic retreat.

"Don't wish to interfere with running of ship, but..."

We'll get to Ozymandias in more depth next time. In this issue, we only learn he's the shadowy mastermind along with Nite Owl and Rorschach. But unlike them we are privy to some behind-the-scenes-at-Supervillain-HQ action, where Veidt - in true distorted reflection of the hero fashion - mirrors Dreiberg's earlier use of computers to make sense of the available data by collating data from the world's media, simultaneously. 

Here's the color-retouched one from the MPC:

While the idea of a wall of TV screens acting as a sort of digital (well, analog at the time but for all intents and purposes, it is our current media age Veidt is scanning here) oracle is certainly no invention of Watchmen, Veidt is both a man of his time (the savvy buyer and seller, Super-Gordon-Gecko, utilizing the unprecedented-in-civilization technology at his 80s disposal) and insider/outsider-critique of it (80s mass commercialism and militarized-sex-advertising/action-movie/cockrock sensibilities). 

Like I say, though, next time.

The mysterious "island project" that we've seen mentioned a couple of times and where we first saw Max Shea and the artist Hira Manish in Chapter 8 develops ominously in Chapter 10. This time, Max and Hira are below decks, about to get it on, when Max discovers the ship is wired to blow.

First rule of conspiracies - kill the conspirators.

So all the artists and engineers and whomever-elses spirited away to this island to work on a presently-unrevealed project are now dead. Meanwhile, just in case he doesn't make it back, Rorschach sends his journal to the only people who have written kindly about him: the RWNJs at The New Frontiersman

They are less than receptive at first, but we'll return to this in Chapter Twelve. Just makes more sense to talk about it there.

And speaking of, it's time for:

At least two sequences are informed by the understanding we've formed of Rorschach in previous issues, such as when he and Nite Owl return to Rorschach's old digs to retrieve his journal and spare costume.

I love that. It's hard to feel sympathetic for Rorschach after a certain point of the series (which is of course just what Moore and Gibbons intended) but this moment where he sees himself in his landlady's son is very understated and powerful. 

As is this recall of "handling watchdogs before."

A stellar issue. In many ways, just a collection of plot points (albeit presented through the signature visual style of the series) but as Tim Callahan wrote, "(the) plot points resonate with humanity, as the characters turn toward each other and look for companionship as the end of the world looms." This is especially true of the news vendor scenes, which are kind of surreal, but I'll cover those in the Black Freighter post. (All roads end in Davidstown.) 



  1. I've been watching season-one "Saturday Night Live" this summer. It's nice to remember that Chevy Chase was funny once upon a time. Interestingly, the show was actually titled "NBC's Saturday Night" back then. I had no idea that was the case!

    I'm not too fond of the whole "bromance" thing. It's like an inside joke the entire world felt the need to get in on. It's also a way to instantly reduce things meme-style, and thereby not have to actually focus on anything important. That said, I get why people focus on the Nite Owl / Rorschach partnership; it's easy to see why somebody would read the series (especially this issue) and want to see a proper superhero team-up series starring those two. You could get away with it by saying it was an alternate-universe version of the characters; but I'm glad DC has mostly avoided doing that.

    Good call on Rorschach seeing himself in that little boy. Those are excellent panels. Not that there is a lack of those in this comic...

  2. Yeah, for me a bromance has to be a very specific thing. It's not just, two dudes in a scene together/ partners. But we live in a very broad strokes, meme-reductivist, poseur-nightmare-Hell world these days. But, for what it's worth, you can check off many of the bromance boxes as I did in this one issue, at least, though it makes little sense to do so. i.e. to think of Watchmen as a bromance between Nite Owl and Rorschach is of course the height of stupidity. But, I'm sure that's how half the people reading this issue for the first time in 2016 would.

    Maybe not half. Who knows. Hey, think positive, McMolo.

    I love 70s "SNL." I was religious about that show from like 1986 to 1992 or so, then on and off until 2008 or so. But Nick at Nite used to have a half-hour "Classic SNL" rerun and I was obsessed with those in high school. Later in the DVD age (and after I read Live From New York) I finally made my way through each and every episode of the 70s years. Very illuminating.

    As for Chevy, I'm an apologist. (To a point.) There's some great stuff in that first season for sure, though.

  3. "Juxtaposition of wish fulfillment violence and infantile imagery, desire to regress, be free of responsibility".

    All's I can say is we're baaack!!!

    Though if you're going to talk about what I think you're going to talk about in the next issue (Moore's ongoing critique of the comics industry?) then I'll wait till then.


    1. I don't have specific plans to cover it, but we'll see if the issue itself warrants it. I just wanted to save all my Ozymandias thoughts for that one, since it's his origin issue and all. But I don't particularly see him as emblematic of the deconstruction and critique of the comics industry - he's part of the whole gestalt of Watchmen, sure, but not my go-to for that, specifically. Do you?

      Like all great villains, he's a shadowy reflection of the hero, and in this case all the Watchmen reflect and refract one another, of course.