Reading “A Stronger Loving World”

Watchmen ends with a near full inversion of the archetypical super hero narrative.  The villain succeeds in carrying out his heinous plot, murdering millions in order to conquer the world; the heroes are defeated and forced to slink away only with the promise that they’ll return to do good in some other fashion; happily ever after isn’t on the table.

Except that the villain’s plan was designed to stop the world from destroying itself, the heroes’ promise of hope has the potential to completely undo the villain’s accomplishments, and happily ever after is never a sure thing in superheroics anyway.

When the last issue opens, we’re presented with a series of six full page panels that highlight the devastation wrought at the intersection where Adrian Veidt teleported his alien at the start of the previous issue.  It quickly becomes apparent that we’re surveying the destruction from Laurie Juspeczyk’s perspective just after Jon Osterman teleports her and himself to ground zero.  The effect of these panels is striking precisely because up to this point Gibbons has exercised enormous restraint in how he lays out the book; every issue is built on a simple three-by-three panel structure, and only rarely does any page of Watchmen consist of fewer than nine panels laid out in a grid.  Occasional moments requiring especially striking art might get a double-sized panel (Dr. Manhattan gets a number of particularly large panels displaying the scale of his powers, but none are a whole page by themselves).  The decision to reserve the full page splash for this moment is a good one, especially when taken in context of the trend that superhero comics would adopt not too many years after Watchmen of presenting splash pages just for the sake of showing off artwork.  These panels serve a story purpose as well as highlighting Gibbons’s art.

Following the massive destruction (what I find most moving about it is that if you look carefully you’ll see the bodies of all the regular folks who were just living their lives before the incident), we get an extended fallout where everyone reacts with varying levels of horror to what Veidt has done.  Juspeczyk has the most visceral reaction, probably because she actually surveys the damage firsthand, and unlike Osterman she hasn’t grown detached from humanity; Dan Dreiberg is horrified but quickly placated by arguments for the greater good; Rorschach wants nothing to do with any of it and so sets out to tell the world what happened before Osterman is forced to murder him; Osterman warns Veidt that nothing ever really ends before wandering off to another galaxy to create some life.  Veidt wants to revel in his victory, but he sits uneasy following Osterman’s admonishment.

In accordance with these varied reactions to genocide, the superheroes all receive endings that seem to be tailored to their particular flaws and hangups regarding superheroics.  Veidt used his superhero career as a means to an end, and is now generally satisfied enough to leave capes and masks behind him forever; Osterman has become estranged from humanity, and without a human anchor in the form of Juspeczyk, he’s free to go explore the mysteries of the universe as his whims guide him; Rorschach insists to the bitter end that there must never be compromise, and so he dies trying to uncover Veidt’s plan despite it very likely resulting in a much larger calamity; Dreiberg and Juspeczyk go into hiding (they did assist Rorschach with his jailbreak) with plans to continue being crime fighters, presumably because Dreiberg still craves the lifestyle.  For these last two, I get a slight whiff of Tom and Daisy Buchanan at the end of The Great Gatsby; having failed spectacularly at stopping a worldwide conspiracy, they retreat into their carefree life of inconsequential crime fighting while everyone else who was more seriously invested in the venture is left holding the bag (let’s imagine in this scenario that Rorschach is Nick and Osterman is Gatsby, but their fates are switched; also, just for fun we’ll say that Veidt is Jordan Baker, though I don’t think there are too many parallels between them).  It’s all well and good that they get to continue indulging their fantasies, but a lot of people died because of the existence of superheroes, and they’re not helping matters.

This ending resolution drives home how Moore has been pushing to deconstruct the superhero genre from the series’s beginning.  We see the total inefficacy of street level crime fighters in the face of global conflict, the near pathological indifference of a hero with actual powers, and the commission of a genocide in order to actually resolve a problem that was exacerbated by the presence of those same heroes.  Veidt’s death toll is in the millions, but the characters are all forced to confront the reality that that number was the alternative to a nearly assured nuclear war that would have rated in the billions.  It’s a dark ending to a dark series built on Moore’s insistence that superhero stories are fundamentally immature and flawed.  His point is well taken, especially when you acknowledge that he likely wanted to balance the critique of superheroes with relatively hopeful vignettes about the lives of regular people just trying to get by in a world where forces much larger than them are at work (at least, this is how I choose to read the scenes of the intersection in relation to the main plot).

“I will give you bodies beyond your wildest imaginings.” Well played, gentlemen. (Artwork by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

Lenten Reflections: Week 4

I have to be honest: I started reading Revelation a week ago, and it has just not been able to hold my attention.  The stuff at the beginning where John offers advice and encouragement to the various churches in the form of words from Christ are kind of nifty, but from there he gets into all of the apocalyptic stuff, and most of it honestly just feels nonsensical.  All the visions and descriptions run together in a mishmash that leaves my head spinning for the most part.

The result of my lack of interest is that my Lent observation has grown relatively slack.  I think I’ve missed a couple days of reading, and the fact that I don’t know for sure underlines the problem that I’m having: so much of this millennia-old writing is just too alien to easily grasp as a layperson.  The common evangelical assertion that reading the Bible as daily practice is useful because it offers practical applications to our daily lives just rings false at this point.  There are some examples of moral behavior that can help inform our decision making, but even those require careful examination and interrogation to try to parse the culturally inflected values that don’t translate to modern society from the universal principles that can serve as a moral foundation.  What’s ironic is that even as I type this and recognize the fallacy of insisting on the Bible’s continued practical relevance, I feel a pang of guilt that comes from naysaying it.  Evangelicalism is so thoroughly built around the need to integrate the Bible with a believer’s day-to-day life that even as someone who only adopted that framework as a young adult before growing into a more mature form of Christianity I still have difficulty acknowledging the worldview’s limitations.  This kind of stuff must be maddening for people who were raised in evangelicalism before getting out, particularly if they retained some form of faith in the process of extricating themselves.

So I’m left with a conundrum of sorts.  The purpose of my Lent project was to return to a spiritual practice that I’ve largely abandoned over the past few years, but nearly two thirds of the way through it, I’m finding that the purpose of the practice is largely missing.  I’m not sure how to proceed; I expected that there would be periods in my reading where I’d likely have no particularly deep thoughts about anything; to expect some profound revelation every time you crack open a text strikes me as more than a little bit unrealistic, and it makes me wonder if that expectation goes back again to the evangelical veneration of the Bible and the belief that if you don’t get something meaningful from each encounter with Scripture then you’re probably the one doing something wrong.  It’s a difficult dissonance to resolve, and in the meantime I’m wondering about the purpose of continuing forward with the project.  Do I keep going because I made a commitment and I want to finish, even though I’m growing more and more frustrated with lack of fruitful reflection, or do I acknowledge that the period in my life where I needed to make this sort of effort at performative spirituality is past and let the project go?  Neither choice is particularly satisfactory, and they each carry with them some sort of frustration to manage.

I suppose I’ll have a better answer to these questions by the time I check in again next week.

God Is Not An Abusive Parent

In the years since I transitioned from white evangelicalism to progressive Christianity, I have found repeatedly that the proposition which most often gives white evangelicals conniptions is not any sort of challenge to biblical inerrancy or the affirmation of gender and sexuality diversity.  They don’t like this stuff, to be sure, and if it comes up there will likely be some hemming and hawing about how I’m a misguided or wayward Christian.  If you bring up the fact that American white evangelicalism is predicated on a system designed two hundred years ago to alleviate Christian slave owners’ sense of guilt at being both Christian and slave owners simultaneously, they get uncomfortable or retreat back into the epistemic bubble that declares their theology untainted by history.  Still, they won’t say you’ve gone off the deep end into heresy.

No, that sort of apoplectic fit comes along most frequently in connection with making the proposition that God is not an abusive parent.  What I mean by that is that white evangelicals are practiced in a mode of thought that ascribes to God the characteristics of supreme power, supreme self involvement, and supreme vindictiveness.  These characteristics combine to create a picture of God that relies on a particularly cruel theodicy in order to remain coherent.

I’ll try to break this down.

God’s nature as the source of the whole of Creation implies to many people that God must also be the most powerful being in existence.  They created the rest of this somehow, and we rightly recognize in the act of creation a remarkable power.  Of course, in Christian theology we also attribute to God the characteristic of supreme love, and love is such a complex, non-coercive phenomenon that we almost immediately encounter an irreconcilable paradox: the purest exercise of power is in making something behave counter to its nature, and the purest exercise of love is in fostering and encouraging something towards the best parts of its nature.  We want God to have both traits, but we don’t know how to make these traits mesh.  The result is a vision of God that is at odds with itself.  Nonetheless, instead of acknowledging we’ve conceived a paradox, we write it off as a mystery of God’s nature and move on to the next part of the construct.

Of course, what follows is theodicy; we recognize evil’s existence, but we’re puzzled by it.  God’s supposed to be all powerful and all loving, so why this problem that very clearly they should be able to solve?  Humans have come up with a bunch of ways to try to rationalize the issue, and none of them are totally satisfactory.  The process of explaining why God has not made use of their supreme power or their supreme love to rid Creation of evil is fraught, and often implies further complications in defining God’s character.  In white evangelicalism, the justification for evil often stems from a proposition somewhere that Creation deserves its corruption as just punishment for some deviation from God in the past.  God’s working out how to fix this problem, but in the meantime we just have to accept it as a natural consequence.  That’s almost tenable until you go back to the power/love dichotomy and get all turned around trying to understand how God can be capable of fixing things completely, but has chosen a method that works out on a scale beyond our comprehension so that evil still runs rampant in our localized perspective.

This is where the second characteristic of God comes in.  In white evangelicalism, the common explanation for evil in the world revolves around humanity’s failure to place God in their rightful position.  Too many people don’t worship God the way God wants, and so we’re all suffering for it.  Therefore, supreme self involvement.  Whether you justify this need for worship as an appropriate characteristic of God or not, it’s still there.

The third characteristic I listed is built into the fallout that comes from combining the first two.  A God who is supremely powerful and supremely self involved (or invested in their own glorification, which is how it’s usually spun) is going to get upset when people don’t shape up, and so they will demonstrate their power.  This is vindictiveness, pure and simple.

How we arrive at abuse from here is the confluence of a person punishing others for failing to meet expectations that are unreasonable, particularly when there’s a clear power differential between the punisher and the punished.  A system where God is all powerful leaves them eminently vulnerable to committing abuse against Creation.  Hence the abusive parent metaphor.

I see this metaphor playing out most strongly in the doctrine of hell.  Many Christians believe that failure to worship God in the proper way (that is, typically, worshiping Jesus Christ as God incarnate) is grounds enough for relegation to eternal conscious torment.  I don’t believe that; I’m what you would call a Christian Universalist.  I believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, but I don’t think that God requires anyone to worship Jesus as a prerequisite for attaining access to them.  This position is usually met with severe displeasure from white evangelicals; the idea that I would be a Christian who doesn’t think other people need to be Christians to find divine fulfillment is apparently an incredibly threatening proposition.  It’d be better if I were an atheist, even though that implies they would rather I be surely condemned to hell in their belief than existing in a place of uncertainty.

I suspect that this discomfort with forms of Christianity that are liminal in the evangelical imagination–those versions of the faith that share certain aspects of evangelical doctrine but reject others seen as central to members of the branch’s identity–are actually a threat to the epistemic closure that white American evangelicals have constructed for themselves.  Included in that paradigm is a moral system that abhors ambiguity, and there’s nothing more ambiguous than a person who claims Christianity as their faith while practicing it in a way that’s nowhere near as restrictive as what white evangelicals practice.  It’s like it sets off alarm bells; I’m professing things that they believe God should punish me for professing, and I’m telling them that God isn’t mad about that stuff.

One of us is afraid of our parent; the other isn’t.

Reading “Red Sun Day”

The penultimate issue of All-Star Superman begins with Lex Luthor’s execution, and it ends with Luthor bursting through the wall of the Daily Planet as Clark Kent collapses dead over the headline that Superman has died.  In between those two events are a few twists that only really surprise the people who are inside the story; Luthor stole the formula for twenty-four hour superpowers that Superman made way back in issue #2 for Lois Lane’s birthday, and he created and drank it in prison just before he was scheduled to be executed.  Solaris the Tyrant Sun, a giant sentient solar computer, arrives and casts Earth in perpetual red sunlight, which should neutralize Superman’s powers.  Superman, anticipating that this is his last adventure, finishes putting everything in order and goes to meet his fate.

What we get here is an issue that is long on setup for the finale, and short on much else.  It’s been obvious since the beginning that Luthor had a plan in place that would allow him to escape prison whenever he wanted (issue #5 was built on the premise that Luthor could walk out at any time, but he was adhering to his own schedule), and so the fact that he survives his own electrocution isn’t particularly surprising for the reader.  It’s a nice set piece; watching Luthor ambush the prison guards is a lot of fun; it just isn’t surprising.

Slightly more resonant are the brief scenes of Superman closing up shop in his fortress.  He leaves behind a lot of things for his robot assistants to care for, including a lot of mementos of his adventures during this brief series.  We catch a glimpse of the Phantom Zone mirror where Bar-El and Lilo are rampaging through the hordes of Kryptonian criminals; Superman arranges to have a page of Zibarro’s poetry that he brought back from the Underverse preserved in superlaminate; there’s an entire zoo of animals who were mutated by contact with the Bizarro world that now have special needs.  Beyond those things that we recognize just from reading the most recent adventures of this Superman, there are many other things strewn about in the background that highlight just how full this hero’s life has been.  Quitely goes above and beyond to make this world lived in by its two central figures; just as we see so much of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and the history preserved there, we also get a glimpse in this issue of one of Luthor’s hideouts where he’s stowed an impressive number of costumes and battle suits over the years (many in his signature purple and green color scheme).  We’re getting ready to say goodbye to these versions of the DC characters, and Morrison wants to take a moment to acknowledge all the history he’s been playing with before getting on with the action.

And that’s really the long and short of this issue.  It’s mostly setup for the big finale, and that’s perfectly okay.

(Artwork by Frank Quitely, inks & colors by Jamie Grant, letters by Phil Balsman & Travis Lanham)

Lenten Reflections: Week 3

The thing about doing something for Lent is that you commit to it and the first couple weeks are relatively easy, then you hit that midpoint at the end of week three, and you’re really feeling over it.  Of course, it is a practice that’s built on developing spiritual discipline, so we’ll just keep on keepin’ on until Easter.

I spent most of the last week continuing to read in Jeremiah, but what I found as I got deeper and deeper into it was that I was having a hard time staying invested in the narrative of the exile.  Jeremiah gets heavy into theodicy about the Babylonians conquering Israel and Judah, and it honestly gets kind of repetitive after a certain point.  People were too busy worshiping other gods, God is angry to be ignored, everything that happened to the Israelites is deserved, etc.  There’s hammering a point home, and there’s beating a dead horse, and then there’s the book of Jeremiah.

Fortunately, I’m not bound by any constraints that say I have to stick with Jeremiah during Lent; I just picked it to get a flavor of the prophetic literature from the Old Testament, but at the rate I’m going of reading a few chapters a day, I would have spent several weeks just reading this one text.  So after I got about halfway, I decided to leave Jeremiah behind and look at something else.  I settled on reading John of Patmos’s book of Revelation.

Revelation is a weird coda in the New Testament; much of it is clearly meant to be symbolic, but the significance of the symbolism is largely obscured by time and distance.  I don’t know why there are so many different sets of angels or what’s important about the locusts that have human faces and breastplates like iron breastplates (okay, actually I have some idea of what the deal with the locusts is, but you get my point).  Revelation is dense, and it is opaque.

At this point I’m not terribly certain what I’m hoping to get out of reading this particular text.  I don’t put any stock in Rapture-tinged theology, and I know that I simply don’t have the contextual knowledge necessary to make out a whole lot of the meaning of John’s book.  I think mostly Revelation is on my mind because I know it’s a relatively sharp departure from Jeremiah, even as I recognize that much of it is also intended to be a coded polemic against the injustices perpetrated by the Romans against early Christians.  Maybe it comes down to the fact that our current times feel slightly apocalyptic, and I want to compare that feeling with what’s contained in an actual apocalypse.

Conservative Sociopathy: A Rant

[CW: I’m cursing today.]

This post comes from a place of anger.  I need to say that up front, because I suspect that anyone who reads this as a political conservative will be tempted to read my words as whiny or “snowflake-ish.”  I’m not whining; I’m angry.

The reason I’m angry is because I’m tired of seeing things pop up in my social media that remind me that conservatives who voted for Forty-Five did it because they wanted to say “fuck you” to liberals and leftists.  They saw us grow increasingly dismayed that their chosen candidate is a flaming pile of shit of a human being, and they embraced this aesthetic because they saw that it made us angry.

Congratulations, you made us angry.  Now we’re dealing with an administration that is only tolerable in terms of its incompetence (this tolerability will only go so far; the first real crisis that drops into Forty-Five’s lap is going to cost a lot of lives wherever it happens to be located on the map, and it will be due almost entirely to the administration’s utter disregard for the necessity of actual expertise with regard to anything).  The proposed budget will slash a multitude of cost effective domestic programs that don’t cost the taxpayer much money at all (I am happy to let my taxes pay to feed children and the elderly, thank you), and even though it’s unlikely to pass as-is through Congress, the sentiment of the administration is clear: fuck all you lefty liberal snowflakes and your brown people too (because of course, the only people who qualify as people in the conservative sociopath’s mind are white people, you God-damned, racist asswipes); we’d rather shit on ourselves as long as it spites you.

I should back up slightly.

My Facebook feed is very much in the “blue feed” category.  I used to allow political stuff from my more conservative family and friends to pass through, and I’d even occasionally engage with those things, but I don’t do that anymore.  It’s become clear to me that for many of these people politics is not a subject that you discuss with the intention of expanding your horizons.  It’s about engaging in resentment Olympics, and I reached a point where I was just over that bullshit.  It was gradual, but I eventually got my feed weeded out pretty well so that the only things coming from that side of my network are just innocuous stuff such as family pictures and the like.  Very occasionally something nasty slips through, and I mark it as content I don’t want to see and move on.  That happened today, and while I wanted to just move on, it started to eat at me.  At the moment I’m mostly feeling pissed at the pettiness of conservatives; this is not a thing that really needs fixing.  Given some time, the worst feelings will pass and I’ll go back to just trying to ignore stupid conservative shit in favor of focusing on trying to do practical things to make my communities better.  Outrage isn’t productive, and as I’m trying to point out here, it actually feeds into the sociopathic behavior of conservatives.

Let’s talk a little about what I mean when I call conservative behavior sociopathic (having completed my rant, I now feel able to think more dispassionately about this topic).  First, take a few minutes to read this essay by Aaron Loeb (for folks who just don’t click through when it’s recommended, Loeb likens the split between conservatives and liberals in America to a divorce that has turned ugly without one side realizing it).  He articulates the frustration I’ve been feeling rather eloquently, and nicely sums up the realization I’m having that many conservatives I know are only in it to hurt people on the left.

It’s important to remember that when we discuss sociopathy, we’re not discussing an actual classification of mental illness; the term is sort of a catch-all for behavior that’s recognized as antisocial in nature (this is antisocial in the clinical sense that a person’s behavior is directly antagonistic toward social norms, not the more colloquial sense that a person is rejecting socialization as a way of spending their free time; that’s more correctly described as being asocial).  You don’t receive a diagnosis of sociopathy, so I want to emphasize that I am not equating conservative ill will with a mental disorder.  People with mental health needs don’t need to be dragged through the mud to point out what shitheads conservatives are being.

I call the behavior of conservatives sociopathic because they’re acting in a way that is literally pathological to our social fabric.  They’re reveling in being trolls because they get a high off of seeing liberals and leftists gnash their teeth at the injustice of Forty-Five’s policies.  What’s being overlooked is the fact that liberal anguish is rooted in the actual suffering of real people.  We get pissed about Forty-Five’s proposed policies because he’s being reckless and vindictive towards people who see through his bullshit.  We’re angry because there are consequences to these actions, and what we hear from conservatives is that they just don’t give a damn.

Look, the purpose of politics, as messy a business as it is, is to try to suss out how to make our communities operate better.  This is hard, emotionally trying work.  You frequently have to deal with people who have a different vision of what “better” means and negotiate some sort of compromise between those visions.  It’s not a fun prospect, but it’s necessary.  What I’m seeing from conservatives is an abdication of that fundamental purpose in favor of making politics a team sport where you cheer for your side and rub it in the face of your opponents when they lose.  The consequences have been completely divorced from the action in their minds, and in that environment they’ve chosen to treat the whole endeavor like pure entertainment.

I’m over all that.  Conservatives who do this shit can go fuck themselves.

Reading “Look On My Works, Ye Mighty…”

I’ve read Watchmen about four times now, and one thing that puzzled me in the past was how this issue was meant to be primarily about Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias.  The subplot of the chaos that erupts on the street corner is so compelling, and so essential to the plot of the series, that I often forget that most of this issue is built around Veidt monologuing to various listeners about his life and master plan.

Adrian Veidt understands the real world almost as well as he understands the fictional world he lives in. (Artwork & letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

If there’s a defining trait for Veidt as a character, it’s hubris.  He actually hews pretty closely to a classically tragic hero; in addition to his overwhelming self confidence, Veidt is one of the richest, most well respected people in America and he’s driven by his hubris to carry out a plan that in a more traditional superhero narrative would culminate with his disgrace and potential demise.  Moore and Gibbons aren’t interested in that model though, so while we’re going to see some interesting shades of Veidt filled in in the last issue of the series, in this one he’s very much someone who has decided to commit a heinous atrocity for what he believes are the best reasons, and he’s aware enough of the conventions of the story in which he exists to take steps that would prevent anyone from foiling him.

Veidt’s story is intriguing simply because it is utterly devoid of tragedy.  The closest thing to a serious hardship that he experiences is the death of his parents when he’s relatively young, and even that is described more as an opportunity for Veidt to prove himself rather than as something that haunts him.  If you discount the fact that he wants to murder millions of people to scare America and the Soviet Union out of nuclear war, Adrian Veidt comes across as a perfectly well-adjusted, if smug, person.  This is an important feature of Veidt’s personality to remember, because when he discusses his time as a superhero, he makes it clear that he became disillusioned with the lifestyle’s approach to justice almost immediately.  Unlike Nite Owl and Rorschach, who do superheroics as something of a passion project, Ozymandias was always meant to be a means to a larger end.  Instead of these characters, Veidt explicitly places himself in the same category as Edward Blake.

Like Blake, Veidt believes himself to be a person who sees the world for precisely what it is, but in place of cynicism he adopts a stance of idealism.  The irony of this idealism is that it’s not rooted in optimism about humanity writ large but in Veidt’s own capabilities.  He’s totally convinced of his capacity to manipulate the entire world into a lasting peace, and while he appears dispassionate as he explains all the steps in his master plan, there’s an undeniable sense of zealotry and narcissism.  Veidt believes utterly that only he is capable of resolving the world’s chief problem.  In terms of the scope of what he wants to do, he’s totally megalomaniacal; he just happens to be doing it because he genuinely wants to save the world.  This is really where the differences between Blake and Veidt end though.  Blake is a thoroughly violent man who has built his whole life on violence in small, intimate doses; people who know the Comedian know he is not someone to be trifled with.  Veidt, while maintaining the appearance of a more genteel person, is the same, only on a larger scale.  His chief power is his intelligence, and he uses that to create access to other forms of power for himself, which he wields ruthlessly; Veidt exposes multiple people to enough radiation to give them cancer, arranges a failed assassination attempt on himself that results in the deaths of his personal assistant and the assassin in order to avoid suspicion, systematically murders every person who can potentially be connected to his plan, and destroys half of New York City.  In most cases he won’t beat you senseless himself (except for Blake, whom I suspect Veidt personally murders as a bit of revenge for the humiliation of losing to the Comedian when he was an inexperienced adventurer), but Veidt makes it starkly clear that he is a dangerous man if you get in the way of his ambitions.

Malcolm’s arc is a really brief one, but where he arrives in this moment is one of the best in the whole series. Shame we don’t get to see the journey from his moment of despair in his last appearance. (Artwork & letters by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)

Running parallel to Veidt’s reveling in his moment of triumph is the last story of the New York street corner.  We get to see the stories of several of the ordinary people who have been interacting with the superheroes in passing come to a head just before Veidt’s alien crashes into the city and kills them all.  We see the news vendor finally connect with the boy who has been reading the pirate comic after weeks of his lonely observations about the state of the world; we see the detectives who were so close to catching Dan Dreiberg as Nite Owl choosing to intervene in a street fight while they’re off duty; we see a cabby who frequents the news stand caught in the heat of the moment as her girlfriend breaks up with her; we see Malcolm Long, Rorschach’s prison therapist, finally assert to his wife Gloria what he’s come to value after being exposed to the worst of humanity.  All these thoroughly mundane stories culminate with this moment of ultimate intersection and concern.  Just before Veidt turns them all into collateral damage, they demonstrate the hope that humanity can somehow learn to care about itself.  It’s a poignant moment where empathy cuts through all the noise of life, and I’m generally of the opinion that it represents the moment that Moore was most interested in arriving at as he wrote Watchmen.  It’s the moments of clarity in the lives of ordinary people that are special and worthy examining, not the big flashy spectacles of people in costumes.

What more fitting moment do you need for this idea than a man, thoroughly convinced of his own specialness, casually murdering millions of people so that he can say he saved the world?

“My name is Ozymandias king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” (Artwork by Dave Gibbons, colors by John Higgins)