Study Guide

Watchmen Chapter II

By Alan Moore

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Chapter II

Absent Friends

  • Teleported by Jon (Dr. Manhattan) to SoCal’s Nepenthe Gardens Rest Resort, Laurie catches up with her mom while Jon, Adrian Veidt, and Dan Dreiberg attend Edward Blake’s funeral in New York.
  • Outside the cemetery gates, the redheaded, sign-holding doomsayer stands watch. Who ever could this person be?
  • Meanwhile, Laurie resents Sally (her mother) for forgiving the Comedian’s attempted rape forty years earlier.
  • Sally laments that there are now only three Minutemen left: her, Hollis Mason, and Byron Lewis, who’s been committed to an asylum in Maine. Feeling mortal at 65, Sally shows her daughter smutty comics of herself as Silk Spectre back in the day.
  • This puts Sally in a nostalgic kind of mood, and with the flash(back) of a camera, we enter Sally’s take on 1940, the day the Minutemen posed for their iconic portrait.
  • H.J. (Hooded Justice) prefers working the streets over photo ops, and young Eddie Blake wants to see what’s happening in Europe.
  • Two other costumed heroes, a vampish lady in black and a dude dressed as a moth, make minor appearances as well.
  • As Sally changes clothes upstairs, Eddie, still decked out as the Comedian, makes his move. Sally resists, and claws his face. Eddie knocks her down and forces himself upon her, when Hooded Justice shows up. The two men spar until Eddie accuses H.J. of getting turned on by violence.
  • Zoom back to the present. At Nepenthe Gardens, white-haired Sally accuses Laurie of “sleep[ing] with an H-Bomb” a.k.a. Jon (II.8).
  • Over in New York at Blake’s funeral, our focus turns to Veidt, whose memory we enter through flashback.
  • Captain Metropolis (Nelson Gardner), one of the original Minutemen, is inaugurating the brand-new Crimebusters. Pretty weak name, huh? Also present are Veidt (hero name so far unknown), the Comedian (much older now), Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre (version 2.0), as well as Dr. Manhattan, who stands arm-in-arm with a woman.
  • Captain Metropolis explains how the Minutemen disbanded in 1949 but crime never has. The Comedian laughs, forever the skeptic.
  • The meeting falls apart before it even begins, as the Comedian burns Captain Metropolis’s plans.
  • We return to the present-day, to Edward Blake’s funeral, and now it’s time to see the Comedian from another perspective, through Dr. Manhattan’s eyes.
  • Cut to a Saigon bar at the end of the Vietnam War, where the two of them are having a chat.
  • Blake comes off as seriously jaded; he thinks war’s a joke, though he sounds like he’s got PTSD.
  • The young Vietnamese mother of his unborn child approaches. She asks Blake to be a father; he refuses. She slashes his face with the shards of a bottle, and he shoots her, point blank, in cold blood.
  • Dr. Manhattan just stands there watching, and Blake calls him out for not intervening, despite his superpowers. Blake accuses Dr. Manhattan of not caring about people, not even Janey Slater (the woman on his arm during Veidt’s flashback) or Laurie Jupiter, Jon’s new love interest.
  • We return to Blake’s funeral. It is raining. Now it’s Dreiberg’s turn.
  • Cue flashback: Nite Owl 2.0 and Blake are hovering in a bug-eyed spacecraft (hoot hoot). Below them it’s mob rule on the streets of New York.
  • The entire police force is on strike until masked heroes stop interfering with their work. Blake launches a smoke grenade into the crowd, dispersing them. He shoots rubber bullets at taggers spraying “Who Watches the Watchmen?” on a wall.
  • Blake believes he’s the only sane one left as Dreiberg wonders what has happened to America. Dreiberg and Blake agree to disagree.
  • Blake’s funeral is over now. Dreiberg throws the Comedian’s happy face pin into his grave. Veidt, Dr. Manhattan, and Dreiberg shake hands.
  • Another man, his face obscured, exits the cemetery in a hurry. The redheaded doomsayer watches all the while.
  • The mystery man returns to his apartment, where a discarded newspaper hints at rising tensions between America and the USSR. Some Shmoopy advice for you: it pays to read the headlines in Watchmen; there’s no such thing as a random scrap.
  • Our mystery man turns out to be elderly, but that doesn’t stop Rorschach from breaking in and tackling him to the ground. He identifies the old man as Moloch (a.k.a. Edgar William Jacobi), the former criminal mastermind. Rorschach wants to know why he crashed Blake’s funeral.
  • Moloch says Blake recently showed up drunk at his apartment. Time for one last flashback featuring the dead man.
  • There’s a list with him (Moloch) and Janey Slater (Dr. Manhattan’s jilted lover) on it, and something cryptic about an island full of writers, artists, and scientists. Blake is wasted, and shows remorse for the deeds he’s done, but can’t understand the punch line.
  • Likewise, Rorschach can’t make heads or tails of Moloch’s story, and that’s why he believes it.
  • Moloch reveals he has cancer, and Rorschach parts ways with old pointy-ears.
  • Back on the streets, it’s time for Rorschach’s journal (October 16th, 1985). He’s on the case, trying to connect the dots, and pays his last respects to Edward Blake’s grave with a joke about Pagliacci, the world’s saddest clown.
  • Chapter Postscript: And I’m up while the dawn is breaking, even though my heart is aching. I should be drinking a toast to absent friends instead of these comedians. –Elvis Costello

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