Friday, 27 June 2008


Nelson Mandela: Happy 90th Birthday
Big ol' concert for the South African's 90th birthday, reportedly his last major public engagement. Amy Winehouse looked like she shouldn't've been allowed out of hospital (doesn't bode well for her Glastonbury set tomorrow, not that I'll be watching), Queen were of course excellent, and the interview with Stephen Fry was likely the most intelligent set of thoughts you'll hear about Mandela, his role, and the future of his causes.

Wimbledon 2008
Though saw hardly any today -- brief snippets here and there, mainly from the barely-finished match between Mario Ancic and David Ferrer (which we switched off for the Mandela concert).


The Incredible Hulk (2008)
[#45 in 100 Films in a Year 2008]
Immeasurably more entertaining than Ang Lee's dull 2003 effort.


Blood Fever by Charlie Higson
Chapters 25 - 27

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Chapter V
Treasure Island Treasury of Comics Chapter 5
See here for my thoughts on these chapters of Watchmen.

"Watchmen" by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - Chapter V

Chapter V returns to Rorschach's hunt for the murderer of the Comedian, as Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) becomes the latest former superhero to be attacked, though this time unsuccessfully. After the last chapter's internal musings of Dr Manhattan, this one is more plot-centric, also touching upon the potential burgeoning relationship of Dan Dreiberg and Laurie. Moore also continues to use Tales of the Black Freighter, this time to mirror the news vendor's ongoing musings on life.

The chapter ends with Rorschach lured into a trap, which leads to a rare action sequence and his capture... and the removal of his mask! While I feel left with little to comment on about this chapter -- it's a strong, plot-driving episode, but with little else to mention, clearly -- it sets up what should be an interesting sixth part, as the mystery of Rorschach's true identity has lingered around much of the story so far.

"Watchmen" by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons - Chapter IV

Alan Moore is clever. The fourth chapter of Watchmen focuses on Dr Manhattan, the only superhero in the book with any actual superpowers. Having run off to Mars at the end of the preceding chapter, Manhattan reflects on his life to date -- essentially, this is his backstory. The clever part comes from the way Moore re-uses images and the way he's seeded them in earlier chapters. For example, Manhattan remembers an argument he had with his then-girlfriend at a superhero meeting. We saw this same meeting in Chapter II. Flicking back to that chapter now, you can see the argument going on, they just don't have the speech bubbles to spell it out to us. There are a couple of other instances of this kind, which both add to the story's depth and are great fun for the reader -- it's sort of in the tradition of the best Agatha Christie stories, where all the clues you need are sat under your nose from the start, you just don't know what to do with them.

Within the chapter itself, Moore structures things cleverly. Manhattan sees time as the fourth (or fifth?) dimension, and so in some way is experiencing all of the past and all of the future at once. Moore uses this to slot his backstory together in a variety of ways, drawing parallels and connections between time periods without ever becoming too confusing. Events make sense the first time they're witnessed, but then Moore adds something and places the old events around it, giving them new or altered meaning in their new context. The clarity of Gibbon's art means that there's no need to retell events every time -- with repeated frames, sometimes even from earlier chapters, the reader vividly recalls the relevant scene; sometimes the colouring or focus is even modified to help draw our attention to another element, be it for a different meaning or just for a different transition (such a visual technique is, again, hard to adequately describe with words).

Previously I've moaned about Moore repeating himself. Another frequent trope turns up in the 'supporting documents' -- the autobiographies, magazine articles, etc, that sit between the chapters -- not only the one attached to Chapter IV, but also the autobiography that preceded it. Moore has the characters writing the documents refer to events we know nothing of as "well documented elsewhere", and then doesn't explain them himself. At first it seems an amusing way of maintaining mystery -- inevitably, these events are things Moore wants to reveal at a later point -- but when overdone it's just repetitive, and also unrealistic. In my experience, the sort of works Moore is parodying are all too happy to re-explain well-known things, or at least give a brief overview of them. If not those, they assume people's assumed knowledge; they don't make a point of telling the reader that they know about this (and then not telling them it). This could be seen as a minor point of course, and when the heart of the story is so good it really is, but it taints the edges and takes the sheen off things.

Nonetheless, the main thrust of Watchmen continues to be a completely engrossing story. There's much still to be revealed across its many plot strands -- I can't wait to see how Moore brings them all together.

Days til New York...


For a full explanation, please see the start of the countdown.