Prison Pals (Pages 9-17)
This sequence introduces us to Marcos “Mime” Maez (who first appears on Page 11) and Erika “Marionette” Manson (first appearing on Page 9). They’re married super-criminals who are new for this story but apparently old foes of Rorschach. We think further that they are pastiches of the Charlton villains Punch and Jewelee, who themselves were murderous takes on the classic violent puppets Punch and Judy.
Created by Steve Ditko (who also created Blue Beetle and The Question and co-created Captain Atom), Punch and Jewelee first appeared in March 1967’s Captain Atom issue #85. In the Charlton comics they fought Captain Atom and Nightshade. Once the Charlton characters had been incorporated into the post-Crisis On Infinite Earths DC timeline, Punch and Jewelee were recruited into the Suicide Squad. The couple retired briefly once Jewelee became pregnant. In the pre-Flashpoint timeline Punch was killed on a mission and Jewelee continued without him. However, in the Rebirth era, the couple joined Batman on his mission to Santa Prisca in the “I Am Suicide” storyline (Batman issues #9-13, December 2016-February 2017).
While Marionette looks like the more lucid of the two, Mime’s schtick combines brutal hand-to-hand combat with mimed “weapons” and a penchant for using his opponents’ blood as lipstick. (That last detail probably reminds a lot of readers of a certain A-list DC villain coming soon to a D-Clock cover near you.) Mime’s theatricality also comes through in Page 14’s “big dramatic turn,” which is a very meta moment in a sequel to a very metatextual miniseries.
Rorschach’s Page 9 observation that his “watch runs slow” encourages our pet theory that the Watchmen world is “synced” to the main-line DC Universe, but is currently 15 years “behind” it. Regardless, his slow watch is another example of Rorschach’s imprecision. This is because (spoilers!) it’s not the same Rorschach, but an as-yet-anonymous African-American man under the blobby mask. Likewise, the Burgers & Borscht container on Page 17 reveals this Rorschach’s personality further. Would the original Rorschach have eaten detente food?
We won’t speculate on the new Rorschach’s identity, except to note that a) Geoff Johns has a history of working on legacy characters (particularly in Teen Titans, Flash and JSA); and b) this isn’t Watchmen‘s first legacy. The miniseries featured two versions each of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, and the final issue hinted that Laurie Juspeczyk would become the new Comedian.
Marionette doesn’t know how accurate she is on Page 10: Rorschach “killed himself” insofar as he begged Dr M. to kill him.
We already mentioned Watchmen issue #1’s Doctor Manhattan meeting, and here we see that Page 17’s wire fence and guard tower are reminiscent of that military housing. There’s also a similar hole in the fence, no doubt courtesy of Rorschach.
Doomed City, Secret Lair (Pages 18-26)
Watchmen‘s camera angles often pull out of scenes to show the bigger picture, but Page 18’s camera angles push back into the city. Here, of course, the camera pushes against the steady stream of evacuees.
Page 19’s “left or right” ambiguity is probably the most anvillicious moment of the new Rorschach’s indecisiveness. In fairness, we suspect he learned everything Rorschach (and, as we’ll see, Nite Owl) from Walter Kovacs’ journal. That’s undoubtedly a lot to keep straight. However, on Page 24 Rorschach affirms his (new) identity forcefully: “I am Rorschach. Nothing else to tell.”
Although we learn on Page 20 that someone pulled out Mime’s tongue, it’s not clear whether he did it himself or whether it was an ironic Rorschach punishment. Our bet is on the latter.
Page 22 shows us that Nite Owl isn’t home, but all of his equipment is. This looks an awful lot like the Owl Cave from Watchmen, which the police raided at the end of issue #8. Nite Owl had packed everything up before the cops got there, so it wasn’t too big of a loss (except, you know, for the whole “Dan Dreiberg identity” thing). Nevertheless, the weeks between issue #12’s confrontation in Antarctica and the Christmas Day epilogue could easily have given Nite Owl enough time to set up a new headquarters/storage facility, to go along with his new identity. Page 23 says he’s retired, but we don’t think that will last long. If anyone’s going to move to the main DC Universe when this is all over, we bet Dan will be first in line.
Of course, also on Page 23 we get the long-anticipated return of Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt. Once again he’s in full costume, as he was at the end of issue #12. Because a mysterious “Mr. Oz” had been appearing in the Superman titles (starting with August 2014’s Superman #32), fans speculated that this was Ozymandias, somehow transported to the main DC Universe. Instead, the “Oz Effect” storyline in Action Comics issues #987-991 (November 2017-January 2018) explained that Mr. Oz was Jor-El, rescued from Krypton’s destruction for unexplained reasons. Moreover, Veidt’s appearance here suggests further that he hasn’t been messing around on DC-Earth at all, since he’s been in hiding on his own Earth.
Although he seems a bit more humble, Veidt maintains some trappings of his old life. Besides keeping his costume clean and neat, he’s got a new Bubastis (still a kitten at this point) to replace the original genetically-engineered cat killed in issue #12. Page 25 appears to confirm that the tumor from Page 4 is indeed Veidt’s, and that he does have cancer. On Page 26, Veidt narrates over reminders of his crumbling achievements, the New York Massacre memorial plaque and the “One World/One Accord” poster.
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