Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Manhattan Projects 11, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Patrick: We take the term of “science fiction” for granted. It’s a genre and an aesthetic that has become ironically formulaic over the years. Just as “fantasy” increasing means a cookie-cutter world of elves and goblins and dragons, “science fiction” means spaceships and lasers and aliens (or robots, so say we all). Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects returns to the source of the phrase and delivers a series both surprisingly scientific and excitingly fictional. I’m still tinkering with the punctuation, but I think “science/fiction” is the most appropriate. Continue reading →
Michael: What you don’t show is as important as what you do show. If a story is told well, you can thankfully take this writerly aphorism for granted. We’re free to focus on what we are shown, because it’s gripping and we care about these moments over others. The rest — the implied events — blends into the background. It might be important. It might be necessary we know about it, but it isn’t right in front of us, on the page, and that’s OK. Unless that story is Before Watchman: Ozymandias 6, then it’s not OK. Every grinding gear of a story must be on display. It’s my own fault. I crave the supplemental information and shifts in perspective — I’m just upset when it doesn’t work out.
Shelby: How do you tell any kind of story about a man who sees all of time at once? He knows his past, his future, and everything in between; how do you find a compelling narrative in the story of a man who knows his whole story? J. Michael Straczynski has tried to do that by exploiting Dr. Manhattan’s kooky relationship with time. “Doc Manhattan knows every possible future? FINE. I’ll WRITE every possible future!” JMS seemed to say. This title hasn’t been terrible (especially compared to the othermonstrosities JMS had his hand in), but it hasn’t been great, either. At best, this book has been conceptually interesting, but has fallen short in execution. This issue is no different; JMS tries out something new that’s interesting, but ultimately the story doesn’t go much of anywhere. Continue reading →
Patrick: In a sequence that perfectly epitomizes how I feel about the Ozymandias mini-series, Adrian Veidt holds a press conference as his alter ego. He removes the mask and the costume, revealing to the assembled reporters that Ozymandias and Adrian Veidt are one and the same. He says that all non-Doctor-Manhattan heroes have effectively become irrelevant — a sentiment echoed at one point or another by just about everyone in the Watchmen universe. Vedit can accomplish more good as the head of Vedit Industries, which prompts one reporter to ask “So, this is all about the money?” Never mind that this isn’t at all what Vedit was saying, he addresses the question head-on, bluntly saying “In this end… isn’t everything?” That reads as a rather cynical explanation for Before Watchmen, but interestingly, Veidt can’t keep his word about staying out of costume, donning the cape again to fight petty crime during the police strike. The message? It’s all about money… except when superheroes are involved: then it’s about something else.
Michael: One of the themes of almost any time travel story is exponential chaos. Messing with the space time continuum can get out of control fast. The time-travel narrative can get similarly disordered as alternate worlds open and paradoxes proliferate. When the protagonist can exist in and explore these permutations, like Dr. Manhattan, drama gets complicated and the context needed to recognize a satisfactory ending gets fuzzy. In this issue, “Ego Sum”, J. Michael Straczynski and Adam Hughes try to gracefully execute a clunky, inelegant story solution to the reckless splitting of worlds that results in a nuclear holocaust. Continue reading →
Drew: I don’t envy Len Wein. The thought of writing a prequel to one of the greatest comic books of all time is daunting enough, but Wein faces the additional task of writing the thoughts of the smartest man on the planet. Super-intelligent characters like Sherlock Holmes are difficult to write realistically — the writer has to come up with problems whose solutions aren’t already apparent to the supporting cast and audience — but Adrian Veidt is an order of magnitude more difficult. This is someone who predicted the end of the world, then devoted years to realize a convoluted plan to divert it. Anything shy of that level of planning and premonition is going to feel like a letdown, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what we get inOzymandias 4. Continue reading →
The Retcon Punchers weren’t exactly thrilled when Before Watchmen was announced. But then, against all odds, the experiment proved largely successful. The original line-up contained many titles that went well beyond justifying their existence — a few even transcend their inherently exploitative premise. Last week saw the release of Moloch #1 and the announcement of a Dollar Bill one-off. What does this mean for the legacy of Before Watchmen? Any additional titles you want to see?What if there’s a chance to get additional issues of existing titles? Welcome to the Chat Cave. Continue reading →
Patrick: The first issue of Dr. Manhattan has sort of become Retcon Punch’s go-to example of something about which we can neither agree nor be civil. At its best, the issue was clever homage, setting up a daunting narrative structure with dazzling artwork. At its worst, the issue was reductive, inaccurate and repetitive. The centerpiece of our contention: Schrodinger’s cat. The thought experiment posits that an unobserved cat in a box is simultaneously dead and alive, and only when the cat is observed do the realities collapse into a single universe. Schrodinger came up with this puzzle partially to illustrate how silly the field of quantum mechanics is. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t buy into it, just that you live in a profoundly weird universe if a fact can be simultaneously true and not true. I’ve been thinking about it all evening, and “profoundly weird” is exactly how I want to describe Dr. Manhattan 2. Continue reading →
Drew: Part of what made me so resistant to the idea of a Watchmen prequel series is my immense respect for the original series. Not that it was a sacred cow — though, arguably, it is — but that anything that failed to meet that very high level of respect for the material would feel inherently disrespectful. I understood that maintaining that level of respect would be incredibly burdensome to creators, narrowing narrative possibilities to a knife’s edge. To my surprise, many titles have not only matched my respect for Watchmen, but have exceeded what I thought would be possible while doing so. Other titles have not fared as well, failing to justify their own existence, or — worse yet — failing to hold the source material in the proper esteem. Ozymandias has managed two issues without falling firmly into either category, and while issue 3 falters a bit, I’m still unsure if it is a success or a failure. Continue reading →
Shelby: Dr. Manhattan is a tricky character to deal with. He is all powerful; he can control any matter in any way, can see all time, and knows how everything will happen. That’s difficult to even really comprehend as a reader, let alone to understand it enough to write about. Once you get over the hurdle of writing about an infinitely powerful being with seemingly no weaknesses, there’s the fact that you’re writing a prequel story that the readers already know. Dr. Manhattan gets the most detailed origin story in Watchmen, so how do you write more about a story that we already know without completely derailing the character? I will admit, I was doubtful J. Michael Straczynski would pull it off, solely based on my disappointment in Nite Owl so far. I was surprised and immensely pleased to find this title is very, very good. Continue reading →