Anything Goes, Nothing Happens

A review of Rorschach #1–5

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When I first wrote about this comic, it was the just the first issue summarized in a snippy haiku. Now I’m four more issues in, and I’m here to say that my assessment of the book has moved from a dismissive joke to a rant on a series’ wasted potential.

I saw no potential at first in writer Tom King and artist Jorge Fornés’ latest assist in helping to keep Alan Moore’s characters in DC Comics’ hands. Not until issue #2, where the story’s protagonist, a detective investigating the assassination attempt of a presidential candidate by someone dressed up as Rorschach, visits the home of the identified assailant, who is basically a stand-in for Steve Ditko.

Ditko is not only recently deceased, but he was the cartoonist behind the inspiration of Watchmen’s most infamous antihero. To turn a fictionalized version of the cartoonist into some kind of Lee Harvey Oswald type of character seems unthinkable…but ballsy. I was hooked for a minute.

Then the detective reads the secret project King’s alt-version of Ditko worked on, featuring what’s supposed to be a Question/Mr. A type character. Not a bad attempt by Fornés to capture Ditko’s energy.

Then I read the dialogue, and that’s when the book lost me again. I’ve waited for the Ditko stuff to come back. It hasn’t.

The fact that the very word “compromise” appears in a Steve Ditkoesque comic automatically takes any true vision Steve Ditko out of it. Any of Ditko’s independent work, or even written editorial passages like the one below, show that Ditko had no room for compromise or sentiment (or metaphor).

Ditko; “There are many who actually believe that the heart, an organ whose function is to pump blood through the body, is capable of perceiving, reasoning and understanding. That the proper guide to man’s actions should be determined by a CHEST PUMP.
Ditko; “There are many who actually believe that the heart, an organ whose function is to pump blood through the body, is capable of perceiving, reasoning and understanding. That the proper guide to man’s actions should be determined by a CHEST PUMP.

The story has thrown out the idea that Rorschach might be alive, that Rorschach is a spirit that inhabits unstable people to do his bidding. There’s a conspiracy in this umpteenth version of Watchmen’s world that alien squids are controlling people. I hate that last part in particular. It’s probably trying to reflect the QAnon movement, but using a modern real-life conspiracy to somehow comment on the conspiracy in a thirty-plus year story falls flat for me.

More certainly has happened, but nothing is happening enough to make me care where the Rorschach story goes. Thanks to Geoff Johns and company, the Watchmen universe (I hate calling it that now) in just a few short years seems just as broken and pointless as the whole DC Universe, which is now subject to endless unasked-for revisions and continuity resets.

Anything King and Fornés could have pulled off that I would have liked seems to have been tossed or is likely to be watered down even further, which is a shame. I would love to have seen a modern takedown of Ditko.

Steve Ditko’s Randian take on superheroes deserves to be challenged thirty years after Alan Moore’s seminal book did so. Instead, creators today can’t help but write Watchmen with a lack of awareness and an unexamined love for superheroes. Worse, the characters story has been rewritten to make them more Randian and even more pro-fascist.

Though Ditko’s Mr. A and other “purer” works of his philosophy were never near as widely read, with generations of writers twisting Moore’s anti-Randian, anti-fascist thesis while keeping all the violent aspects to his work with zero context, Ditko feels more and more like he’s the true father of the grim and gritty superheroes we still see today, his touch expanding to other mediums, particularly Zach Snyder’s take on Watchmen and Batman v. Superman.

Even before the last four years of living a perverse parody of a Randian world, some brought up the point years ago that superhero movies helped to forge the mindset that put these people into power. Someone should write more about that without worrying whether people will enjoy Marvel films or the Snyder cut of Justice League less. It should be from someone in the comics industry, but the already failed Rorschach series isn’t going to start of any meaningful dialogue, much less end as a meaningful story.

Poet for Hire. Link to buy my new book, The Collapsed Bookshelf, available via my website: www.chadparenteaupoetforhire.com

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