Asmodeus is That Light Throbbing of Temple and Pulse Warning That Approaching Thunder Heads Our Way. (The Last War in Albion Book Two, Part Twenty-Eight: Fearful Symmetry)
Previously in The Last War in Albion: Alan Moore simultaneously experienced the whole of his existence and also finished Watchmen. The experience left him a bit drained.
Moore’s disorientation and confusion in the wake of Watchmen is wholly understandable. Even reading Watchmen is, at times, enough to generate a sense of dazed exhaustion. And this is very much the point – an effect consciously generated by Moore’s use of the dense uniformity of the nine-panel grid. As Kieron Gillen puts it in Kieron Gillen Talks Watchmen, “if we’re talking about the many icons of Watchmen, [the nine-panel grid] is the invisible one. It underlies everything. We’re to watch these little boxes – hundreds of them – and make sense by combining them all into a larger piece of meaning. Watch,” he says, and snaps his fingers to cue his projectionist to advance his PowerPoint to a shot of Ozymandias watching his wall of television screens. Gillen talks about the comic as a “clockwork machine” in which “everything is predetermined. The forces that are put into motion mean this… the clock will carry on ticking, and if you read Watchmen enough you’ll know what the next tick is.” Gillen, here, is talking about the comic’s famously ambiguous ending, making a strong case that in fact there is only one possible “next step” for the book to take, and that the inevitable momentum of that step hangs impermeably over the entire work, which is in turn what Morrison speaks of when he talks about how the god of Watchmen is always shoving his cock in the reader’s face.
|Figure 944: Watchmen #5 (Written by Alan Moore, Art by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins)|
Nowhere is this sense clearer, perhaps, than Watchmen #5, the famed “Fearful Symmetry” chapter. It has been noted by many that Moore’s focus and enthusiasm for a project often wanes over the course of it. If so, it is hard not to see “Fearful Symmetry” as a crucial turning point in the comic. Moore has spoken in interviews of how the third issue marked the point where he and Gibbons really mastered the technique of juxtaposition that would serve as one of the major engines of the book. Similarly, issue #4, “Watchmaker,” is a virtuosic and experimental piece playing with the nature of time, in which Moore, channeling Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, depicts the life of Dr. Manhattan as a simultaneously occurring eternity. And with “Fearful Symmetry” Moore reaches the formal zenith of the work, if not of his entire career. In a real sense it is impossible to imagine that Moore could devote the focus and attention that “Fearful Symmetry” required to any subsequent issue. In terms of Watchmen as a set of storytelling techniques – the grounds on which Moore, at least, has long been inclined to judge it – “Fearful Symmetry” marks the tale’s end. On top of that, its release in October of 1986 marks the last issue of Watchmen to come out prior to the explosion of the ratings controversy that would result in Moore’s acrimonious departure from DC.…