Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Doctor Manhattan by J. Michael Straczynski

Guest post by Sean Korsgaard.
The sole superhuman of the Watchmen universe comes in the form of Doctor Manhattan, whose powers have both elevated him to essentially God-hood, and gradually sees him become isolated from humankind, and one of the big plots of Watchmen was the culmination of his isolation coming in the form of his voluntary exile to Mars. His struggles to retain his humanity, or to deal with threats beyond human comprehension could form the crux of a fascinating character study – and this miniseries deals with that wonderfully.

The story of the series follows Doctor Manhattan as he struggles with his latest perspective of the universe – one where every choice made branches off into a new universe, a multiverse if you will. He sees the outcomes of every action, every possible action, those of himself, those of others, and just how many of these actions add to nothing as these worlds are swallowed in calamity beyond their control. He explores them, analyzes them, and tries to gleam information that may prevent the same in his own current branch of the multiverse time steam – information that may eventually set the event of Watchmen in motion.

Certainly a great deal headier than most of the other Before Watchmen titles, to the point it may warrant being read again to make sure you didn't miss anything, but ultimately it’s also looking into just for some of the places it dared to tread. The way the series gives a detailed exploration of the multiverse theory is one of the best I've seen on paper, and for fans of science fiction of alternate history, it alone is worth looking at the title.

Of course, that headiness does backfire in regards to the fact that it doesn't really tell a compelling story, or add much to the character or narrative of Doctor Manhattan or Watchmen, not bad, and certainly worth a look, but overall, it just missed being truly great.

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Soldier, scholar, writer and web-voyeur, Sean CW Korsgaard has been active in the alternate history community since 2006, and was recently elected to succeed Mitro as President of the Alternate History Online Facebook group. In addition to his contributions at the Alternate History Weekly Update, he writes for several websites, including his own, which can be found here.

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