Last week, we got a piece of Angela Abar’s origin story through the origin story of her grandfather, Will Reeves, who was revealed to be Hooded Justice, the first costumed adventurer. We get the other piece this week through a childhood heavily shaped by Dr. Manhattan and the bitter aftertaste of victory in Vietnam. Despite induction into the union as the 51st state — the implications for college away games alone are staggering — it appears a portion of the population did not greet the Americans as liberators. Losing both of her parents to a suicide bomber accounts for part of Abar’s story as a masked avenger, as does her interest in a blaxploitation movie on VHS called “Sister Night,” about a gunslinging nun.
Just as important, though, is understanding how young Abar wanted to experience justice. A Saigon cop asks her to identify the puppeteer who collaborated with the suicide bomber, but she realizes quickly that the man isn’t going to jail — and more than that, she wants to hear the confirmative pop when he is put to death in the streets.
That’s not the origin story of a girl with a future in law enforcement. That’s the origin story of someone who is going to abuse the power of the badge — perhaps for a righteous cause, but nonetheless outside the “Trust in the Law” idealism her grandfather embraced as a young cadet. Abar was never so naive.
In the present day, it also makes Abar the flip side of Cyclops, whose members are abusing the badge (and the mask) to carry out a vast conspiracy. The scene between Laurie Blake and Jane Crawford is a classic supervillain heel turn, complete with the trap door that opens up beneath Blake’s chair. (What, no alligators below?) Up to this point, “Watchmen” has been cagey about making political statements that speak directly to the times, but Joe Keene Jr.’s speech about Cyclops sounds like a familiar catalog of white grievance and dissembling: “We’re not racists”; “We’re about restoring balance in those times when our country forgets the principles upon which it was founded”; “It is extremely difficult to be a white man in America right now.”
In light of all this information, Laurie is seeming more and more like the moral center of the show, a woman whose brusque been-there-done-that cynicism obscures a genuine desire to restore order and protocol. Her open contempt for Sister Night, “Mirror Guy” and anyone else in a mask is well-founded. It’s based on hard lessons learned from her own time in costume as Silk Spectre II, in which she witnessed plenty of profound disappointments first hand. Dr. Manhattan was a former live-in boyfriend, after all, and she watched him become a pariah, exiling himself to Mars with the words: “I am tired of Earth, these people. I’m tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.” Right back at ya, doc.