Outside in the distance a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
— "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan

Two Riders Were Approaching is the tenth chapter in the twelve-chapter series Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. It was released in July 1986.

Plot

See also: Rorschach's journal.

In a bunker, President Richard Nixon arrives with the nuclear football handcuffed to his wrist deep inside a government emergency bunker. Officers announce that Soviet tanks are gathering in East Germany's border in response to "western alarmism". His advisers ponder on what to do next in which Nixon tells them that they stay at DEFCON Two—the next step to nuclear war—and wait.

While hiding underwater in the airship in New York Harbor, Nite Owl II and Rorschach decide what to do next, beginning with obtaining Rorschach’s spare costume. Rorschach says they need to go back to the “underworld” and find information—World War III is less than a week away. Rorschach breaks into his old apartment and retrieves a suit from below the floorboards along with a spare journal. His landlady, Dolores Shairp opens the door, terrified to see him again. Rorschach wants to punish her for slandering his name, but sees that her kids are with her, tears streaming down their faces, and chooses to just leave instead upon taking silent pity on her children.

Adrian Veidt lands his base in Antarctica, met by Bubastis the genetically engineered lynx and his private staff. He asks if the “delivery” went smoothly, and his staff assures him that it did. After donning his Ozymandias costume, he seats himself in front of a wall of TV screens, each playing different news stations and changing to new ones at random. Veidt calls it “information in its most concentrated form.” As he divulges from the broadcasts, he notes that everyone is obsessed with the prospect of war, which always carries a sexual undercurrent. He orders his staff to invest money in erotic films for the short term and maternity goods and baby supplies for the long term.

Rorschach and Dan spend the day underwater in the airship, waiting for dark. Dan runs computer scans, looking for patterns or clues. Rorschach is restless. They quarrel over whether everything is still tied to the mask-killer conspiracy, or if that’s a diversion to conceal something bigger. Dan is very certain that the perpetrators are tied to Dimensional Developments, who employed Moloch and therefore may have bugged his home and learned about Edward Blake's involvement and Rorschach's investigations. After a few outbursts, Dan tells Rorschach that he’s difficult to get along with. Rorschach apologizes and offers a handshake, telling Dan that he is a good friend to him. Dan shakes his hand and seems touched. Night falls. The airship rises out of the ocean.

In the pirate comic, Tales of the Black Freighter, the survivor wades ashore, figuring he is less than 20 miles from his home, Davidstown. However, he knows that by now, his family must have been “slaughtered” by pirates and all that is left for him is revenge. The mariner sits on the dunes until dark, as he spies on the town moneylender riding with his wife and believes that the moneylender is a traitor, collaborating with the pirates. As the man and woman ride down the beach, they scream—they’ve found the survivor’s corpse raft. Fearing that they would warn the pirates, the mariner takes a stone and rushes toward them, caving in the moneylender’s skull with one blow. The stone slips from his hand, so he strangles the moneylender’s wife. She fights hard and it takes the survivor a long time to kill her.

On the street corner, the news vendor rambles about the inevitable war between the United States and the Soviet Union but didn't expect to be this long to wait, and states that everyone can feel the world’s about to end. They’re skittish. He is then approached by two members of Jehovah's Witnesses and ask to buy a copy of the New York Gazette, and then offer him The Watchtower about God's plan to end the world. He contemptuously declines. In the pirate comic, the survivor finds that killing is easy when death feels near. He ties the woman upright in her horse’s saddle, figuring that if two figures rode out of the pirate-occupied village, his enemies would expect two figures to ride back in. Soon, he will have his vengeance.

Rorschach and Nite Owl II visit Happy Harry’s Bar & Grill and demands the patrons for a man who was well acquainted with Roy Victor Chess, the man who attempted to assassinate Adrian Veidt. The people turn their attention to a Pyramid Deliveries employee. When the man refuses to cooperate, Rorschach tortures him by breaking the man's glass in his own hand until he caves in and reveals that he had been paid by his boss, a freight coordinator, to hire Chess for a hit and gave him a brown envelope, but protests that he didn't know Chess's target was Veidt. Furthermore, he is desperate for protection because all the other freight handlers, including his boss, that were involved are dead and he is certain that he would be next.

Meanwhile, a Knot Top gang member tells Nite Owl II that some other gangsters murdered Hollis Mason. Enraged, he begins to strangling him, angrily demanding him the identities of the people who murdered Mason. The gang member truthfully tells him that he doesn't know. Regardless, Nite Owl II threatens the man to tell his fellow gangs that he will come to kill them all. Rorschach intervenes stopping Nite-Owl II from killing the man in front of the patrons. As they leave the bar Rorschach tries to comfort Nite Owl II by saying that if they find the “mask-killer,” he can avenge Hollis’s death. The pair aboard Archie and head for Veidt's office to give him the news and convince him to help them.

On a Pyramid Deliveries ship, people drink and celebrate. Max Shea and Hira Manish are getting intimate in the dark below deck. They believe that all their work has been for a secret movie production involving a human brain and are happy to be finally leaving the island. Max looks for a light switch, but notices something under a tarpaulin behind Hira and is horrified to see it is a huge bomb that will go off in seconds. When Manish asks what's wrong, Shea holds her tightly to her, saying, "Nothing's wrong. Hold me." The bomb goes off, obliterating the ship and everyone on board

Rorschach and Dan sneak into Veidt's penthouse office, but the office is abandoned. They find an appointment book that reads Veidt left for Karnak as well as Egyptian memorabilia on the walls and a chart tracking the rising nuclear threat around the world. Suspicious since the Pyramid Deliveries was seemingly tied to the attempt on Veidt's life, Nite-Owl hacks into Veidt's computer system and correctly guesses “RAMESES II” as the password since Rameses II is the Egyptian name for Ozymandias. The terminal unlocks, saying “Hello, Adrian.” With horror, Dan realizes that Adrian Veidt is behind everything. Veidt owns both Pyramid Deliveries and Dimensional Developments, which means that he is the mastermind behind Doctor Manhattan's exile and The Comedian's death. Surprised by this discovery they leave to confront Veidt, taking a stack of papers from his desk.

"Rorschach’s journal. November 1st, 1985.” Rorschach writes one final entry in his journal detailing Veidt’s role in the plot and how Veidt is the most dangerous enemy he can imagine, and he does not expect to survive the encounter. Rorschach thanks his reader for their support and announces that he has no regrets. He “lived life, free from compromises.” He signs off and puts his journal into a city mailbox to be delivered to the New Frontiersman newspaper office.

On the street corner, the news vendor gripes about the end of the world, particularly since no one except the masked heroes asked for this fight. He sees Joey, who says that her girlfriend, Aline, is angry with her and they’re settling things tonight. In the pirate comic, the mariner takes the moneylender's clothes and leaves for Davidstown upon their horses with the woman's body to bypass sentries. The mariner passes by what thinks is a pirate sentry, but what is really only a scarecrow. Once past the “sentry,” he rides furiously toward his home, toward “vengeance.” Elsewhere, a postman delivers Rorschach’s journal to the New Frontiersman office, but Seymour just puts it in the “crank file.”

Rorschach and Dreiberg fly the Owlship to Antarctica, where Veidt’s fortress lies. They try to come in low, but the cold air freezes the airship’s engines and they crash land in the snow. Unhurt, they unload their hover bikes and keep making their way towards Veidt’s lair. Unknown to them, they are being monitored by Veidt's surveillance cameras.

Appearances

Characters

Locations

Mentioned

Supplementary Material

A series of clippings and pamphlets shows an overview of Adrian Veidt’s various merchandising schemes. In a letter to a toy manufacturer, he proposes changing out super-villain action figures for characterized terrorists. In a letter to a perfume manufacturer, Veidt states that they should change their perfume branding from “Nostalgia” to “Millennium”: while “Nostalgia” is comforting in times of “upheaval,” eventually the world will settle back into peace and begin looking towards the promise of the future, rather than the safety of the past. An informational brochure outlines the Veidt Method, a wellness program that states that anyone can become as remarkable as he is with the right discipline and training regimen.

Trivia

  • The title of this issue is from Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." The lyrics appear at the end of the issue: "Outside in the distance a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl."
  • The "two riders" motif occurs several times throughout this issue:
    • Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford are riding on two separate vehicles.
    • In Tales of the Black Freighter, the trusting couple who rides on two horses and are murdered by the castaway, who in turn ride their horses.
    • The two members of Jehovah's Witnesses riding on bicycles.
    • Rorschach names two more riders, Death and War of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and mentions that the other two, Famine and Pestilence, "…can't be far behind…".
    • Rorschach and Nite Owl becoming riders as they depart for Karnak and later traveling on hoverbikes.
  • On the issue's cover art: A1 and A2 represent Air Force 1 and Air Force 2, designations for the airplanes that carry President Richard Nixon and Vice President Gerald Ford, respectively. The cover also resembles to The Comedian's smiley face badge: the radar has two lines for Air Force 1 and 2 coming down to make the eyes and a curved reflection of light along the bottom to make the mouth, with the scanning beam making the trajectory of the bloodstain.
  • Rorschach's spare trench-coat is the same blood-stained coat that he wore during the Blair Roche kidnapping case that pushed him over the edge as depicted in issue #6.
  • Rorschach's word balloons noticeably changes once he wears his mask, indicating the change back to his "true" voice.
  • The Pyramid Deliveries employee is the same man who appeared in issue #5 talking to the newspaper stand vendor and charging his Pyramid Deliveries van at an electric charger. Also, it is the same issue where Roy Chess failed to assassinate Adrian Veidt.
  • Vice-President Gerald Ford is briefly seen losing his balance from leaving Air Force Two. In real-life, Ford stumbled down some airplane steps while President, thus acquiring a reputation as a klutz.
  • Adrian Veidt's Antarctic retreat, Karnak, is named after the site of an ancient palace/temple complex in Egypt. The architecture was partially built by Ramesses II, the original Ozymandias.
  • Nite-Owl's comments about death in ancient Egyptian culture refers to the belief that every individual traveled after death through the afterlife. The afterlife was a place of danger and, ultimately, judgment, and only the virtuous would be reunited with the sun god Ra and attain paradise; all others would truly perish.
  • Rorschach's comment about mistrusting the "fascination with relics and dead kings" can also be seen as a commentary on Adrian Veidt, who is fascinated by Ramesses II (a dead king) and whom Rorschach dislikes.

Motion Comic

Navigation

Watchmen Chapters
Chapter I: At Midnight, All the Agents...Chapter II: Absent FriendsChapter III: The Judge of All the EarthChapter IV: WatchmakerChapter V: Fearful SymmetryChapter VI: The Abyss Gazes AlsoChapter VII: A Brother to DragonsChapter VIII: Old GhostsChapter IX: The Darkness of Mere BeingChapter X: Two Riders Were Approaching...Chapter XI: Look On My Works, Ye MightyChapter XII: A Stronger Loving World
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