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My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
— "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty is the eleventh chapter in the twelve chapter series Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It was released on August 1987.

Plot

In his Antarctic fortress, Karnak, Adrian Veidt voice records a complex observation about changing perceptions and technological development. He watches Rorschach and Nite Owl II ride toward him on his wall of screens. Dreiberg wonders why someone like Veidt—who never killed a single person—should want to destroy the world. Rorschach thinks it must be “insanity.” Veidt walks with Bubastis, saying that he has something to resolve before the heroes arrive. He grabs a microphone and calls the rest of his staff to meet with him in his glass vivarium for celebratory drinks.

On the street corner, the news vendor complains about young people partying before the world ends. Joey’s girlfriend Aline arrives, looking for her, but the news vendor hasn’t seen her. He tells Aline to let Joey know that the new issue of Hustler will be in soon. Aline runs away, upset. In the pirate comic, Tales of the Black Freighter, the survivor rushes into his home and bludgeons the pirate he finds sleeping on the floor. It lets out a high scream. He looks up to see his own children, staring at him, terrified. He looks down and sees his wife lying beneath him, limp. The pirates never came. The survivor realizes what he’s done and runs away, out the door and down the road, feeling as if he’s lost all sanity.

Veidt, dressed as Ozymandias, meets with his staff in the vivarium. He tells them about his childhood, how he was born to average parents. He is “exceptionally bright” from the beginning, though he does not know why. Veidt’s parents die when he is 17, leaving him an inheritance. However, Veidt idolizes Alexander of Macedonia, who nearly united the entire world, and wants to measure his own success against Alexander’s. He gives away his inheritance and travels to Turkey to follow Alexander’s footsteps. On the street corner, Joey and Aline fight. Aline is angry at Joey for looking at Hustler. Joey says she wishes she were “straight” and she wishes she were “dead.” In the pirate comic, the survivor reaches the ocean.

In his glass-walled vivarium, Veidt continues to recall his trek across the Middle East, through Egypt where Alexander was dubbed Ramesses II, and finally to Alexander’s resting place. Veidt feels disappointed that Alexander failed in his mission to unite the world. On his last night in Egypt, he takes some hashish and has an epiphany—he will become the next Alexander and bring his principles to the modern world. He takes the Greek name for Rameses II (Ozymandias) and sets out on his quest to defeat all of man’s evils and create a unified world. He thanks his staff for helping him in that journey. His staff sit on a bench, unresponsive. Veidt presses a button on a console and the walls of the vivarium slide down, exposing them all to the Antarctic winds. He leaves, and the vivarium and Veidt’s staff are quickly buried by snow and ice.

On the street corner, Gloria Long asks the news vendor if he’s seen her husband. They talk briefly, but she spots Malcolm down the street and goes to him. In the pirate comic, the survivor hears an angry mob pursuing him. The pirate freighter floats in the sea in front of him, and he realizes that it was not preparing to strike his hometown, but rather waiting for him. With no life left on land, he swims desperately out to the ship to join its crew.

Rorschach and Nite Owl II find the entrance to Veidt’s vivarium and use it to enter his fortress. Dreiberg expresses some hesitation about killing Veidt, since he always seemed like a gentle guy. Rorschach says that they must, and he will do it if he doesn’t feel able. They spot Veidt in his dining room and attack him from behind, but Veidt easily subdues them. Rorschach continues unsuccessfully trying to attack, but Dreiberg demands to know Veidt’s plot.

While fending off Rorschach, Veidt explains that as a hero, he quickly realized that not all injustice is perpetrated by villains. In the 1950s, he discovers that the Comedian is hunting for Hooded Justice on behalf of the government and suspects that the Comedian may have killed him (though he admits he that could not prove this). He also knows that the Comedian was in Dallas with Richard Nixon on the day that John F. Kennedy is shot. Kennedy was about to give a speech declaring that the U.S. is the “watchmen on the walls of world freedom.” Veidt realizes that all of their vigilante adventuring is pointless; they are just fighting the “symptoms” rather than the “disease.” When the Comedian talks about nuclear war at the Crimebusters meeting in 1966, Veidt realizes he is completely right, but refuses to share his darkly comedic cynicism about the world.

On the street corner, Gloria finds Malcolm and tells him that she wants him back. She misses him. In the background, Joey pushes Aline down and starts kicking her on the ground. Gloria sees Malcolm looking at them and tells him that if he goes to help instead of staying with her, she’ll leave him forever. Malcolm tells her he’s sorry, but he can’t run from the world’s problems.

In Veidt’s fortress, Veidt continues to recall his journey. After the Crimebusters meeting, Veidt studies the world and sees the inevitably of nuclear disaster. The United States and the Soviet Union are bound for mutual suicide. They spend all their money on weapons, so their people suffer and the environment burns. Doctor Manhattan's appearance accelerates this process by bringing advances in technology. The only way to stop it is for someone to exercise “brute power” and commit to an awful, but effective solution. Veidt figures that by the end of the 1970s, the world will be near catastrophe, so he spends the next decade building his fortune and amassing wealth, in order to prevent the end of the world.

The pirate comic ends when the pirate crew lowers a rope to the survivor. The news vendor says that people ought to connect with each other more. He asks the man reading the comic what his name is and is pleased to find that they’re both named Bernard. The other man doesn’t care, though. He notices Joey beating up Aline, with Malcolm intervening, just as detectives Steven Fine and Joe Bourquin arrive as well.

Veidt continues revealing his plan. He knows he needs to get rid of Osterman, so his company, Dimensional Developments, hires several of Osterman's past associates and secretly gives them cancer. Veidt buys an island and begins working on teleportation and genetic research. The Comedian discovers the island by accident and figures out his plot, so Veidt breaks into his apartment and kills him. Veidt believes that an “intractable” problem like nuclear war requires an unconventional solution. With a cadre of artists, scientists, and writers, Veidt builds a monstrous creature to convince national governments that they are being invaded by aliens, to scare them into cooperating with each other instead of fighting.

With Doctor Manhattan and the Comedian neutralized, Veidt needed Rorschach taken care of as well to stop him from meddling. He frames Rorschach, then hires an assassin to try to murder Veidt himself, thus placing himself beyond suspicion. Veidt explains that except for Osterman's power, teleportation has never been achieved without the object exploding on arrival, which suits his purposes. When he teleports his “alien” into New York City, it will trigger a “psychic shockwave” that will kill half the city. Dreiberg tells Veidt that they will stop his plan, but Veidt tells him it already happened, 35 minutes ago. In New York City, an explosion flashes.

Supplementary Material

In a Nova Express article from 1975 called “After the Masquerade,” Doug Roth interviews Adrian Veidt in his base in Antarctica. Veidt expresses his belief that anyone can be heroic with the right attitude, and explains how morally ambiguous crime fighting actually is—for instance, a woman steals food for her starving children while politicians legally create her poverty, so who should be punished? People in the U.S. government engineer plots to kill people in other countries. Everything is complex and vague. They speak about the nuclear crisis and humanity’s race towards extinction. Roth finds Veidt disturbingly likable for someone who seems so far above the rest of the world.

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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