"Two Riders Were Approaching": President Nixon (who is holding the nuclear football) and Vice President Ford head deep inside a government emergency bunker. The former learns that Russian tanks are massing along the East German border in response to "western alarmi
- For my own part, regret nothing. Have lived free, free from compromise...and step into the shadow now without complaint.
Appearing in "Two Riders Were Approaching"
- Max Shea (Dies)
- Hira Manish (Dies)
- Dolores Shairp
- Gerald Ford
- Hector Godfrey
- Seymour David
- President Richard Nixon
- Dr. Henry Kissinger
- G. Gordon Liddy
Synopsis for "Two Riders Were Approaching"
President Nixon (who is holding the nuclear football) and Vice President Ford head deep inside a government emergency bunker. The former learns that Russian tanks are massing along the East German border in response to "western alarmism". His advisers ponder on what to do next, and Nixon tells them that they stay at DEFCON Two—the next step to nuclear war—and wait.
Meanwhile, Dan and Kovacs have been in the Owlship hiding in New York Harbor. Before continuing their investigation, they head to Kovacs' old apartment to pick up his spare costume and journal. They run into Kovacs' landlady, Dolores Shairp, who is instantly afraid of Kovacs as she had besmirched him on television. Kovacs accosts her, but decides to leave Shairp alone upon taking silent pity on her children.
In Antarctica, Adrian Veidt arrives at his retreat. He informs his associates that the "delivery" was successful. He studies his wall of televisions and divulges from the broadcasts that everything he's seeing means that a war is inevitable.
Back in New York, Rorschach is back in his costume. He and Nite Owl argue whether they should be looking for a "mask" killer, or trying to uncover why somebody killed The Comedian because he found out the plot to get rid of Dr. Manhattan. 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 apologizes to Rorschach, saying that he shouldn't have said any of that. Rorschach then, to Dan's surprise exhibits a rare moment empathy offering his hand in apology for his actions. The two agree that either way, the next course of action is to interrogate some of the criminal element to try and uncover some leads.
The news vendor rambles about the inevitable war between America and the Soviets, but didn't expect to be this long to wait. He is then approached by two members of Jehovah's Witnesses who offer him The Watchtower about God's plan to end the world. The news vendor contemptuously declines.
Rorschach leads Nite Owl to Happy Harry's and demands the patrons for a man who is well acquainted with Roy Victor Chess, the man who attempted to assassinate Adrian Veidt. The people turn their attention to a Pyramid Industries employee. When the man refuses to cooperate, Rorschach interrogates him by firmly breaking the man's glass in his own hand. The man caves in, revealing that he had been paid by his boss, a freight coordinator, to hire Chess for a hit and gave him a brown envelope. But he protest 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.
During Rorschach's interrogation, Nite-Owl approaches a knot-top, who apologetically tells that he has nothing to do with Hollis Mason's death. However, Nite-Owl begins strangling him, angrily demanding the identities of the people who murdered Hollis. The knot-top truthfully tells him that he doesn't know. Regardless, Nite-Owl threatens the man to tell his fellow gangs that he will come to kill them all. Rorschach intervenes and stops Nite-Owl from killing the knot-top in front of the patrons. The pair leave the bar before heading for Adrian Veidt's office to give him the news and convince him to help them.
Somewhere on the ocean, comic book writer Max Shea and painter Hira Manish are getting intimate in the hold of a ship. They are happy to be finally leaving the island and be done with the super-secret "movie" they were paid to work on with some other "missing" artists. Shea then notices something under a tarpaulin behind Hira and is horrified to see it is a huge bomb that will go off in seconds. When Hira asks what's wrong, Shea holds tightly to her, saying, "Nothing's wrong. Hold me." The bomb explodes, obliterating the ship and everyone on board.
Dan and Rorschach sneak into Veidt's penthouse office and learn that Veidt is gone. They find an appointment book which reads Veidt left for Karnak. On a hunch, Nite-Owl hacks into Veidt's computer system and discovers that Veidt owns both Pyramid Deliveries and Dimensional Developments: he is the mastermind behind Manhattan's exile and The Comedian's death. Surprised by this discovery, Rorschach and Nite-Owl head off to Karnak to confront Veidt. Before leaving, Rorschach makes one final journal entry detailing Veidt's role in the plot, and drops it into a mailbox to be deliver to the New Frontiersman newspaper office.
After Nite-Owl and Rorschach land the Owlship in Antarctica, they head to Veidt's retreat via hoverbikes. Unknown to them, they are being monitored by Veidt's surveillance cameras.
Tales of the Black Freighter
The mariner sits on the dunes and waits until dark with thoughts of his home town, Davidstown, being overrun by pirates and planning to kill them all. Two horse-back riders come to the beach and the mariner recognizes one of them to be the town's moneylender; in which the mariner believes that he is collaborating with the pirates. The moneylender and his woman find the corpse-infested raft, forcing the mariner to kill them both in fear that they would warn the pirates. The mariner then takes the moneylender's clothes and leaves for Davidstown upon their horses with the woman's body to bypass any sentries.
- 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:
- President Nixon and Vice-President 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 travelling 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 blood stain.
- Rorschach's spare trench-coat is the same blood-stained coat that he wore during the 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 Industries employee is the same man who appeared in issue #5 talking to the newspaper stand vendor and charging his Pyramid Deliveries van at a electric charger. Also it is the same issue where Roy Chess failed to assassinate 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.
- In Veidt's television room is a painting depicting Alexander the Great's successful cutting of the Gordian Knot.
- 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, judgement, and only the virtuous would 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 Veidt, who is fascinated by Rameses II (a dead king) and whom Rorschach dislikes.
- The Owlship flies over Madison Square Garden, which is planning to host the Pale Horse concert (10:22:3) and feature prominently in issue #12.
- Displayed below the service window is the United States Postal Service creed (10:24:3).
- Hector Godfrey's "Son of Sam" comment is a reference to the serial killer David Berkowitz, who murdered six people in New York City between 1976 and 1977.