Panel 1: Again, Moore plays with the two narratives as the “Black Freighter” caption says, in part, “my enemies’ hideous banner flapping dismally in my dreams,” while the news vendor describes the newspapers front page as “a nightmare.”
And the image in this panel is of the Black Freighter’s flag, which is a skull and crossbones on a black field, another symmetrical image.
Panel 2: More narrative juxtaposition as the news vendor talks about the murders and murder attempts featured in the paper (“somebody chops up their kids, somebody else shoots at Adrain Veidt”) while the “Black Freighter” caption reinforces this commentary with its statement that a “deaths-head banner; it flies above us all.”
Note in the imagery that the back cover on the “Black Freighter” comic the younger Bernie is reading sports an advertisement for ‘The Veidt Method,’ similar to the Charles Atlas ads commonly found in comic books of the past. We will see the full text of the Veidt method in a later prose piece, but the general substance of the ad is that Veidt can help people discover their inner potential through his method of exercise and meditation. “You too can be a superhero.”
Panel 3: The “Black Freighter” commentary that the “head nailed to the [Black Freighter]’s black prow, those heads are our heads,” plays against the idea put forth by the news vendor that, “if somebody wants to off a saint like Veidt, what chance do any of us got?” Basically, these both say that “we’re all in this together.”
Panel 4: In this panel, the news vendor discusses all the good works Adrian Veidt has done in public, while the “Black Freighter” caption states, “we exist upon the whim of murderers,” which is a commentary upon Veidt’s secret plan and also foreshadows the end of the book.
The newsvendor’s statement, “[Veidt] revealed his name like he had nothing to hide [emphasis mine],” is also another nod to Rorschach when juxtaposed with the imagery in the background (Kovacs walking along with his “End is Nigh” sign) whose secret identity is passing through this panel, keeping it hidden in plain sight.
Also, the fallout shelter sign in the background is another reminder of the doom hanging over this entire world.
Panel 5: The news vendor’s statement that “no wonder people go crazy” is a commentary upon the sailor from the “Black Freighter” in this panel.
Panel 6: Moore goes one better with this panel as the news vendor’s comment, “you never know what’s bearing down on you,” does double duty. First, it echoes the “Black Freighter” caption, which reads, “beneath my raft, something moved,” signaling the sharks about to attack the sailor in the following panels. But, it is also a commentary upon the reality – as well as a foreshadowing of the end of this chapter – that nobody knows Kovacs is Rorschach, as we see his hands carrying “The End is Nigh” sign in the foreground.
Also note, in the background – on the news vendor’s corner – is the Institute for Extraspatial Studies, which will become very important later in this story.
Panel 7: The news vendor’s statement, “all we see is what’s on the surface,” is a commentary not only upon the doomed sailor’s initial thought that maybe the corpses upon which his raft floats were trying to escape into the air – his inability to see the sharks beneath the surface and his frail psyche forming this idea – but it is also a commentary upon Moore’s audience, who – especially upon a first reading of Watchmen – might only see the surface story and miss a lot of the deeper layers. More specifically to that final point, it would also be a commentary upon the fact that many readers probably do not see – in the background – all the clues that he’s laid out to reveal the identity of Rorschach.
And although it could not have been intended by Moore, this statement that we only see the surface is also a commentary upon the fervor surrounding “grim ‘n gritty” characters that followed the success of Watchmen and Dark Knight in 1986, as creators and others within the medium took these more adult surface elements and transposed them to the comics that followed – believing this new “relevance” with adult actions and themes to be the reason for these books’ success – instead of understanding it was the storytelling and the density and the writing and creativity that launched these two books into the hands of so many readers.
Panel 8: The news vendor says, “I bet there’s all kinda stuff we never notice” as Kovacs – with his “End is Nigh” sign leaning against the trash can – goes through his mail drop (as Rorschach told Moloch) again, giving yet another clue as to Rorschach’s identity.
It also echoes the “Black Freighter” caption slightly as the sailor is unable to see things clearly in the dark, believing – or hoping – that the shadowy figures approaching were boats to rescue him.
Panel 9: The news vendor’s comment continues from the previous panel finishing the idea that we miss stuff “until it’s too late,” which again comments upon the reality of the doomed sailor who understands too late that there are no boats approaching. They are fins, shark fins.