Review: The Watchmen (Graphic Novel)

The Watchmen is a comic books series/graphic novel by Alan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbons (illustrator) set in an alternative version of the 80's. There are costumed crime-fighters, though they're mostly retired, and one of their rank has been killed. He won't be the last. The unfolding story not only presents a nice mystery it explores the morals of power. As a straightforward story it's an interesting and entertaining read, combined with the deeper questions it becomes a stunning read.

Rated: 4.5 / 5

Originally published as a 12 issue limited-edition comic book series in 1986/87, The Watchmen is now available as a graphic novel. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, it takes us into a world where "super heroes" exist but are past their golden-age. In fact, unless they're employed by the government they've been outlawed. There's still nuclear tension between the US and USSR but the US won the Vietnam war. Amidst this backdrop we're given a murder mystery whose investigation ultimately uncovers a world changing conspiracy.

The Watchmen is the first graphic novel I've read, and the format took a bit of getting used to. The beginning chapters were a bit tedious as I got used to having pictures and prose. Two or three chapters in I was rewarded for my patience and the reading became enjoyable. Or perhaps the story became just that compelling.

This is a story about the latitude we give people with exceptional ability, especially those who wield a great deal of power, and how they use it. Our entry into this world are Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, a pair of, for lack of a better term, blue collar heroes. The other primary characters: Rorschach, Dr Manhattan, Ozymandias, and the deceased Comedian are studies in the expression of power. Each has a different kind of power. Each has a different moral foundation. Each has killed in the name of the common good. Which of them, if any, are justified? It's a wonderful contrast and still topical today. We have done horrific things to make the world better in the name of the common good. Watchmen explores this.

When the story really caught hold of my imagination I had to remind myself to look at the pictures! They added an almost cinematic quality to the story. Although the layout and frame composition was great I thought the comic style of drawing detracted from the experience, it didn't match the tone of the story. Where the art really enhanced the story was bringing out the characters and locations. I really like seeing them instead of imagining them. Rorschach's ink blot face mask, Dr Manhattan's blue physique, and Nite Owl's costume gave the characters an added vibrancy, to name only a few examples. I also liked how the backdrop rooted me in time and place.

The Watchmen was a rewarding read with a stunning ending. It has great characters, an enjoyable story, and explored issues I'm interested in. I like books that make me think while they tell a good story. Recommended.

2 comments

Marina wrote 9 years 22 weeks ago

More to Come

I think you and I are on the same broadband when it comes to graphic novels but if you liked this one, you may like some of the others I have on hand. I'll have to put them aside for you for the next time we get together which, I hope, is soon!

dale wrote 9 years 22 weeks ago

Looking forward to it!

Looking forward to it!

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