I think I ended up reading this one after seeing the movie. I thought the movie was pretty good and something different for the superhero genre. So I decided that I needed to read the comic, because the book is always better than the movie, well most of the time.
I have a brief bio on Moore in some of my other reviews, if you are interested in his bio check out The Killing Joke review here. Moore is quite an accomplished comic book writer and I would argue that this is his most famous book. His other notable works are V for Vendetta, From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Voice in the Fire (novel), and he is also famous for a run on the Swamp Thing series. He is more or less an icon and ledged in the industry.
The overall story I felt was kind of hard to follow. It is about a group of superheroes: The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, and Rorschach in a different universe where the heroes helped the United States win the Vietnam War as well as the Cold War. The main story has to do with a murder of one of the above heroes and the conspiracy surrounding his death. The heroes try to figure out why he was killed and in doing so uncover a sinister plot. The story has many different themes and sub plots going on at once. The reader gets to see how the opinion of the superheroes change as the story goes along. There is also a supervillain that must be stopped before his master plan is accomplished.
That is really a very brief overview of the entire story. It is in no way your typical superhero graphic novel. In fact there are so many adult themes in this story that I don’t think it can be classified in the comic graphic novel genre. I think it needs its own genre, as it is a graphic novel, but it is just so different from anything I have read before. There is some romance, geopolitics, a little bit of sifi, and so much more really something for everyone.
I thought the story itself was good there was a lot going on and at times it can be a little overwhelming. The one thing that I really did not like was that in the story there was a young boy who bought a comic at a newspaper stand and for I think no less than 40 pages or so the reader is shown what the little boy is reading. This is a cool idea don’t get me wrong, but I felt that is was in no way connected to the story and slowed down and jumbled up an already convoluted story. I did not understand the point of putting this aspect in the story, again I think it was a neat idea, but just something else to slow everything down.
The ending and the point the bad guy was trying to make to me was, well at the end I found myself saying, “That’s it? Nothing else?” Even now that I am thinking about it I am on the fence about the message it was trying to send. On one hand I think that the message is very cool and ground breaking, but on the other hand I am just like, it’s been done before and it’s nothing new. I will say that I believe my criticism of the ending has a lot to do with the fact that I am taking it way out of context. This story was first published in 1986, so it is almost 30 years old. A lot of new and interesting ideas have come about since it has been published so I think most of its radically new ideas have been replicated since then. Also, there is a little twist at the end as well that leaves the ending open as to what will happen next.
Overall I was not the impressed with the story, for whatever reason I just could not get into it. Unimpressed it not the word I want to use, perhaps felt it did not live up to the hype is a better description. I think I may have gone into this one expecting too much from it while forgetting that it was written almost 30 years ago so it is a little dated. I can see why it is listed as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time as well as listed on the top 100 books of all time. It is always difficult going into something with certain expectations and I am sure watching the movie before did not help.
I absolutely loved the character Dr. Manhattan; he is up there with some of my favorites. He is like a cross between the Silver Surfer and some of the other cosmic entities in the Marvel universe. He is the only hero that truly has superpowers, although Ozymandias does exhibit some powers at times along with claiming he is the smartest man in the world. I think the reason I like this character so much is because of his view on reality and time, and the fact that pretty much every time he opens his mouth he has something very cryptic and insightful to say. He is kind of like a modern day philosopher that can create and destroy at the mere blink of an eye. I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed reading what Dr. Manhattan had to say, esp when he is on Mars with Silk Spectre that is such a cool scene.
The artwork in the story is a little dated, but not as much as you would think for something that is as old as I am. It is a traditional style and there is enough detail in the artwork for my liking. I would assume that the version I bought has re-mastered colors so they are richer and deeper. Scene selection and page layouts are some of the simplest I have ever seen. There are just 9 panel layouts on every page. There are few pages that stray from this setup, but for the overwhelming majority the 9 panel layout is the norm. The layouts are very simple and basic. I am not sure why such a simple approach to the page layouts were used as I am sure Moore and the artist could have come up with something more elaborate. Perhaps they did not want to distract readers from the story, but that is just my speculation. Overall the artwork is solid and will not hinder your reading experience in any way, although at times the 9 panel page does get a bit much to read.
I have thought long and hard about this one and still do not know what to think about it. The story is neat and such a unique take on anything I have previously read that I want to like it just on that principle. But at the end of the day I just feel like it was just ok, I was not overly impressed with it. There are some very interesting ideas in the story but there are also some drawbacks. I despised the having to read the little boy’s comic during the story. That really bothered me and I think that is one of the main reasons that I cannot jump on the band wagon for this one. The artwork and page layouts are well done and something the nostalgic art fans will certainly enjoy. I think there is so many different ways to interoperate the story and that there is not one explanation that will encompass all the ideas in this one. At some level I do not even think this one is about superheroes, but they are simple the medium used to portray a very sophisticated and complex story. I also think that I could read this story 100 times and each time I could find something else that I did not notice before. I do not think just one reading does this story justice, but I did not want to devote any more time to it. I felt there was so much more lying just under the surface that I only began to scratch. Again those are my thoughts but once you read it you will see what I am talking about, but if not even better. It is always best for the read to interoperate the story in their own way. Despite my so-so attitude toward the book I can easily see why there is so much hype and praise surrounding the book.
For as famous as this one was it is not without its controversy. When Moore first wrote the story he worked for DC, who upon seeing the story loved it and immediately wanted to publish it. So a contract was written that stated something like, “the characters of Watchmen will revert back to Moore if DC did nothing with them for an entire year.” Moore was fine with the contract and felt that in a few years the characters would revert back to him and he could do with them as he pleased. However, DC never let the characters go as they always kept them in print thus never letting them return to Moore. Moore is apparently still very bitter about the deal, as I imagine anyone would be.
I will recommend this one as I think there are plenty of readers out there that will love it, but for some reason I could not get into it as much as I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to love it and gush about how all the critics were right that it was the one of the best graphic novels ever, but I couldn’t. If you do check this one out it is important to keep in mind the age on the story. One other thing to note is that I think I bought a special anniversary edition of the book and at the end of each chapter there is a short essay or article on different things about the story. This again slows down reading the actual story, but I just wanted you to be aware before you picked this one up. Regardless you need to read this one mainly because you cannot truly call yourself a comic fan if you have not checked this one out.
quis custodiet ipsos custodes??