You MUST own this. Or else!
Publisher: DC Comics
Mon, 15 November 2004
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â€śThis is the book that changed an industry and challenged a medium. If youâ€™ve never read a graphic novel, then WATCHMEN is the one to start with. And, even if you have, itâ€™s time to read it again.â€ť
The above (uncredited) quote is printed on the back of the Watchmen trade paperback. Usually such a bold proclamation could be dismissed as mere hyperbole. But in this instance, the hype is actually justifiable. In the opinion of many (yours truly included) the comic book medium has never seen a more talented writer than Mr. Alan Moore. Watchmen is perhaps his most highly acclaimed and best known work. It was originally released in twelve volumes in 1986 and has since been collected and published in trade paperback (or graphic novel if you prefer) form. If there is one single book that every comic fan should own, Watchmen would have to be that book. And people who donâ€™t usually read comics really should give this one a try too.
So what is it about? Well the short answer would be that it is about superheros in an alternate version of 1980â€™s Earth and uncovering the mystery of who has started killing them off one by one. But that description doesnâ€™t come even close to doing the book justice. There is so much to this sucka, so many reasons why I love the book and have read it over and over that I could probably go on about it all day. Summing it up in a couple of pages is quite tricky.
Watchmen explores its characters deeply- like if these costumed men and women really existed what kind of people would they be? Why do they do the things they do and act the way they act? In doing this Moore has constructed some of the most fascinating characters you could ever find in the medium. The mentally tormented and twisted Rorschach (so called because he wears a mask with ever changing black shapes that resemble the ink blot test of the same name) is one of the coolest guys ever in comics and a personal favourite of mine. Likewise, the Comedian is an extremely dark â€śheroâ€ť who you loathe at times yet find yourself pitying at others. On a few occasions you find yourself understanding these two menâ€™s outlook on life and wishing you didnâ€™t. All the rest of the â€ścastâ€ť is equally well fleshed out and getting to know what makes them all tick is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable experience.
Dave Gibbonsâ€™ art in Watchmen is superbly fitting. He gets close to a perfect blend of a slightly film noir kind of realism with a traditional looking comic book style. Every panel is set out wonderfully and packed with detail. There are a multitude of different little visual things that you might not even notice until you go through for a second or third time. Watchmen also features a comic within the comic; a young man in the story is shown throughout reading a pirate comic (which took over as the most popular style instead of superhero books in this alternate earth) which intertwines with the themes and story going on around him. Gibbons renders the pirate comic just differently enough to the rest of the book to make it noticeable, but not overly jarring or distracting.
Another technique Moore has employed to make the narrative more compelling is to incorporate the use of various â€śdocumentsâ€ť between chapters. These include excerpts from Hollis Masonâ€™s (the original Nite Own in the story) autobiography, psychiatric reports on a young Rorschach and newspaper articles. As well as being a great way of helping to add history and layers to the characters, setting and story this also makes it all seem far more realistic.
For years there has been talk and rumours of making a movie version of Watchmen. I donâ€™t know if that will happen or not, but personally I donâ€™t see it being a good idea. The book really is pretty much a movie already- the way it is set out visually, how the panels flow etc. and the way the story is structured gives it a very cinematic feel. It stands on its own and is probably best left as it is. They already made movies from two of Alan Mooreâ€™s comics- From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I found both those flicks entertaining and good fun, but neither of them ended up having much in common with the books and they didnâ€™t come anywhere close to being as good. So if a Watchmen movie happens it happens, but I donâ€™t much care either way.
If youâ€™ve never read this book go out and get yourself a copy right away. It rules, I love it and I canâ€™t recommend it highly enough. One of the best comics ever made and one of my favourite books of any kind as well.
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