by Alan Moore

A Review by Scott finished Feb. 21, 2009

This review will contain spoilers!

In many sentences:

Watchmen is one of the few graphic novels I have read, so some of the aspects of it that I found interesting or sophisticated may be common or even cliché in graphic novels. However, considering the accolades it so often receives, I doubt this is the case.

First of all, I enjoyed immensely the between chapter reading materials that were provided. These ranged from excerpts of a book written by one of the first masked heroes to an article Dreiberg (Nite Owl) wrote for an ornithological journal. Not only did they add to the history and world of Watchmen, but I was most impressed by how well they represented the source material that they were emulating. Considering each was written by the same author, it is impressive how much each one felt like what it should be (i.e. the ornithological article read just like a scientific article).

The next aspect that I really enjoyed was how Moore was able to juxtapose images and dialogue throughout. Whether it was by alternating between two different story arcs or by using the Black Freighter story, Moore did an excellent job of utilizing the graphic novel genre in a way that would not be possible in either a novel or in film. For example, when Jon first flees to Mars we see him walking on the planet, looking at an image of his life before his nuclear accident, while the president (Nixon) is being briefed about the most likely nuclear holocaust scenarios (a holocaust that only Jon could prevent). This type of juxtaposition would simply not be as effective in film if you were cutting back and forth between them, and would simply be impossible in a novel without the visual imagery. The Black Freighter story, however, is by far the best example of this. In this story, we read a foreshadowing of a man who is stranded on a deserted island. In his desperate attempt to return to his family to protect them from the Black Freighter pirates, he himself becomes a monster, murdering innocent people and eventually attacking his wife and family. Ultimately, he becomes a Black Freighter pirate himself, the very thing he was attempting to avoid. Similarly, we see that in attempting to protect the world, Veidt must become a monster willing to murder millions.

The most interesting aspect of Watchmen for me, however, was the ambiguous nature of Veidt"s actions and their outcome. Ultimately, Veidt does seem to succeed - there is no world war, and humanity unites against a common (albeit fictitious) enemy. Though it meant the death of millions, how are we to say that it was not the right path to take? After all, had he not done what he did it is not unreasonable to believe that all of humanity would have been destroyed. At the same time, it is hard not to side with Rorshach, or to sympathize with him when he is killed for wanting nothing more than justice and the eradication of evil. And, in the end, when we see the chance for the truth to be revealed via Rorshach"s journal we have to ask is that what we want? Do we want to truth to come out and for there to be a possibility for the unification of humanity to come to an end? It is a difficult and well presented conundrum that there is no clear answer to. I hope the movie leaves these questions just as open-ended as they are in the book.

I am going to say that I would recommend Watchmen. However, if someone is opposed to graphic novels, or unwilling to give them a chance, I cannot imagine why this work would be any different, no matter how good it might be. Still, if someone were to read only one graphic novel, this one would have to be at the top of the list.

Favorite Quote

"Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their wastes and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'save us!'.... and I'll look down and whisper 'no'. "

Alan Moore in Watchmen

First Line

"Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach."

Alan Moore the First Line of Watchmen

Last Line

"I leave it entirely in your hands."

Alan Moore the Last Line of in Watchmen

Originally Published Oct. 1, 1987

Paperback edition:

416 pages - April 1, 1995

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