Brief synopsis: Watchmen is a graphic novel published by DC Comics as 12 issues from September 1986 to October 1987. It was a collaborative piece with Alan Moore as the writer, David Gibbons as the artist, and John Higgins as the colorist.
The novel takes place in 1985, but in an alternate universe where masked vigilantes affect the course of history. In this timeline the United States wins the Vietnam War, President Nixon is still in office, and the start of the Cold War is delayed.
Despite their help during the Vietnam War, vigilantism is outlawed and the masked heroes find themselves shunned. Some adjust and fall back on other careers, while others are less able to cope. The story begins when ex-superheroes turn up dead or go missing. Who is watching the Watchmen?
Rating: Travel companion
Long story short: Watchmen was the first graphic novel I’ve read cover-to-cover. I know, I know…took me long enough, right? It was a little difficult to get in to at first, mostly because the images were overwhelming. I’m used to novels being more text-heavy and so adjusting to the format took some time, but I was completely hooked after the first 20 or so pages and finished all of it in a couple of hours.
There’s a lot that’s already been said about this novel, so I’m going to keep this review short and focus on what I enjoyed:
Watchmen features a lot of overlapping timelines. Events in the past, present, and future are juxtaposed out of order, so as a reader you have to be attentive. I really like books that do this because they make sure I’m being an active reader and a willing participant in the story, not just somebody the story is happening to. Does that make sense?
That feeling felt familiar because it’s what a lot of good books do: in some ways you become a character yourself as you try and uncover the truth. In that sense this novel reminded me of the noir genre and books like The Maltese Falcon. Weirdly enough (or maybe not so weirdly) it also reminded me of the Pixar movie The Incredibles. If you combine the two what you sort of have is Watchmen. Like the children’s movie, Watchmen is a story about superheroes who have fallen from grace, and how they each deal with that fate. Unlike the PG-rated film however, the graphic novel is gritty, violent, foul, and bloody.
Have you read Watchmen? What did you think? Comment below!