Watchmen HC Hardcover – 18 Nov 2008
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Has any comic been as lauded as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen? Possibly only Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns but Watchmen remains the critics' favourite. Why? Because Moore is a better writer, and Watchmen a more complex and dark and literate creation than Miller's fantastic, subversive take on the Batman myth. Moore, renowned for many other of the genre's finest creations (Saga of the Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, and recently From Hell, with Eddie Campbell) first put out Watchmen in 12 issues for DC in 1986-87. It won a comic award at the time (the 1987 Jack Kirby Comics Industry Awards for Best Writer/Artist combination) and has continued to garner praise since.
The story concerns a group called the Crimebusters and a plot to kill and discredit them. Moore's characterisation is as sophisticated as any novel's. Importantly the costumes do not get in the way of the storytelling, rather they allow Moore to investigate issues of power and control--indeed it was Watchmen, and to a lesser extent Dark Knight, that propelled the comic genre forward, making "adult" comics a reality. The artwork of Gibbons (best known for 2000AD's Rogue Trooper and DC's Green Lantern) is very fine too, echoing Moore's paranoid mood perfectly throughout. Packed with symbolism, some of the overlying themes (arms control, nuclear threat, vigilantes) have dated but the intelligent social and political commentary, the structure of the story itself, its intertextuality (chapters appended with excerpts from other "works" and "studies" on Moore's characters, or with excerpts from another comic book being read by a child within the story), the fine pace of the writing and its humanity mean that Watchmen more than stands up--it retains its crown as the best the genre has yet produced. --Mark Thwaite --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"A work of ruthless psychological realism, it's a landmark in the graphic novel medium. It would be a masterpiece in any."
-TIME, TIME MAGAZINE's 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present --Time Magazine
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(This review is for the Watchmen, International Edition – this is a nicely bound soft cover version the title)
If anything, Watchman is an examination of the history of the genre and purpose of the superhero: how readers connect to it, and what it means rationally. Moore stretches from fond parody to outright sedition, wrapping the once-simple genre in layers of meaning. This is a tale where he also constantly pushes its boundaries. Watchmen is unrepentant and unwavering in it delivery.
There are no real heroes here - for most Superhero narratives, up until the publication of this title, these Superhero comics were all usually built around wholly compassionate, venerable characters. They represent what people wish they were, and they do the things normal people wish they could do. It doesn't deliver on every level, it isn't perfect, but it contains so much that succeeds, and comes so close to fulfilling its promises that it would be almost crass to mention any failings.
Alan Moore is a great writer. He is not a great writer for comics; he is a great writer period, who happens to have made the graphic novel his medium. Watchmen is at times legendary, funny, scholarly, sad, exciting and intriguing. It is written for intelligent readers. The plot, at times, does sprawl - it is convoluted, and it spans generations with a large ensemble cast. What kept it together are the deeply personal narratives on various scales. This is a fun read. It is exciting. The artwork is truly sumptuous and coveys so much of the unwritten tale.
Read it. If someone sneers at you for reading, a comic book just ignore them.
Something I love about the book is how little superhero action there is. Hardly any pages are given over to superhero fighting and in between these, the book is full of writing that illuminates the characters of these characters rather than being full of padding (walking at fast pace) like for instance a typical Jason Bourne film.
The comic is set in an alternative universe where ordinary people have taken up superhero identities since the 1940s. The plot follows a handful of extraordinary people who once went on adventures as real-life superhero team "the Crime-Busters" until the re-elected Richard Nixon allowed a law banning vigilantism. In 1985, the insane anti-hero Rorschach investigates the murder of one of the Crime-Busters and uncovers a conspiracy that will unite them all. Meanwhile, the immortal, godlike superbeing Dr. Manhattan abandons Earth at the height of nuclear war with the USSR and romance blossoms between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre.
What makes the comic unique from regular publications is that Watchmen places the heroes in a more realistic, dark world. The heroes of the Watchmen universe are real people. They don't have super strength and flying powers, and they look ridiculous in their costumes because that's how they would look in real life. They're all psychologically troubled and empathetic. Underneath the capes and masks, they're just insecure people hopelessly trying to make the world a better place in a world ticking closer and closer to Armageddon.
Alan Moore's spectacular writing captures the realism of our would-be heroes and Dave Gibbons' art mimics the wonderful classic adventure fiction from 1950s comic periodicals. The comic truly earns its place as one of the most influential and extraordinary comics of all time.
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