Monday, 1 December 2008
‘Watchmen’ – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (Titan Books)
I first read ‘Watchmen’ far too many years ago when all it took for me to pick up a comic book was a picture of a yellow smiley face. Being someone who was sure that the world of comics began and ended with superheroes kicking the stuffing out of each other I wasn’t impressed with ‘Watchmen’, nothing seemed to actually happen (at least, as far as I could see)...
There’s always plenty of other stuff to read so I got on with that instead, forgetting about ‘Watchmen’ and its loud claims of being the best graphic novel ever. Just recently though there have been a few bloggers posting trailers for the ‘Watchmen’ film, due to be released next year, and wondered if now might be a good time to pick up the book and give it another go. I’m not a big comic book reader but I know now that there is a lot more to the genre than I thought.
I read ‘Watchmen’ over the weekend and it took me that long purely because there is so much to take in, this isn’t a comic that you can buy and have read by the time you get home! Having finished it, I can safely say that I was blown away by what Moore and Gibbons have done...
There is so much going on in ‘Watchmen’ that it is difficult to say exactly what the story is about. While there is an over-riding ‘murder mystery’ plot arc that hangs everything together, a lot of other things happen which can be seen to be of equal importance. The events of ‘Watchmen’ play out in a world where costumed adventurers fighting crime have been rendered obsolete by the advent of the world’s first genuine superhero.
‘We all live in the shadow of Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan.’
The advent of Doctor Manhattan is examined on a number of levels (from what he means to the prospects of older heroes to the influence he has on world affairs) and the resulting conclusions are worked back into the plot and drawn out to an ultimate ending. In the meantime, what the reader also gets is a look at a world where costumed crime fighting is a reality and what this means, right down to the level where Moore and Gibbons ask, ‘If crime fighting heroes are commonplace then what’s the point of having them in comics? What would we have instead?’ As an aside, the answer to this is particularly interesting, both in its content and the way in which it is also woven back into the story as a comparison piece to certain of the main players.
While Superman only saw his job as protecting the world, Dr. Manhattan seeks to advance the world at the same time as protect it. Others have similar notions that are not limited to advances in technology etc. Through these, and other, examples the authors take a real close look at the motivations behind aspiring to ‘hero-hood’ and the responsibilities that this eventually entails. These motivations are as varied as the people they are coming from and perhaps the only common factor is humanity in all its many and varied forms.
I could go on about this book all day as I’m aware that a six hundred (or so) word review doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what ‘Watchmen’ is all about. The thing is though, not only do I have to go home at some point (I’m so hungry...) but ‘Watchmen’ is a book that needs at least a couple of re-reads before it all begins to sink in (and that's why I'm not giving this one a mark out of ten just yet). Maybe we can get something going on in the comments section...?
The bottom line is that this is a book that any fan of graphic novels should pick up if they haven’t done so already. I’m not sure how the film will stand up in comparison but I just know that I’ll be there to check it out.