The first and most important thing to be said about Alan Moore’s Watchmen is that it’s a great read. If you’re looking for a dark, realistic and sophisticated adult comic then look no further. If you are new to comics yes, it is a good place to start as it is a compelling story with fascinating characters told in an ingenious way. However, it is not the ideal place to start.
Watchmen is a great story but there is so much more to it than this. If you want to appreciate the impact it had on mainstream comics you really should get your hands on a history of the medium and some comics that typify the way things were before Watchmen arrived. Ironically, Moore himself has written many ‘reconstructed’ super hero comics in order to repair the damage which he believed Watchmen caused: a flood of dark, pessimistic ‘adult’ comics which came in the late 80s and 90s. 1963 is one mini-series that Moore wrote with this intention in mind. So, the pleasure of reading Watchmen can be enhanced by knowing the historical context in which it was released back in 1987.
It should also be noted that Watchmen rewards serious study. There are so many different philosophical angles with which to approach the work. It is a very stimulating read. Notions of power, responsibility, morality and freewill are all explored. History is also a major preoccupation be it on a personal level or a remote impersonal level – the bigger picture, as it were. These are just a handful of approaches to this truly multi-faceted work.
Watchmen is also known for its connections. There are so many connections made between the narrative, dialogue and panel artwork that the work is like one great, self-contained watch.
Yes, studying the book is deeply rewarding but it is not essential. Watchmen works perfectly as a whodunnit with super heroes. It is the triumph of the book that it can be enjoyed in this way. That it is so accessible. Most of what I’ve written so far in this review has been said elsewhere, many times. To take a more personal approach, I really responded to the unique ambience of the book and its self-contained nature which is rare for a U.S. comic. For me, Rorshach is the hero of the book, for his moral integrity and insistence that the truth be told. Many people would argue that the book has no hero but I think most readers would have the same sympathies as me.
Watchmen is such a complex work that you will never tire of reading it. That is why everyone should own a copy. It is a true masterpiece of popular fiction in any medium. Of course, this doesn’t mean it has no flaws. Many people feel that the climax is a bit disappointing. Personally, I think the connections are over played. But there is no such thing as a flawless work of art and a work of art Watchmen certainly is.
Essential. Buy it now!