Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
ISBN: 9780930289232
Pages: 416
Release Date: April 1, 1995
Publisher: DC Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From the publisher’s website:

It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians? On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet! Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story — the story of The Watchmen.

I honestly had no idea what to expect when I picked up Watchmen. My husband had read it and loved it, and said we were definitely going to see the movie when it comes out. I wanted to make sure to tackle the book first. I knew it had been one of Time’s Top 100 Books since 1923, and I have heard over and over again how amazing the novel is. Therefore, my expectations were pretty high. I also figured, being a graphic novel, it would be a bit easier to read than a regular novel. Boy was I wrong!

First of all, Watchmen was really hard for me to read. I’m not sure if I underestimated it for being a graphic novel or the plot was just more complicated than usual, but either way I had to go back and review things multiple times. I also found the format incredibly difficult. I’ve never read a graphic novel before, so I figured that all the pictures would make it easier to read. What I didn’t realize is that pictures means an extra thing to concentrate on. While it’s not necessary to study each picture carefully, they are an important part of the storytelling and you can’t simply skip them. Therefore, it actually took me a lot longer than I expected to complete Watchmen and I was exhausted at the end of it. I wonder if I should have read it in smaller sections, rather than trying to tackle the whole book at once?

The storyline was actually really good. The characters were very well developed. Like I said earlier, I had no idea what to expect from a graphic novel, so I pretty much held it to the same standards as a regular novel. It passed with flying colors. I loved the idea that this was an anti-superhero story. It gave the characters so much depth and so many flaws to overcome. You find yourself rooting for characters that seem to be pretty awful people, but there is always something underneath.

My only real complaint about the novel is the ending. I didn’t like it. It’s so unsatisfying and I just wasn’t a fan of the whole explanation of what was going on. But then again, it fits with the tone of the entire novel. It wasn’t written to be satisfying or what the readers want – it was written tell a good story and to be provocative, and it is definitely that.

Watchmen is by no means an easy read. It’s dense, and if you’re used to flying through regular novels like I am, this novel is going to seem like a stumbling block. The story is intricate and complicated. My expectations may have been too high going in, but Watchmen is definitely a novel worth reading.

Comments

  1. I love it “if you’re used to flying through regular novels like I am…” You are too funny! Flying might be an understatement!

  2. Yay! I’m glad you liked it! I still need to read it, I don’t really like superhero/people with powers comics though!

  3. I have never read graphic novels as well.. but I am tempted to try one after reading rave reviews for so many in many of the blogs.. even though this sounds interesting, I think I’ll wait until I read a graphic novel that is lighter before actually getting to this one. Thanks for yet another amazing review!

  4. I do want to see this movie.

  5. This just came in at the library for me. I’m a little nervous about it because it’s also my first graphic novel. I’ll have to take it slow like you recommend, it might be easier to handle.

  6. My sons (ages 30 and 19) really like this one. I haven’t read any graphic novels. I’m old enough to think “comic book”. But in my defense I read lots of those when I was young. I’m interested in seeing the movie though, so I think I’ll borrow it from son #2 and give it a read.

  7. My son has this book – I’ll have to ask him what he thought of it. This is coming out as a movie.

  8. I had to delete a comment from bacci40 because I felt like it gave away too much of the ending of Watchmen. However, I’ve reprinted the comment below, with the spoilers deleted:

    reading a comic is an art, which is why scott mccloud wrote, understanding comics, which i suggest all the uninitiated pick up before jumping into a book like watchmen.

    and in watchmen, there are two endings…

    one is moore’s take on the absurd galactic villians created by different comic book writers and artists…wiki fing fang foom and starro the coquerer (who was a giant starfish who battled the jla)

    the postscript is almost prophetical…

    watchmen is a very layered book in that not only does it deconstruct the masked hero myth, it also seeks to do an analysis on the american society and the comic book industry.

    if the movie brings more to read the book, and to understand that comics can be both a great artform as well as serious literature, then zack has indeed done a great thing.

  9. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and urge you to continue with graphic novels and comic book memoirs. I put down Watchmen the first time someone lent it to me, but made it through the second time, almost twenty years ago, and have been an avid comic reader since. I think those who love books will love comics too–just seek the ones that appeal to you–they have genres and art/story styles, fiction and non, just like “regular” books.

    Watchmen is a challenging book, and has so many layers that even on multiple re-readings it yields new things for me. For example, go to the middle spread of the “Fearful Symmetry” chapter, then work your way back out to the beginning and last pages of the book; notice anything?

    It’s also, though, a product of its time. It revolutionized comics by humanizing superheros, and was also a political commentary on the Reagan/Thatcher years. It’s grimness makes more sense in those lights, I think.

    I’m probably going to skip the movie. I admire the book too much, and wouldn’t want the movie to dim my respect, as can sometimes happen with a bad adaptation.

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