Watchmen

Earlier this year, when I began to discover an interest in graphic novels, Hubby got all excited. See, he was one of those guys: the ones who hang out at the comic book stores, reading about superheros and buying D&D stuff. Not that I have anything against all that — I married him after all, and he still plays D&D, as does M — but I never did it myself. (Nor did my brothers. We were Star Wars and computer geeks around my house). Anyway, I digress. He got all excited because now that I was reading graphic novels, he could finally share some of his comic books with me (aside from telling me about them when he drags me — mostly willingly, I admit — to superhero movies). He dug out this series of twelve — by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons — and told me it was brilliant and that I had to read it.

And so, when I was looking yesterday for something non-French and non-novel, I pulled this out of my TBR pile and began reading.

First impression: it’s not nearly as well drawn as the other graphic novels I’ve read. I don’t know if the genre has evolved since the 1980s (it was written in 1986), or if there’s just a distinct comic book style. Either way, all their women look like men with breasts and the color scheme grated on me.

Second impression: It’s a very 80s story, which generated a lot of discussion between Hubby and me. The basic plot is begun with the death of a “costumed adventurer” (not superhero!), and another adventurer’s (possibly insane Rorschach) “inquiries” into the murder, and his attempts to warn his friends of a plot to kill off all the adventurers. This, of course, spirals into a more and more complicated plot (which includes a man who got completely blown up by radiation, and then proceeded to put himself back together into a true, um blue — he really is blue — super man), which includes a possibly evil genius, world domination, and an alien invasion. (Got all that? Neither did I.)

Back to the 80s comment. This series really is a product of the late-Cold War mentality: the idea that the Russians could blow us up at any minute, a mistrust of the computers that were increasingly being put in charge (think War Games… a movie I adored and watched at least two dozen times one summer), a community mentality that could easily evolve into a mob mentality, a lack of ready information (they had to watch the 6:00 news and read newspapers!) which all added to the air of uncertainty and panic. The world has moved on from that point — not only because of the falling of the Iron Curtain, but also because information is so readily available, at the same time communities are less connected — and so, much of the panic and the end-of-the-world attitudes are foreign and slightly hysterical now.

Third impression: I really don’t go in for serials. It’s the same problem I have with Dickens (sorry). I feel like that when works are serialed, the authors tend to go overlong in getting to their point. (As opposed to authors who sit down to tell a story straight in one novel. I have some of the same problem with long series, like The Sisters Grimm or, yes — sacrilege — Harry Potter, even.) This work had so many twists, so many turns, so many characters (Hubby pointed out that one of Moore and Gibbon’s geniuses was that they used every single character they drew; no one was not important. Unfortunately, that made for a lot of people to keep track of.) that by the end I felt like it was taking much to long to get to the point. Perhaps it was because they decided to do it over a year, a series of 12, instead of thinking of it as one whole and then dividing it up into chapters. It’s the nature of comic books, though.

Which makes me think that I’ll stick to bona fide graphic novels. (No offense, dear.)

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3 thoughts on “Watchmen

  1. Hmmm, great review, but based on your comments I wonder if I’ll like it (leaning toward no). I have the collected edition on my TBR, so we’ll see.

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  2. I rather liked this one, but perhaps that’s because I saw it in slightly different terms. It’s more of a play on the traditional, and outdated, themes of the superhero comic, than a recreation of them. As well as asking what would drive these people to start prancing about in costume fighting crime, it asks a lot about the ethics of manipulating people into coming together, even for the ‘greater good’.

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  3. My husband is big into comics and D&D as well and in fact is playing a game tonight while I am away on holiday! I have been meannig to get around to reading this for ages and hope to fit it in this year. I am sorry you were disappointed by it, but hope it doesn’t put you off oher graphic novels.

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