Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I'd been looking forward to reading Watchmen, probably the most critically-acclaimed graphic novel of all time, for over a year when I finally picked it up. While I appreciate certain merits of the book - that it turned the superhero model on its head in some ways, with every hero having major flaws and every villain having redeeming qualities - I can't say I really enjoyed it. The plot wasn't interesting or complex enough to keep me hooked, nor did I find the art to be visually appealing.

Watchmen is set in an alternate 1980s reality, where the only thing keeping nuclear war at bay is Dr. Manhattan, a naked, blue dude whose dalliance with a nuclear reactor some years ago gave him major super powers (the ability to see all time in complete and non-linear fashion, super strength and quickness, teleportation, and the aforementioned blueness). The story opens with the gruesome murder of The Comedian, an ex-vigilante costumed crime fighter who'd been sanctioned by the government. Comedian's ex-teammate, the un-sanctioned vigilante Rorschach, sees the event as evidence of a huge anti-masked-hero conspiracy. Rorschach sets out to warn another former teammate, Dan Dreiberg (aka Nite Owl II), of the impending danger, just before he's framed for murder himself and thrown in jail. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II (you guessed it, another ex-teammate) now have to break him out of the pokey so that they can get to the bottom of it all.

The primary plot is interwoven with a number of sub-plots, my least favorite of which was a comic-within-a-comic about an evil pirate ship. Between each chapter there are relatively interesting "excerpts" from other books or articles about various characters - part of the first Nite Owl's autobiography, the first Silk Spectre's scrapback, a really lame article on owls "written" by Dreiberg. These explore various characters' back stories, and are in some ways better than the main book.

As a whole, I just didn't find Watchmen to be all that compelling. I wouldn't even call it the best comic book/graphic novel that I've read, and I've only read a few. It didn't piss me off enough that I'd swear off the medium altogether, but neither would I recommend it.

Next up: Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. I love that guy, and am looking forward to another of his satires.

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