(Author: Alan Moore) + (Year: 1987) + (Goodreads)
As this is most probably the most commented and admired comic books of all time, I think it makes sense that I would not be able to get through everything that makes it great.
In all honesty, Watchmen is quite frankly mesmerizing. Both the story and the art bring comic books on an entirely new level. If one would consider Watchmen just a comic book, then many “comic books” would not even have the right to try to claim that name.
Because Watchmen is, most of all, a philosophical novel. It juggles with many topics, among which most famously, the humanity of the characters. In a world where even humans struggle to be human – and I mean our own, – heroes are us. Because the Watchmen are not the likes of Captain America, Professor X, or Superman. They are humans who have taken the task of watching over the world. But who watches the Watchmen?
If you have seen the Watchmen movie, you might have been left with the impression that Doctor Manhattan was the hero of this story. Having read the comic book, you might think that it was Rorschach. I would say that there is no hero in this story. It’s one full of disturbed, wounded, marginal people, who are trying their best to do what they can about the world they live in. Even the ones who choose to live in denial are not spared the reality of their lack of actions, or the consequences of it.
And as wrong as some of the characters might be, all of them are lively. Moore manages to breathe life into them, make them as real as we are, and just as flawed.
“The morality of my actions escapes me.”
As deep and as intricate the entire book is, the one story that summarizes the whole, is Tales of the Black Freighter. It took me a while to catch on the story, because in the beginning some of the points it was making were still not connected to what was happening between the characters. But once we reached the end, I was mesmerized by the cleverness of this one, seemingly unconnected to the whole, plot line.
The one element of Watchmen that should never be overlooked is the fact that this book does not justify our world, or even us, the people in it. It doesn’t sugarcoat, and it doesn’t go into allegories which cannot be understood. What is special about Watchmen, in fact, is that it is a two-sided knife. There is much more to it than we can see, and it is still clear, if one has the right mindset. And the mindset is actually crucial to reading Watchmen, as this book is dedicated first and foremost, to us, our morality, and the justifications we give for our actions. Be it that we see life as too inconsequential to bother, or that we hate humanity to bits, and yet we’d sacrifice ourselves to save it, or even going beyond that, think that we love it so much that we justify our horrible deeds with other people’s well-being and future rewards.
I know that I am taking this review on a more philosophical level, rather than by analyzing the behaviour of the characters, but I rather think that Watchmen is not really its story, but what the story represents. While there are novels in which you have a beautiful narrative which could mean other things, but it is also important on its own, to me Watchmen is a different level if ingenuity, which should not be restricted between the panels of drawings.
And speaking of the art of Watchmen, it is, of course, beautiful, realistic, old-fashioned, ever so clever, and, I’d like to think, always valid. The symbolism, the creativity, the continuity, even, are undeniably shining bright and unlikely to be overshadowed by another piece of comic book art. I could even admit to not being too aware of Watchmen, until we discussed Alan Moore’s amazing descriptions while writing comic books, and how he’d go into details about every single part of the picture, to a point where the illustrator would have to but follow the instructions while drawing.
A real must-read!