Friday, 3 August 2012

Watchmen - Review

The hardcover version (and my version). 

Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (artist)
First Published: DC Comics (April 1, 1995)
Genre: Graphic Novels, Alternate History
Where to buy: AmazonWaterstonesBook Depository

I personally feel this is the best novel I have ever read. There's no sarcasm or over-exaggeration in that sentence. This novel truly is the best book I have ever read.

And to some people - mostly idiots - it's not even a "proper" novel. It's technically what you call a "graphic novel". Or for a less fancy and more let's-stop-beating-round-the-bush-and-get-to-the-bone-of-this-thing word, a comic book.

Yeah, a comic book. A trashy, under-the-counter, worthless picture book for children that has no artistic value and at the end of the day should just be thrown out and used as recycled paper.

Of course if that's what you think comic books are then you're so bloody wrong you might as well hurl yourself out of a big bloody window before the dawning sensation of how wrong you are hits you in the face and you are left with a horrendous cloud of shame and humiliation for the rest of your natural life.

In general Watchmen (along with perhaps Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and Frank Miller's Batman comics) is credited as completely re-inventing the comics industry and proving once and for all that comics are firmly for adults and certainty not just for children.

I love this book so much. I love the characters. I love the writing. I love the plot. I love the artwork. I love the themes explored. I love how much is fucks the superhero genre. Heck, I even love the mirroring panel-structure. I love this fucking book. This book really is a masterpiece on all accounts. But to make sure this review isn't just a load of warbling fanboy bollocks let's actually get down to the bones of this thing.

First of all what's this book about? Well it's a story set in an alternative 1980's in which Nixon is still president, the US won Vietnam and the whole world is staring into the face of nuclear oblivion. In this world costumed heroes are abundant and follows their lives post-Keene act (a bill that outlawed costumed vigilantism) It leads you on a sublime journey full of conspiracies, romance, violence, science, mystery, suspense, horror, drama and explores the nature of power and the many, many shades of grey to human morality.

Oh, and you know when I said heroes above? Yeah, well perhaps "heroes" isn't really the right word to describe these characters. Nearly all the characters show none of the characteristics of a hero and are all either mentally deranged or have some dark side to their personality. So who do we have?
The paperback version of the book.

Well starting off there's the Comedian who we find out thanks to a series of flashbacks that he was a nihilistic, hedonistic, misogynistic, sadistic, mass-murdering, sociopathic rapist with little to no regard to morality or human life. So that's a fun character to start off with and it only get's better. There's Dr. Manhattan; the only real "super" hero in the whole book as he has the power to teleport from place to place, bend the laws of physics and time, lift objects into thin air and essentially explode a person right in front of him. Unfortunately that means he is an incredibly alienating and cold sociopath who views people as merely a bundle a modules and atoms rather than genuine people.

There's also Night Owl who is a weak and affable man unable to stand up for what he believes in and who suffers seems to suffered from impotency. Yet he is also the most moral and friendly of any of the group. Then there's Silk Spectre who really doesn't want to be a crime-fighter yet was dragged into it by her over-bearing mother. Also there's Ozymandias who has some rather...strange views on how to bring about world peace.

And finally my personal favourite character and undoubtedly the most interesting one, Rorschach. I guess you could say Rorschach is the protagonist but it's a very loose definition of protagonist considering he's an ultra-right wing, woman-hating psychopath with a demented obsession of bringing about justice (no matter how violent or insane) who has a warped sense of right or wrong in which there are no grey areas when in comes to human morality in which to him stealing an orange and raping a woman are both just as punishable as each other. So in short - a nut. But whether they be a nut or a loner, all of the characters in Watchmen are incredibly detailed and complex with many layers to the characters that simply adds to the believability of them.

But as much I have praised the writing of this novel I must also praise the artwork in it. After all, a comic book writer can be as good as he can possibly be but his words mean nothing without a good artist to accompany them, and Dave Gibbons is more than sufficient as the artist. After all without him we wouldn't of had Rorschach's distinctive inkblot mask or the clockface ticking to midnight that reappears so many times throughout the novel or the now famous smiley face with a bloodstain in the corner.

That's another fantastic element of this book. It's use of symbology is everywhere and all have their own distinct meanings behind them. Most of them would give away the plot but there are other sources to find out what they all mean. One of the joys of this book is going back over and noticing these symbols which are littered everywhere and I always like visual works of art that still give you something to look for.

The colour is also used very skilfully in this book. The recurring colours are normally browns, purples, beiges, dark greens, yellows. These are colours that are harsh and clash with each other but that is right for this book as it reflects the dark, perpetually grim  world that the characters exist in.

So, this review is getting kind of long now so I better finish this off. I really cannot stress enough how good a book this is. From the sharp, dark and gritty writing to the subtle artistic additions here and there this book is truly the best example of what you would call a masterpiece and genuinely deserves the overused title of genius. Buy it. Buy it now.

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