Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

June 15, 2009
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I frequent a comic book store, and one day while hauling a stack of classic issues up to the register, I stumbled upon a very different looking comic. “It’s a graphic novel,” I was told, as I flipped through Watchmen, the 1986 award-winning creation by Alan Moore. Masked men? Check. But where were the Pow! and the Thwap!? Where were the flashy colors? Pages and pages of dialogue looked like torture to my 10-year-old attention span. When I picked it up again six years later, I saw it in a completely different light.

Watchmen is set in an alternative modern America, one in which regular denizens of New York don costumes to fight or create crime. The tale begins with the gruesome murder of the Comedian, a government-sponsored superhero. Rorschach, an independent vigilante, tracks down the remaining superheroes to warn them of an attack. As more are killed and discredited, they realize that there is a horrible explanation for the assaults.

This is a masterpiece, a tour-de-force that changed the rules for graphic novels. Moore took the deflated superhero plotline and revamped it, revealing a disturbing and unsettling humanity beneath the capes. His writing is gritty, emotional, and undeniably human. Unlike most comics, this novel is for mature readers.

Watchmen rips away the overtly sanguine shield that characterizes most superhero comics. These heroes are human, their psyches complex, and their morals ambiguous; the “good guy/bad guy” ideal is not as clear as in classic Superman comics. The action is anchored in realism, and the story closely mirrors the events of the 1980s. Only one, Dr. Manhattan, actually possesses supernatural powers but is controlled by the government as a weapon. The rest deal with their obsolescence and life choices in varying degrees of sanity.

Drawn by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen is not glamorous and stunning like newer comics, but subtle nuances give each frame a vitality. Symbolism is rampant, and it becomes an activity to pick out inconspicuous details.

As the chapters progress, it becomes clear that the story line is not a linear investigation of one murder. Moore depicts a world living in fear, switching perspectives and time periods to show the rise and fall of the characters. The violence, although sparser than your typical comic, is more violent with painful deaths and bloody frames. Themes are mature – including one of a superhero getting raped – but not beyond a high schooler’s capacity.

With a special “Absolute Edition” on shelves and the recent movie, this book is everywhere. Watchmen reads like a profound novel. The pictures add to the reader’s enjoyment and take the story to greater heights, allowing for beautiful unspoken moments. While the concept of men and women dressing up to fight crime sounds foolish, Moore pens it perfectly and makes the story both plausible and entertaining.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

annkaykay2011 said...
Aug. 1, 2009 at 6:00 am
Wow, it was very well wrote. I've read the comic aswell,
 
Proviso This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 24, 2009 at 2:05 am
Love love love the Watchmen. I used to read only manga but now I respect American graphic novels more than Eastern style comics.
 
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