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Bane of Kings reviews the fantastic, awe-inspiring superhero graphic-novel Watchmen, published by DC Comics and written by Alan Moore, with illustrations from Dave Gibbons, coloured by John Higgins and edited by Len Wein. This graphic novel also won a Hugo Award, and also spawned an awesome movie adaption of the same name.
“An epic superhero graphic novel that is not to be missed, and has something to offer for everyone, veteran graphic novel readers and newcomers alike. It’ll be really hard to top Watchmen.” ~The Founding Fields
I was first introduced to Watchmen when I saw the movie, and after watching it, the film quickly became one of my favourite superhero films. So it wasn’t really going to be that long before I craved in and brought the graphic novel, to see if it was as good as the film. And as it turned out, it wasn’t simply as good as the film, oh no. It was better, and it’s even better than the other two graphic novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently, the first Sandman Comic by Neil Gaiman, and Batman: Year One. I’ve enjoyed both of them a lot, but I just think that Watchmen outclasses them all. It’s that awesome. Also, as I am unable to find a reasonably short plot summary to use, I’ve decided to go with the movie version. Shouldn’t really make much difference as they basically are pretty much the same, with a few minor changes. So this is taken from IMDB.
Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion – a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers – Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity… but who is watching the Watchmen?”
So, that’s the plot of Watchmen, and in a nutshell, it’s amazing. The intense storyline proves that comics can be aimed at adults and be done well, and there’s certainly no large element of cheese that has kept me away from the more younger-audience orientated graphic novels of those produced by Marvel. In fact, I’m yet to read anything by Marvel, but let me tell you, Marvel will have to come up with something special to match the unbeatable, mind-blowing Watchmen. This is easily one of my favourite pieces of fiction that I’ve read all year, and I should point out that this is a year in which I’ve read stuff by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Kim Newman (Anno Dracula) and Brandon Sanderson (The Final Empire). I really loved Watchmen, and you should too.
There are several things which makes Watchmen quite literally the graphic novel to beat, as I found whilst reading this. It’s a marvelous tour-de-force that will have you hooked from page one right to the very end, and although the graphic novel as a whole is somewhat bleak and depressing, (don’t go into this graphic novel expecting to feel uplifted coming out of it), and there are several dark moments throughout. This is certainly not for those who don’t like dark stuff like this, but then, if you don’t think it isn’t for you, don’t read it.
I couldn’t find anything wrong with Watchmen, that’s how good this graphic novel was. There were several interesting scenes, such as the interview with Doctor Manhattan, which would cross back and forth between Laurie and Dan fighting in the back-alley, and there are many interesting characters, Rorschach – arguably being the main focus of this graphic novel, being the best of them all. He is a dark character, and is easily an anti-hero, although not as dark as the Comedian, who doesn’t appear as much as Rorschach, but certainly has made his presence known in the few page time that we’re given for him. Apart from the Comedian, for reasons that will become clear once you’ve read Watchmen, pretty much every character on the front gets a wide coverage throughout the graphic novel, and their origins as well as their present adventures is explored in this mighty tome. Many of the characters are even parodies of the more established superheroes, such as Nite Owl being similar to Batman in the his costume design and gadgetry use. In fact, in the movie, Nite Owl’s costume looks even similar to Batman than he does in the graphic novel.
The pace is action packed and the action itself is captured brilliantly. There aren’t many slow moments in this graphic novel, and you’re constantly speeding through. The version that I brought (I don’t know if this applies for all versions of Watchmen or not) contains several ‘extra’s’ which add more depth to the alternate reality that provides a backdrop for Watchmen, and are all very enjoyable to read.
As well as catering for superhero fans, Watchmen also addresses fans of alternate history, for this is a graphic novel in which Nixon has been recently elected for his fourth term, after becoming hugely popular following the quick victory of Vietnam, which was won with the help of Dr. Manhattan, who is the only true ‘superhero’ of the Watchmen, it’s worth pointing out. The rest are all just good fighters in costumes, and is an interesting character, and like the other Watchmen, has a great backstory.