Jul 22, 15
Read from July 15 to 17, 2012
Okay, so confession time here. I really do not do comics. I know, feel free to revoke my nerd card, but there it is. It takes me forever to get used to the style whenever I try, and I just can't deal with the ridiculous over-sexualised portrayal of women in most of them (like do these dudes not understand proportions or gravity? ugh). However, having heard ridiculous amounts of praise for Watchmen though I'd seen the movie and felt it fell completely flat, I decided to give it a go. I'm stating this before I review because I want to make clear the context in which I'm writing this.
Watchmen is a clever, innovative masterpiece that attempts to deconstruct America's obsession with the superhero by presenting a version of the world where costumed vigilantes made it off the page and right into reality. I won't go too much into the plot but it's set in 1985, after the death of prominent government-affiliated costume 'hero' The Comedian. The remaining handful of (mostly ex) vigilantes, old and disillusioned in a world that outgrew them years previously, are faced with the possibility that someone could be picking them off one-by-one. Set against a backdrop of cold war related political turmoil that comes more and more to the forefront as the plot progresses, this story is told with enough flashbacks to build a clear picture of the world they inhabit and why.
The writing in Watchmen is stellar, even poignant at times. One chapter in particular, narrated by the atomic man Jon Osterman (or Doc Manhattan) as he muses on his life and his unique experience of the way time works, is brilliantly written. There are so many threads through the book and I don't recall any that weren't tied up by the end.
This isn't the usual superhero story. This is a story about two generations of regular civilian humans who decide to go out and fight crime, and what motivates that. It's about their being rendered obsolete by the accidental creation of Doctor Manhattan and what that means for humanity, but this is not a story about glorifying nostalgia. It's bleak, it's uncomfortable and it's completely enthralling. I'm usually loathe to give out five star ratings but I can't fault Watchmen enough to give it anything else.