Ren the Unclean's Reviews > Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore
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's review
Feb 25, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: graphic-novel, fi-sci
Read in February, 2009

I had read this before, but decided to go through it again before the movie hits. My opinion now is about the same as it was before, in that I think this book is just good, rather than mind blowing and amazing as it is often described. It is definitely worth reading, but not for the reasons I expected going in.

Characters in Watchmen are sort of hit or miss for me. Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan are both very interesting characters who are very well written. Moore does a good job of getting into their motivations and by the end you really understand the characters. Most of the other characters in the book are fairly uninteresting and underdeveloped. Night Owl and the Silk Specter are good examples. They do things to move the story along, but are just fairly generic comic characters. There are also a number of times when characters do things that either don't make sense or are not, in my opinion, sufficiently motivated. Like when Night Owl stands idly by as Rorschach casually tortures people in a bar. This seemed fairly out of character (for Night Owl) to me.

The plot of the Watchmen is essentially throw away, which is fine. It is more of a backdrop for the real goal of the book, which is to explore how costumed and super powered vigilantes would actually function and interact within a world like this one. This is mildly interesting, but in the end I just sort of don't care. Sure, war is bad, the individuality of human life is important, not everyone is what they seem, but most of the social issues Moore is trying to explore have been explored in better, more engrossing ways in other works.

The presentation in this book is probably the most impressive part. Almost everything in every panel has a purpose and helps drive the story along. The things that seemed inconsequential when I first read this definitely had more meaning this time. There are not that many artists and writers that put this much attention into how exactly they are telling the story and what the medium of comics allows them to do. The problem comes when it turns into less of a comic and more of a novel.
There are times when Moore has super long exposition that seem unnecessary or poorly done to me. For example, the second Mars section of the book is just long winded prose with pictures behind it. This is in contrast to the rest of the book, where the art is used to further the story. I get that Moore is trying to say something about humanity's possible future, but the rest of the book does so well with a combination of art and dialog, why can't this section? The 3-4 page solid walls of text between each issue also detract from the book in the same way. They are glaring examples of the fact Moore is a good comic writer but not a good novelist. They only served to take me out of the story, even though they explained a lot of the background for the characters. This would probably have been better if it was done in the context of the comic book as flash backs or whatever.

Maybe I missed something that would completely change my mind about Watchmen, but I doubt it. This book is worth reading because it has many examples of the comics medium used to great effect, but it is most definitely not without fault.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Dave I know a lot of people who share your opinion. I think that a big part of why our generation isn't as blown away by Watchmen is because it's been pretty consistently ripped off ever since it's initial publication. I'm just finishing up Dave Gibbon's retelling of the process of writing it, you might find that just as interesting as the comic. I know that it really changed my perspective on the book with regard to it's genesis and place in the larger literary world.

Ren the Unclean I was thinking I should check that out... Especially since I appreciate what is done with the art in Watchmen way more than I appreciate the writing itself.

Dave It's really excellent, and provides a lot of justification for the choices they made, even for stuff like the Mars sequence. Next time you're here/I'm there I'll make sure you get to take a look at it.

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