“Watchmen”, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, has been widely hailed as one of the best graphic novels ever written. In fact, Time magazine even went to the extent of putting it in its list of the 100 best English-language novels of “all time” published since 1923. It is also the only graphic novel to have ever been awarded the Hugo Award (given every year to the best work in science fiction and fantasy). It has also won numerous other awards for its creators.
I have to say that I fully agree with all the accolades that have been heaped upon this fantastic piece of work. You really have to read it yourself to see what all the fuss is about - you will never be able to dismiss comics as just being for kids after reading this.
“Watchmen” tells the story of retired and active costumed adventurers (masked superheroes) in 1985 in an alternate history United States with the Soviet Union being its biggest adversary. All of the superheroes, except one, are humans without any special powers. It appears that someone is trying to kill the masked superheroes one by one and precipitating events that could lead to World War Three. The surviving superheroes try to find out who is behind all this.
The book explores the complex psyche of its characters and presents several flashbacks to help the reader understand the characters better. There are twelve chapters in the book. The cover page of each chapter is an extreme close-up of some part of the first frame in the chapter and the cover of the book itself is an extreme close-up of the cover of the first chapter. The title of a chapter is a part of a line or a verse (from various sources, including songs from Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, the Book of Job in the Old Testament, etc.) that is presented in full at the end of the chapter and that is relevant in some sense to the overall theme of the chapter. The book itself ends with the now famous line “Who watches the Watchmen?”. The chapters are separated by excerpts from media (books, newspapers, police reports, etc.) from within the world of the book that further illuminate the nature of the characters. There is some nudity and gore that might be unsettling for a few people. The illustrations are superb and the colouring good. About the only “flaw” as such that bothered me was the same old inclination of comics writers to randomly put one or two words in every sentence in bold typeface for some reason.
This book is a must-read.