Graphic Novel “Watchmen” excites readers
Edward Blake is found dead on the sidewalk, his blood oozing onto the street. He appears to have been tossed out of the window of his apartment high above.
Who is responsible for this heinous crime? Rorschach, a masked vigilante, is determined to find out what happened to Blake, who was a government-employed superhero called The Comedian.
Even though “Watchmen” was published 26 years ago chapter by chapter, it has recently been published in a collected format, and the themes are still relevant to today’s society. Who watches the watchmen? Who protects us from our protectors? With issues of police brutality and political corruption becoming increasingly exposed, these are important questions to answer. Through his well-crafted graphic novel, Moore shows that there is no easy answer to these questions.
Despite common skepticism surrounding the ability of the graphic novel format to convey a compelling story, Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” is as sophisticated as any well-written novel, and much more complex than most comic books. It crushes the idealism of the superhero archetype and contains themes that are still relevant in today’s society.
“Watchmen” is set in America in the mid-1980’s in an alternate history, which has been affected by the rise of superheroes. America has won the Vietnam War, and now the Soviet Union and America are on the brink of nuclear war. However, the Keene Act has banned any superhero who is not employed by the government from fighting crime, and now Rorschach is the only costumed vigilante that remains.
The extreme views of the six main characters highlight their opposing moralities. Rorschach thinks that all criminals should be severely punished. His ultra-conservative views contrast with the liberal views of Adrian Veidt and Dr. Manhattan, who think that principles of just retribution can be sacrificed for the greater good.
Dan Dreiberg, formerly known as the Nite Owl, is childish and naïve in his views of justice. He represents the glorified view of superheroes that is present in most comics. The Comedian, on the other hand, sees that world through a cynical lens. He sees the entire superhero gig as a big joke, with the world’s problems too big to handle. All these conflicting moralities make interactions between the characters interesting, and often insightful.
The only glaring weakness in the effectiveness of the plot is Laurie Juspeczyk, the only major female superhero. Her character seems to be used only for sexual pursuits. She seduces Dr. Manhattan, providing him a reason to side with the US and to stay on earth. Moore uses Laurie to provide the romance that most stories have, but unfortunately, her relationships with Dr. Manhattan and Dan Dreiberg are little more than sexual. She contributes no political, philosophical, or moral perspectives to the novel.
The intricacy of the novel is further developed by the extensive back stories of the major and minor characters. The multiple flashbacks amongst all of the protagonists give the reader a more personal connection to their past.
Dave Gibbons’ illustrations by no means cheapen the story. This artistic medium adds an extra layer of depth, such as the bloody smiley face visual motif that can be found throughout the pages. It’s a nice change for readers who wish they could actually see symbols instead of just reading about them.
There is never a dull moment in “Watchmen.” Endless paragraphs of description are not something that one will find in this book. For anyone who is tired of reading blocks of text but still wants a compelling story, “Watchmen” is the book to choose.
Adam Kuester is a New Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com
Scott Novak is an Opinion Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com