"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Watchmen by Alan Moore

Originally published in serial form in 1986 and 1987.

I was interested in seeing the movie. The reviews sounded interesting so I thought I'd read the book first. And with reviews like, "The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced" and "One of Time magazine's 100 best novels" on the cover, how could I go wrong?

I dabble in comics. I read the big collections. I have no figurines, no stickers on my car. I see the movies, but usually on DVD. I own precious few comic books, mostly borrowing what I read from friends or the library.

On the other hand, I am a voracious reader and I like to think that I know a little about books.

I appreciate the fact that this book was groundbreaking in its day. It offered a bleak, jaded and, frankly, more realistic look at the whole concept of superheroes. When it asks, "Who watches the watchmen?" that is an important question.

Showing the Comedian committing atrocities in Vietnam is a nice twist on those Superman cartoon movies that show Superman fighting the Germans. Showing an all-powerful Dr. Manhattan literally not caring about the little people is an interesting but barely explored theme - what happens when the superhero realizes he doesn't care about the little people anymore because he is not one of them?

But, the relentless dark nature of the book and the insistence on highlighting nearly every single watchman with his or her own volume just wore me down. I lost interest with the volume on Dr. Manhattan. He's just plain old boring. The parts that concern him feel like they were written by an unsure college freshman who is trying to sound philosophical. Tedious is more like it. Rorschach is interesting and along with the Owl their combination of cool tools and psychological dysfunction comprise the modern-day incarnation of Frank Miller's vision of Batman in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Laurie is interesting, to a point.

Veidt is tedious because his plan to unite humanity has no basis in history, which is a real hoot - the smartest man in the world does not know the history he claims to have studied? Invasions from aliens have happened, figuratively, of course. The Persians caused the Spartans and Athenians to unite. But, in two generations the Spartans worked with Persians to defeat the Athenians. Cortes had the help of several Indian groups to defeat the Aztecs. American Indian groups worked with the United States government to subdue other groups. This plan is comic booking at its worst - adolescent political theory applied to a big picture idea.

Anyway, I won't be seeing the movie. I skimmed the end of the book. I'm glad the Owl gets the girl. Good for him, at least someone got something out of this overly-pretentious, overly-hyped read.

I rate this graphic novel 2 stars out of 5. This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Watchmen by Alan Moore. 

Reviewed on April 21, 2009.

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