Fiction: “Watchmen” by Alan Moore / Dave Gibbons

watchmen-book-cover-webI don’t think it’s news to any of my readers, new or old, that I’m a geek. When one of my reps was astonished at my ability to name all twelve colors of the Ultra-Absorbent towels without a crib sheet, I was forced to admit that I can name the first one hundred episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in order. It’s a great party trick, but only for people who are fellow geeks.

Anyway. Speaking of Buffy, I’ve been reading the Season 8 comics since they were released. This summer I got into the Fables series by Bill Willingham, and really enjoyed it. I don’t discuss Fables as I read them because the stories are intertwined and even though they’re collections in paperback form, I find it hard to classify them as a book. I read the first collection of Sandman, and honestly, it creeped me out a bit more than I like seeing in a comic.

But since I enjoyed Fables and the graphic novel is a genre I hadn’t really explored, plus, there’s a movie of it now, I picked up Watchmen from the library.
I … enjoyed it. Having said that, it was difficult for me to get into. Watchmen is the story of a superhero group called the Crimebusters (or, rather, costumed vigilantes – there’s only one ‘hero’ who’s truly super, and he got that way from being irradiated into dust and then found a way to regenerate himself. I think) who are slowly getting picked off. In the beginning – an alternate-universe version of 1985 America, where Nixon had his term limits removed and is ‘currently’ serving a third term – it’s very similar to The Incredibles, in that ‘supers’ were once beloved and allowed to exist in society until they became outlawed. Two of the Crimebusters are legitimately working for the government – Dr. Manhattan, the aforementioned irradiated one, and The Comedian. Rorshach remains a true vigilante – solving crimes and meteing out justice where he deems it necessary without the cooperation of the police. The other Crimebusters, the Nite Owl and the Second Silk Spectre have taken Ozymandius’s lead and retired to a private life (though Ozymandius chose to start a multibillion dollar business empire instead, so he’s not really private at all).

The plot kicks off with the murder of Edward Blake, the Comedian, and Rorshach’s initial attempts to solve the murder, coupled with Rorshach warning the remaining Crimebusters. From there, the lives the Crimebusters have built up for themselves just gets ruined for all – Dr. Manhattan is accused of giving his friends, colleagues and lovers cancer from his radiation, so he transports himself to Mars. His leaving throws the fragile accord between the US and Afghanistan into turmoil (huh), and from half-way through, the two nations are on the brink of World War III.

While Rorshach and the Nite Owl try to solve the mystery of the ‘Mask Killer,’ the chapters of Watchmen are supplemented by additional, non-comic material. Excerpts from biographies of the characters; scrapbook clippings; criminal historys of some of the other characters are added, which makes the backstory of the characters that much richer. In addition, the story cuts back and forth between the main plot of the Mask Killer/World War III with a comic-within-a-comic story called “The Black Freighter,” the story of a haunted pirate ship and a mariner’s struggle to survive. At first the story seems incongruous, but as one progresses through the chapters, one realizes that there is an amazing parallel with one of the characters and the plot itself.

As you can see, the story is very dense. And part of the problem I had with this was the same problem I had with The Gun Seller all those months ago – I was reading it in bed, and the past three weeks have been insane at work, so by the time I get home, I’m too tired to stay up and read and retain any information. I also wasn’t helping myself by reading two books at the same time in addition to starting classes up again.

I’m going to have to read this again at some point, but not right away. First, it’s a week overdue at the library, so I have to bring it back. Secondly, I need to make sure my mental capacities are at their highest when I attempt it again. Right now, that ain’t happening. I seriously almost typed ‘highest’ ‘heighest’. Twice.

I did finish reading Good Girl Gone Bad, but I’ll write up the review for that tomorrow, or soon. Meantime, I’m rereading some Dick Francis and other stories that don’t require too much thought.

Grade for Watchmen: 3 stars

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