Reread: Watchmen by Alan Moore

April 19, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 5 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

I had read Watchmen already, but I went back to it after seeing a discussion of it come up in an unrelated conversation. There are to my knowledge only a few recognized auteurs in the graphic novel field, and Moore is the only one I’ve read and Watchmen is the only thing I’ve read of his. Perhaps I should try to find more, because Watchmen is great work. I rated it 4 stars when I first made this site and thought long and hard about that rating. It was always on the top of my list of borderline 5 star material. On the reread I decided to bump it up.

Why is Watchmen so good? It’s unbelievably smart…maybe too smart for its own good. The discussion of it that prompted the reread was on whether it could be considered “fascist” or not, whatever that might mean. The people arguing about it couldn’t even decide which characters were supposed to be considered heroes. This could be considered a weakness, but I view it as a sort of objectivity. Moore lays out the options and lets the reader choose, and the choice he gives is not an easy one.

I don’t have the time to write a spoiler discussion of it, but I suppose I should mention just what Watchmen is about. It’s an attack–I hesitate to use a term I despise, deconstruction–on the superhero myth. The story is set in a sort of alternate history where the first superhero comics in the early part of the century actually convinced certain people to take up “customed vigilantism”. From there, Moore takes a brutal look at the effects of unchecked power on those who wield it and the world they create. I gave it five stars because it is not just full of very smart thinking on these issues, but also very well executed in terms of both dialogue and what passes in the graphic novel format for direction. Recommended without reservations.

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