Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons
Colorist: John Higgins
Distributed By: DC Comics
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
While viewing the latest Batman man movie, The Dark Knight, I was privileged to see a preview for another Superhero movie coming next year to theaters called Watchmen. The preview was enough to pique my curiosity about this band of anti-hero heroes. I did a little research on the movie and found that it was an award winning graphic novel from about twenty years ago. I wasn’t immediately interested in the novel, figuring I would see the movie when it came out and that that would be enough for me. However, one day at work I stumbled across the Watchmen novel left discarded in the staff lounge. After asking around and finding no one willing to claim ownership of it, I took the novel for myself and decided to give it a read.
The comic book takes place in an alternative 1985. President Nixon has served five terms in office, the nuclear arms race is in full force and masked vigilantes have been governmentally banned. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there aren’t a few masked heroes running around. Some do so covertly like the enigmatic Rorschach and some operate under government sanction, like The Comedian, a wise cracking, dark humor hero more reminiscent of the Joker than any hero I’ve seen.
The graphic novel begins with Rorschach, still fighting crime under the cover of darkness despite his complete lack of faith in the world or its justice system. The Comedian, a former crime fighter turned Merc, has been murdered in his apartment by an unknown assailant and Rorschach immediately cries of a conspiracy against former masked heroes. Hell-bent on proving his theory correct, Rorschach looks up other former heroes like the Night Owl, a batman like crime fighter, and Dr. Manhattan, an omnipotent blue superhero working for the government to find the answers.
At the same time, the world is falling under the brink of nuclear war, as Russia begins to invade country after country, prompting the United States to consider taking extreme measures to stop them. Throughout the investigation, more startling clues are uncovered that only fuel Rorschach’s suspicions. One of which is the mysterious exile of Dr. Manhattan, and the assassination of one of their former nemesis, Molach.
But when Rorschach is framed for a murder his did not commit, previously retired heroes Night Owl and the Silk Spectre, come out of hiding to investigate. What they uncover is not the conspiracy that Rorschach feared, but instead something much worse that leads these former heroes to look toward one of their own as the source of these horrific crimes. It all culminates in a brutal and cleverly devised bloodbath that has global repercussions. When it’s all said and done, can these crime fighters face the reality of the world in which they live? A reality in which good deeds and justice are not enough to save the world and their best laid plans mean are not enough to save the world?
Overall, I loved this comic book. I thought it was a powerful piece of literature that has a timeless appeal, one that is particularly relevant in today’s war-driven culture. I especially loved the way the writers blurred the lines between what it right and what is necessary. In a world of immorality and suffering, who among us can truly say if the ends justify the means—and that is the heart of the message of the Watchmen and that is why I loved this novel so much.
Of course, by now you should all know that the Watchmen is being made into a movie and will be released sometime next year. With that in mind I’d like to make a comment to those who may wish to see that movie. If the movie follows the graphic novel, there will be a lot of you out there that will not like it. Without giving away any endings, I’ll simply say that if you are a person who cheers when the good guys win and are easily seduced by ‘Hollywood’ endings, then the Watchmen will not be a movie for you. If done like the graphic novel, the Watchmen movie will most likely challenge your conventional views on good and evil, and throw in some heavy political ponderings right along with that challenge. So be warned. With that in mind, I have nothing but praise for the Watchmen graphic novel and hope that everyone who has not already read it, will give it a chance and read it with an open mind.