Watchmen, by Alan Moore

>> Sunday, June 23, 2013

TITLE: Watchmen
AUTHOR: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (artist)

PAGES: 406

SETTING: Alt. reality US
TYPE: Graphic novel
SERIES: Volume contains all 12 issues

This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.

One of the most influential graphic novels of all time and a perennial bestseller, WATCHMEN has been studied on college campuses across the nation and is considered a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels such as V FOR VENDETTA, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE SANDMAN series.

We try to keep things varied in my book club, and this month we've decided to try a graphic novel. I was really excited about it, especially because Watchmen seems to be one of those novels everyone thinks is amazing. And I loved the idea of a critical analysis and deconstruction of the superhero concept, which is one I've always found problematic.

I'm very sorry to report I really did not enjoy it.

It wasn't you, Watchmen, it was definitely me. Because I find the very idea of superheroes somewhat problematic (it's the vigilantism that puts me off), I tend to avoid most works in the genre. I haven't read any superhero comics and I can't even remember the last superhero film I've watched. It must have been years and years ago. The thing is, it felt like Watchmen was a response to and analysis of that genre, and I felt lost. It seemed to me like you need to have a bit more of a grounding in the whole superhero concept in order to properly appreciate what's so great about this novel. Me, I didn't get it. It left me nonplussed, and even though the book club discussion helped a bit, I still don't know what to make of it.

I couldn't even enjoy the story taken at face-value. The authors didn't make me care about any of the characters, so I wasn't at all invested in their fates. Even after the conclusion, which should definitely have provoked at least some feelings, I was going 'meh'. I felt a bit like Jon, to be honest. Actually, the only bit that made me feel anything was the way rape was used as a cheap plot device, and the conclusion of it, which seemed to justify it. That pissed me off.

I also found the whole thing hard going. I don't have much experience with reading graphic novels / comic strips. Still, I did use to read some in the format as a girl (Asterix, Tintin, Mafalda, a horribly unfunny thing called Condorito) and I was fine with them. This one, I found hard to follow. I think part of it was that I found the images kind of repellent, and didn't particularly want to look at them. Another part of it was a device the authors constantly used of having 2 (even 3 a couple of times) storylines on at the same time. We'd get frames with the art flipping between one storyline and the other, but dialogue from both in every frame. I didn't quite get why that was necessary, and it felt like they were making the reader work very hard just for the hell of it.

The blurb describes this as "a gateway title, leading readers to other graphic novels". It hasn't quite put me off completely, but neither has it spurred me to try anything else.



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