Read this. Read it soon.

General Information

Title: Watchmen
Credited to: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Original Publication Date: Published from 1986-1987, collected almost immediately and kept in print ever since.
ISBN: 0-930289-23-4
Cover Price: $19.95 US, $32.95 Can
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Premise

A retired superhero is murdered, and one of his former teammates suspects it’s just the first in a string of superhero killings.

The Issues

This collects all twelve issues of the Watchmen miniseries published under the Vertigo adult label.

High Point

Rorschach’s identity.

Low Point

The 1980s colouring. The technology just wasn’t there yet. It looks like coloured line art rather than a window into another world, simply because they needed inkers to do a lot of the shading, and gradients simply weren’t available. It doesn’t detract much, and it wouldn’t have made the Low Point if everything else wasn’t so good.

The Scores

This may not read as original now, but if you remember that it was published over a decade before The Ultimates or the other recent dysfunctional superteam books, you’ll see why it was so highly hailed in its day. It still shines among its imitators, bringing a maturity and plausibility to the characters that I simply don’t get in The Ultimates. When reading it, I didn’t think “I read that in The Ultimates last year,” I thought “So that’s what Millar was trying to do…” Stack in the blurry ethical decisions that have to be made, and you get something that’s still unique. I give it 6 out of 6.

The artwork would be fantastic if recoloured today. Much like that in em>Daredevil: Born Again, the limitations are by the available technology. The line art is wonderful, and the colour tones chosen to dominate the panels are very well chosen. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story was extremely well written. The crime at the outset motivates this particular story, but the world it’s set in is worth examining on its own. There is a lot of history and back story to this particular reality, and I’m sure Moore and Gibbons developed even more that didn’t make it onto the page. The plot points and clues to all of the mysteries in this series (yes, that was plural) are laid out clearly enough for you to notice them, but subtely enough that you still have to think your way through the puzzles. I give it 6 out of 6.

The characterization was also extremely well done. Each member of the superteam and their friends has a complete, multi-dimensional personality, with motives, goals, and mental disturbances that set them apart in their actions, their dialogue, and their reactions. Some of these characters are instantly likable; others simply make me want to read more about them although I’d never want to meet them face to face. Again, it deserves a 6 out of 6.

The

emotional response this produced was excellent. This is one of those rare books that made me sit there for over half an hour after finishing it, just thinking about it. I found myself questioning whether or not the characters made the right decisions, and I still don’t have an answer to that. (This is in addition to all the times I stopped to think about things in the middle of reading it.) It’s not a happy story, but it’s a remarkably powerful one. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow of the story was surprisingly fluid, given that each of the first 11 issues ends with a few pages of text “exerpted” from stories written in the fictitious world, and that several of the issues change from the main story to a story within a story. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, I’d have to say this is simply incredible. As I said above, it’s not a happy story, but it’s a remarkably powerful one. I’m having a difficult time coming up with appropriate adjectives to describe the scope of the story being told. If you’ve ever enjoyed a dark comic book, pick this one up. If you know people who like film noir but don’t bother with comics, pick this up for them. People have hailed this as one of the works that finally earned the field of sequential art respect among the critics, and I can easily see why that would be the case. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Watchmen receives 40 out of 42. Read it now. If you’ve already read it, read it again.