We are stepping slightly further away from the usual fare here on A Tale of My Twenties.This is the first, and only, graphic novel on my list. Reasons later.
This was, unsurprisingly, very good. As stated in my previous book entry, I had seen the movie version of Watchmen years before I read the book. I was intrigued by the movie from the previews that had haunting music, stunning visuals, and dark overtones. I love depressing stories, they seem more real to me. I always wanted to read the graphic novel, but when I saw the movie I was too embarrassed to read a ‘comic book,’ since it would have been impossible to hide from my family and friends.
I’m glad I finally got around to reading the novel. I was extremely surprised at how similar the adaptation was to the novel. Having never read a graphic novel before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The Watchmen graphic novel looks like a storyboard for a movie, especially the chapters that have several scenes intercut with one another. Many of the framing and ‘shots’ of the graphic novel are used exactly the same in the film.
Since I knew the story already, I’ll keep my critique of it short. Watchmen reimagines a world very similar to our own, but with a few differences. The same historic events occur, but are interpreted and impact differently. This alternate timeline imagines a world where several select people in the 1940s begin to dress up in costumes and act as vigilante heroes. Basically, it shows comic book fantasies coming to real life in a historical context. This changes the world. Children of the future (the story itself is set in the 1980s…where Nixon is still president!) read pirate stories, not superhero comics. The greatest aberration in the timeline is the appearance in 1960 of Doctor Manhattan, the supernatural naked blue man who can seemingly do whatever he wishes including creating matter, moving objects, seeing the future, and walking on the surface of the sun. Created by an accident upon a scientist in a nuclear physics research center, Doctor Manhattan is treated by the world as a walking, talking nuclear bomb who serves to protect the United States against the Soviets. Everything changes. USA wins Vietnam. Doctor Manhattan becomes affiliated (somewhat) with a new group of ‘masked heroes’ who appear in the 1960s and are made illegal by the will of the trodden down police force.
My favorite stories are the ones with strong backstories. I believe that the mark of a well told story is that the events that are said to have occurred in the past of the story are interesting enough to garner their own story. Hopefully that sentence made sense. The above is all background, but it is tantalizingly interesting, however the story told by the Watchmen is of a world on the brink of disaster. The retired masked heroes are being attacked and killed. Doctor Manhattan is losing interest in the world. The Russians are becoming militarily aggressive. Is this the end of the world?
One of the greatest strengths of Watchmen is its ability to interweave so many different plot lines. There are too many to name off here (and maintain your interest), but they all fit together seamlessly by the end. The characters are all interesting, dark, and flawed. Many moments are bitterly sad, such as Sally Jupiter’s love for the Comedian, Rorshach’s death, and the death of the original Nite Owl especially stood out to me.
One thing I thought we better executed in the film (which could get me critics) was the ending. The creation of an alien monster using artists and scientists by Veidt struck me as bizarre. His plan to transport the being into New York and have it die almost instantly to draw sympathy from the world didn’t quite ring right to me. The movie has Veidt setting off bombs in several different cities across the world using materials that mimic Doctor Manhattan’s powers. I think this ending tied off more ends because one of the great themes of the story is the world’s relationship with and reaction to Doctor Manhattan. This ending had everyone’s worst fears realize, that Doctor Manhattan wasn’t actually on their side. It also nicely tied in Doctor Manhattan’s work for the government, which was never described much in the graphic novel.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed the story and would love to read another graphic novel. I have heard this one claimed many times as the ‘greatest,’ so I’m not sure how possible that wish is!
As I stated earlier, I love interesting back stories, so my favorite part was when Doctor Manhattan’s past was revealed. For so much of the story he is wrapped in mystery: who is he? Where did he come from? How does he think/feel? The reveal of his innermost thoughts and private story was eyeopening, and beautifully done in both the graphic novel and film.
Book #9: Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve decided to go on a vampire trek. First this, then Interview With The Vampire. This is another book that I was shockingly never forced to read in high school, I’m excited!