Friday, June 13, 2008

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, was originally published as a 12-issue series in 1986 and 1987. It is set in a parallel 1980s America: the U.S. won the Vietnam War and Nixon is still President. The story is almost indescribably complex. It begins with the murder of a former superhero, and the suggestion that perhaps someone is killing them off.

There are seemingly dozens of characters here, all original to this work, but Moore does an excellent job of developing almost all of them, and of balancing their exposure levels. Indeed, half of Watchmen is character development, but it's well done, and almost never boring. There's plenty of action, too, including a suitably epic and very satisfying conclusion.

The characters are what make Watchmen great. There are so many fascinating and deep characters here, and Moore uses them to explore morality on virtually every level. For this is what Watchmen is on its basic level: a morality tale, albeit a fairly bleak one. 

Dave Gibbons's drawing style is realistic, and on the whole it's quite good (although his overweight figures look a little stiff). It fits the story perfectly. As with Moore's V for Vendetta, Watchmen features no illustrated sound effects, and they are not particularly missed. 

Watchmen is one of the greatest and most complex comics ever written, and it's held up well over time. There's so much going on here that it virtually demands (and benefits from) multiple readings. It's definitely worth reading before the movie comes out in 2009.