‘The Watchmen’ transcends everyday comics

Derby Roan, Managing Editor

Looking for a book with substance? Your first stop probably isn’t the local comic book shop. But, maybe it should be. Alan Moore, author of classics such as ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and ‘V for Vendetta’ made a career out of writing dark, contextual comics packed with social commentary. ‘The Watchmen’ was no different.
‘The Watchmen’ picks up in an alternate version of America in 1985, where superheroes were common, the U.S. won Vietnam and Watergate was never uncovered. It follows the stories of a group of retired superheroes pulled out of retirement to investigate the death of a fallen comrade.
Before diving into ‘The Watchmen,’ it’s important to consider its context. The comic is over 30 years old, making it less accessible than your everyday Spiderman or Batman comic is today. It was also written in the Cold War era, and because Alan Moore is who he is, you can expect layers of subtext and political commentary. It’s also important to understand that the plot isn’t necessarily fun to follow. The exposition and rising action are tedious, but they build to climax that’s worth your while. This also isn’t a happy story, which can be attributed to the time period in which it was written. You’ll find plenty of doom and gloom, and nothing but cynicism and irony to lighten the mood.
Once you’re immersed in the novel’s world, though, it’s hard to put down. Moore uses stark, harsh realism, which was so different from comics at the time. It changed the way comics are viewed today. Rather than fun, slapstick adventure stories, comics took a turn for the realistic.
Personally, I was never able to enjoy comics, but Moore’s writing is beyond anything found in the average comic. Illustrator Dave Gibbons adds to its dark tone, including plenty of gore and action. The illustrations are perfectly meshed with the written dialogue, so that neither part overpowers the other. The books truly has an atmosphere to becomes immersed in. Colorist John Higgins brings in plenty of bright tones one would expect from a superhero comic, without shying away from shadows and blood.
‘The Watchmen’ is a comic for anyone with the patience to get lost in an alternate universe and the cynicism to appreciate a world in shambles. It isn’t the comic for everyone, but it is the comic for me.
In 2009, a movie by the same title was released. ‘The Watchmen’ the movie follows the book almost word-for-word (purists rejoice).

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