Both Funeral and my mom are huge comic fans so when both saw the first previews of the Watchmen their reactions were similarly stoked. I, of course, had never heard of it, despite having even heard a Prize Fighter Inferno song called ‘Who Watches the Watchmen?’ and wondering where it came from. The Watchmen, as you either know and are facepalming at my stupidity or don’t know and have probably already closed this tab, is the most critically acclaimed and influential graphic novel of all time. Yes, American comics, a thing I’ve always wondered about getting into but am usually pushed away by… well everything, the style, the stories, the characters… I’m just not a big fan of western style anything. (cept food.) However, I could by no means pass up the ‘greatest graphic novel of all time’ especially with the movie coming up. My mom purchased it post-haste seeing as how she hadn’t read it in 20 years (was released in 1985). My best friend read it first actually and despite being a faster reader than me it took him 9 hours to finish – a fact that scared me greatly. He got hooked instantly and couldn’t get to sleep before finishing it. That fact was far less frightening.
I really didn’t know what to expect going into the Watchmen except that it involved superheroes with a far more explored psychology than you usually get from these stories. And it very much does, to the point that in the beginning it almost felt like a gimmick. Look at these supercunts! They’re all fucking C-R-A-Z-Y! In fact, a lot of things about this GN were hard to grasp in the beginning, which got me off to a rocky start. For one, it seemed to be prolonging the introduction and backstories of the characters uncomfortably. This wasn’t helped by the book’s tendency to spur off in a lot of directions which at first don’t seem to come together at all. Afte each chapter was a 4-page text insert detailing some different thing. Some parts were from a diary of one of the characters, others were parts of police files, magazines, and newspapers – all which shed light on the background, backstories, and intricacies of the plot. Usually these sections weren’t exactly necessary to the plot, but they helped pull me more into the experience and get more into the story’s history. Admittedly, though, I only really skimmed the last two because I didn’t want to loose the climactic energy. There was also a very prominent subplot involving a newsstand on one of the New York streets where a lot of the action revolved around. There was the man running the newsstand and a young boy who was always reading a pirate comic. The pirate comic seemed to be somewhat symbolic of the story with the newsstand operator serving as a voice of the people, especially in his conversations with others, in their opinion of the big events going on. All of these things ended up being some of the GN’s most endearing qualities, but at the beginning they seemed to be in the way. The story hadn’t even picked up yet and already, it was getting distracted – I just wanted to know what the hell was going on. However, around a third of the way through all that exposition pays off as when the gears get moving, you actually give a shit.
Things get a lot more fun at this point to. The beginning of the novel actually had me disliking most of the characters just because everything was so tense and bitter at the start. It kicks off with almost a whirlwind of tragedies, what with murder, breakups, and the world in a paranoid state. I was given a very pessimistic view of sorts, but when things pick up there are actually some good occurrences to counter the bad ones, and as we get to see them in these situations, the characters become far more likable. Once again, the extended backstory ends up being a good thing as when a character says or does something, you can further understand the implications of their actions. That said, though, without spoiling anything, I thought the ending chapters could have been paced better. While fast, I was pretty fine with the way the mystery was solved and explained, but I thought the climax and resolution came way too quickly after each other. I understand that it was meant to be sort of anti-climactic, but the speed of decisions and actions just seemed a little breakneck for a comic that had taken so much of it’s sweet time before.
The story itself was very enjoyable, believable, and impressively broad. The world felt very alive and real, as if everything had really transpired. By describing events long before the story took place and expanding on the culture of the time, and all as asides to the story itself, I honestly became interested in the history and future of this world. It probably helps that it’s an alternate history America, but when they have those fake books and newspapers, it almost makes you want to to to your local library and see if you can find them.
The Watchmen’s most important aspect, though, is probably the characters. My favorite was definitely Rorchach. Everything from the way he acted to the way he spoke were the makings of a memorable character and a complete badass at that. All of the other main characters were great, and even the minor characters had enough personality that I kind of became interested in their fates. All of them, though, while well written, were not necessarily people I would respect or get along with. Most of them did enough to make me like them a bit, but the level of realism in each of them gives them a very defined personality which you know instantly whether or not you could get along with. I find it interesting how the author made almost everyone in the story quite conservative, sometimes to the extreme extent.
Overall, I liked Watchmen, but unfortunately don’t have anything to compare it to. I’d pretty much have to call it my favorite comic book just because it’s the only one I’ve read. You couldn’t compare it to a manga at all (If I said ‘well Gunslinger Girl was much better!’ it’d be like bananas and pineapples – just no similarity whatsoever). However, if I put it on the Grand List of Awesome (1. Boogiepop and Others, 2. Gunsligner Girl (manga) 3. ef ~a tale of memories~ etc.) it won’t be making the top 20 or anything.