Sunday, October 05, 2008

Book review: The Watchmen


I've never read a comic before, but Watchmen was a good one to start with.

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children, not fate that butchers them, nor destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us.

Watchmen's scope is epic, both in plot and philosophy. The heroes are complex and terribly flawed. The questions of morality are timeless, as evidenced by the quote "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" (who watches the watchmen) taken from The Satires of Juvenal, an ancient Roman poet.

The presentation is addition to the standard comic frame, each chapter contains reprints of "documents" including police reports, newspaper clippings, marketing materials, etc., that provide background information and create an atmosphere of realism. There's also a good bit of metafiction, including the horror comic Tales of the Black Freighter. This story is told in parallel, offering a slighly different, darker perspective to the same events.

It's also very interesting as a period piece - it's set in 1985, when nuclear devastation was a real and imminent threat to our survival. Additionally, the different attitudes toward minorities and homosexuals are striking. (How much of this is the author, and how much is actually just a sign of the times, is perhaps debatable.)

One thing that detracts from the immersion is the Star Trek-level pseudo-science. Somewhere between tachyon pulses and psychic shockwaves, I just shut off the scientific part of my mind and accepted Watchmen as an epic morality play. I'm curious to see if the movie remains true to this aspect of it, or if they attempt to 'real up' some of the goofy explanations.

Overall, though, I'd highly recommend the graphic novel and I can't wait to see the movie.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


At 3:17 PM, Blogger sparrowlegs said...

Sold. Can I borrow it from you?


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