Written by Alan Moore, Drawn by Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Softcover, 7 x 10, full color, $19.95
Category: Adult Action & Adventure
Dewey: 741.5 MOO or FIC MOO
Subjects: Comic books, strips, etc.; Watchmen (fictitious character); Superheros comics; Science fiction; Political fiction
Reviewed by: Kat Kan
This is an oldie-but-a-goodie, one of the books that made English-language comics respectable to the general public. In the world Moore has created, the Keene Act made masked vigilantes (in other words, super-heroes) illegal in 1977, and most super-heroes were forced into retirement, unless they worked for the government. Only one, Rorschach (his mask looks like ever-changing ink blots), refused, and he's a wanted criminal and possibly insane. But now, in 1985, the man who was the Comedian is murdered, and Rorschach investigates, convinced someone is starting to kill the "masks," the Watchmen group. Dan Dreiberg, the retired second Nite Owl, also decides to investigate. Soon things get worse, as blue-skinned Dr. Manhattan, who can teleport himself and others, is accused of causing cancer and exiles himself to Mars. As soon as he goes, the delicate political balance in the world goes to pieces and events rush to an inevitable global war. Somehow Dan and Laurie, Dr. Manhattan's assistant (and lover), must find out what's happening, how the "masks" are involved, and try to stop the war.
This brief summary does not do justice to the complex story Moore tells here. He has taken the super-hero comic book and transformed it into something deeper, richer and very rewarding to read while remaining faithful to its form. One of his trademarks is the stuff going on in the background of the story; the careful reader will note that the world of the Watchmen is not quite ours – in theirs the U. S. won in Vietnam and Richard Nixon was not forced out of office in 1974. He also adds the excerpts from the memoirs of the original Nite Owl and a comic book story being read by a street person, and juxtaposes flashbacks with current events; there's so much going on and yet the reader can follow right along and never feel overwhelmed or lost. Watchmen is one of the titles which have influenced the comics that have come out since then, and visitors to the Bookshelf already know what I think about Moore's genius.