What does it take to put on a costume and attempt to save the world? Perhaps some overly sculpted muscles, awesome sewing skills or a severe personality disorder.
Alan Moore’s graphic novel, “Watchmen,” is a psychological mystery about masked crime fighters.
The story begins with the murder of a retired vigilante, The Comedian, a decade after vigilantism was outlawed. His fellow crime fighter, Rorschach, is convinced that it was not merely murder, but a part of something deeper: the annihilation of all masked fighters.
With World War III pending, Rorschach a mysterious man with a take-no-prisoners attitude and the only remaining active vigilante left in New York City, makes it his mission to go and warn his former colleagues: Nite Owl, the Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias.
Meanwhile, Dr. Manhattan is the world’s only superhero that holds power over all matter and who is employed by the United States government, is facing accusations that he is causing his former loved ones to develop cancer while at the same time dealing with his own existential crisis and domestic disagreements with his longtime lover, the Silk Spectre.
No character in this intense graphic novel is what anyone would define as emotionally stable. They are all trying to live a mundane life while attempting to avoid the violent reality that is their past, present and future.
What sets “Watchmen” apart from other superhero comics is that it is undoubtedly real, or as real as any comic can be. Moore does not portray his heroes as heroes, but rather as flawed individuals that desperately feel the need to save the world, for better or for worse. In addition, Moore allows the reader to see the world as the crappy, violent and over all mean place that it is and the reader is force to ask him or herself: is this worth saving?
“I suppose I was just thinking, ‘That would be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead.’ As the mystery unraveled, we would be led deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super-hero’s world and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero,” Moore said, who kind of looks like an insane mountain man or may or may not eat babies on the regular.
The novel is exquisitely illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Gibbons was able to make Moore’s intense story something beautiful to look at and impossible not the read. On a personal note, when reading through the novel, Gibbons artwork struck me so deeply that I found it completely necessary to have a piece of his artwork tattooed on my calf because I felt if I had to live one more second without it I may just explode.
“Watchmen” is horribly violent, crass and sexually explicit like many graphic novels, but it holds a quality that many cannot say they possess: truth.
Paige Jurgensen / Columnist
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Amazon