Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (review)

Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore
Illustrator: Dave Gibbons
Pages: 408
Genre: Non-Fiction
Dewey Decimal: 741.5941 Moo
ISBN: 0-930289-23-4
Cost: $0

Who reviews the reviewers?

This was a review a long time in the making because I wanted to include a mini-review of the movie. Thankfully LibraryGary was kind enough to purchase the BluRay version.

Starting with the graphic novel, I was continually impressed. The artwork was clearly dated (circa the mid-1980s) but It was also refreshing to see no anime, manga, or more modern influences. At least none that the novice comic reader would notice. The plot was somewhat basic, but the thought that went into the history behind the Watchmen was beyond what I would expect. And the ending reveal of who the "bad" guy was actually surprised me. As did the idea behind the grey area of what is "bad" and what is "good." This is a topic I haven't really thought about since my college days when we talked about capital punishment and if it was good, bad, evil, etc.

So the artwork was old-school. The plot was great and surprising. There were morals discussed and implied that made you think. But that wasn't the best part for me. The best part was the level of detail. And I don't mean the art was so detailed you could read hidden messages under a magnifying glass. I mean the art was so detailed you could see things in the background if you paid attention. And it was a theme that started when I first saw the Gunga Diner and continued through the very end. I don't think I've ever seen a comic or cartoon that had that much thought put into the background. You could almost see each scene in 3D if you pressed your imagination hard enough.

Enter the Director's Cut on BluRay. First, I love my BluRay. This being my first movie in this format, it didn't disappoint (I do have LOST Seasons 1 and 2, but that's it for BluRay for now). I could have followed the movie nearly scene for scene with the graphic novel. But I didn't. I wanted to see how true they stayed to the plot. And again, I was impressed. With two minor exceptions, the movie was stride for stride with the comic until about two-thirds of the way through. That's when the biggest change starts to appear. The replacement of the alien with some nuclear-style explosion. Bummer. Not what I wanted to see, but it still kept pretty close to the comic. Close enough to be up there in the top five movies I've seen that are based on books.

So where does this leave me? Thoroughly impressed with the capability of graphic novels. I've read some bad ones and I've read some good ones. But this is the first great one I've read. I enjoyed it so much, I'm considering reading V for Vendetta (I loved the movie). So if you haven't read it, read it. If you haven't watched it, watch it.


John Zeleznik said...

You had to know I was going to comment. I LOVED the book. I'm going to try and write a grant to buy a class set to do with my 11th graders this year. In addition to the pop cultural significance, I love the whole discussion of morality that we'll be able to have...I hope!

John Zeleznik said...

As for graphic novel suggestions:

1602 (Marvel)
Any of the Artesia books
X-wing Rogue Squadron: Blood and Honor

Just a few!

TK42ONE said...

Comments are fine, you know that. In fact, the more the better. The morality of the events in Watchmen could be a good source of discussion in high school, but I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed it when I was that age. I think I would have wanted to see more of Miss Jupiter.

As for future graphic novel reading, I'll take your recommendations into consideration. I'm not a big reader or collector of the genre, but now that I know there is quality material out there, I feel more comfortable reading more.

1979 semi-finalist said...

Yes! Awesome review. Go Watchmen (book, not movie). I'm really glad you enjoyed it.

Since you're "sort of" taking recommendations:

Black Hole
Top Ten
Summer Blonde
Y The Last Man (not a single book - yet)
Box Office Poison
I also obviously second the Maus recommend and V For Vendetta is great - but you're already going there :)

I'd suggest Black Hole as my number one pick after Maus though. A really amazing work.

TK42ONE said...

Y the Last Man is on my list mostly because that's what Hurley was reading when the plane crashed (on LOST). And with two votes for Maus, I'll have to see if the library carries it (they're seriously lacking in graphic novels but have tons of manga - ick).