Inkling Book Review: Watchmen

Unlike a lot of ardent readers of Watchmen, my first foray into the literary world of Alan Moore was through Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation that came out back in 2009. When I first saw the film seven years ago at the age of 13, it was an incredibly breathtaking experience. Before Watchmen, I felt like most of the superheroes that were exhibited in cinema were mainly shown through rose-colored glasses; someone who’s always morally infallible and the embodiment of everything that we should aspire and strive to be. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I just feel that kind of story comes off as a bit disingenuous and insincere. What I loved about Watchmen was how it extensively explored the morality and psychological profiles of many of the characters within the overarching narrative, and the implications that come with the act of heroism itself. Underneath the façade of all the capes, masks, and costumes that the superheroes might wear, they’re still human on the inside and have their own glaring flaws and internal dilemmas encapsulated within their own personal lives.

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Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. Digital image. Comic Book Syndicate. GI Jolie, 25 Dec. 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

After seven years, have passed since I finished watching the movie, my friends eagerly recommended me to read the original source material from Alan Moore. Knowing that I was fond of comic books and Japanese manga, they were immensely befuddled that I’ve waited this long to actually read it. For quite a while, I was pretty hesitant to give this book a shot despite how it’s constantly heralded and proclaimed to be arguably the best in the Graphic Novel medium, and mainly for a pretty trivial reason. I was worried that my love and high esteem that I held for the film would either be instantly dashed or compromised since that’s almost always been the case after reading the book versions of what I initially thought of as exceptional and well-done movies. Some examples are Hunger Games, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Norwegian Wood. Thankfully, this fear was laid to rest after my first read-through. If anything, I’m amazed by how many of the scenes from the movie (literally frame-for-frame) resemble the graphic novel in terms of visual aesthetic and flair. I thought I was watching the drawings come to life on the big screen. At first I found the color palette in the novel to be garish and the framing a bit peculiar, but it ended up growing on me bit by bit. I feel like the color scheme did a great job of capturing certain moods and internal thoughts that might be going through a character’s mind at any given scene, this minute layer of subtlety is lost in the movie.

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Compendio, Chris. Did “Deadpool” Push the Envelope? Digital image. Bad Haircut Productions. WordPress, 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

As for the story, Watchmen is set in alternate timeline in 1980’s USA, the fears and anxieties of the Cold War are on the minds of every individual. In the Watchmen universe, Nixon got re-elected for a third term, and the Soviet Union are at the height of their strength and threatening to inflict nuclear warfare on the U.S. Like I mentioned earlier, the heroes in Watchmen aren’t entirely upstanding individuals. There are plenty of characters within the Watchmen universe worth talking about due to the complex narratives each of them get in their own backstories, but I’ll mainly discuss about Rorschach and Doctor Manhattan. Rorschach is an inkblot masked vigilante that’s clad in trench coat attire. He is conniving, ruthless, and psychologically damaged from past-trauma during his childhood years. He has a thirst for retribution and violence that’d make even the most cynical individuals absolutely sick to their stomach. Doctor Manhattan, probably the strongest of the bunch after gaining god-like powers from a laboratory accident (the only one that possess super powers), doesn’t really care about what happens to the human race since his view of the concept of time differs from other beings since he’s immortal. He doesn’t bear any interest in anything in life since he already knows what’s going to take shape in the future before it even happens, so he isolates himself on Mars.

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Nerdreamer. Watchmen. Digital image. Watchmen Comics. Tumblr, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

The anguish and existential dilemmas that a lot of the characters’ face in the story brings up interesting morality questions worth discussing about. Should you make a course of action to a paramount event that could end up having a ripple effect on others, or just silently watch it all unfold as an onlooker. If the world was teetering on the brink of collapse and irreversible destruction, should an individual do something to possibly change the outcome, or do absolutely nothing? If one was to make a stand, how much influence would he or she have in the overall grand scheme of things? How far would they go? The idea that I thought that Moore was instilling to his audience is that the nuances and idiosyncrasies of moral decisions aren’t always easily definable; good or bad. Plenty of decisions that you make in life will come with both benefits and downsides for both yourself and those around you.

To sum it all up, I highly recommend this graphic novel even if you don’t consider yourself much of a comic book reader. It’s not only visually enthralling, the themes and ideas explored in Watchmen are immensely thought-provoking and universal since it shows that even the heroes that we look up to and hold in high regard can also be troubled individuals and have flaws just like everyone else on this planet.

Thanks for stopping by! If you’ve read Watchmen or have seen the Zack Snyder movie, I’d love to hear what you guy’s thought about it. Have an inktastic day. Stay fresh!

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3 thoughts on “Inkling Book Review: Watchmen

  1. I really enjoyed the movie (though feel it is a little long in places) but haven’t read the graphic novel. It’s an interesting story with some interesting characters and I like how it makes you think. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve only ever seen the movie, but I think when I watched it I was still too young to give it my full attention. I think I watched it 5 years ago, so I was 15?

    Regardless, your description of the movie and the graphic novel made me really want to go back into at and re-watch/read it. It has always been the superhero universe I want to be interested in, but regretfully never took the time to care about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I managed to read the graphic novel first. An important fact to take note of is that Watchmen was published in 1985-1986. It was one of the very first comics to explore the “grim dark” aspect of superheroes and super villains, and that nothing is truly black and white.

    Interestingly, two Batman comic series, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight (1986) and The Killing Joke (1988), came out at roughly the same time. They were both just as dark as Watchmen and totally changed how readers perceived Batman and The Joker.

    You are right in saying that the film borrowed many scenes from the comic, sometimes almost frame for frame. In my opinion this was why I didn’t like the movie: The pacing was terrible at certain parts and it was trying too hard to stay faithful to the original source.

    Liked by 1 person

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