Comic Reviews 

Review – Watchmen

Review – Watchmen

Watchmen Graphic Novel Review

Publisher – DC Comics

Year – 1986 – 1987

Writer – Alan Moore

Artist – Dave Gibbons

Colourist – John Higgins

Watchmen is a seminal graphic novel written by Alan Moore and first released in 1986. The novel is considered by the majority of comic book fans to be a deep, self-referential work of genius. Moore uses this book to deconstruct what it means to be a ‘hero.’ It is easy to look at Superman or Batman and wonder what it would be like to have Godlike powers or a huge array of crime fighting gadgets. It is a much scarier concept to imagine people like this actually existing in the real world which Moore does here using the political turmoil of the 1980s as the backdrop. It is also interesting to bear in mind that the issues present in the book were contemporary issues at the time that Watchmen was written.

For me, that is the genius of this book; just how relevant it is to the real world, both at the time it was written and today. The idea of the elite doing what they have to for what they believe is best for humanity, but having no one to question or monitor them. The famous quote, ‘Who watches the Watchmen?’ could be applied to multiple leaders on either side of the political debate.

The writing is masterful in the book. Every line of dialogue spoken is laced with multiple layers of nuance and subtext. Nothing is wasted here in terms of the dialogue and at no point does it feel expositional or out of context for the story being told.

I also find it fascinating that this book, which put American political history and social issues under a microscope of scrutiny, was created by two British men. Sadly, the issues of race relations and political division explored in Watchmen have only become more relevant since the book was first published.

One caveat I will highlight is that this is not a good entry point into comic books. I often see this book recommended when folks ask what the best entry points are to comic books. I really feel that Watchmen would be better appreciated by someone who is already familiar with the tropes of a typical superhero story and the character archetypes involved. The satire present in the book works best if the reader already has an understanding of the comic book genre as it functions better when read as a deconstruction of the superhero genre, rather than as a standalone superhero story.

At the time it was released, Watchmen provided a more cerebral experience than anything that had been published by The Big Two up until that point and is more adult in terms of its themes than most other graphic novels; exploring things like abuse of power, conspiracy, cancer, sexual assault and prostitution. This was one of the first times that taboo themes such as these were explored in the comic book medium and they changed the industry forever going forward.

I have heard many stories over the years of how Alan Moore would leave notes containing several detailed paragraphs on direction for Dave Gibbons to draw and extremely simple panel. A method that could sound fairly peculiar to some, but the proof is on the page and it certainly resulted in a striking end result.

Review – Watchmen
The image on the left is the instructions for the panel on the right.

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It’s not even the artwork itself that I love in Watchmen, but the presentation of it. From the satisfying way that the panels are laid out using the nine-panel grid technique on each page, to the remarkable use of symmetry on certain pages, to the densely populated background furniture which makes the world feel more lived in, the way that the art is presented in the book is a joy to behold. The artwork also plays a huge part in what makes the book so iconic; the symbols that are present time and time again throughout the story, such as the Smiley Face badge and the Doomsday Clock, have helped Watchmen to stand the test of time and are a huge reason why the book is still so well known and adored today.

Review – Watchmen
A perfect example of the symmetry in the book.

Overall, upon revisiting Watchmen, it is still as great today as it was upon its release 35 years ago. It is still bitingly pertinent to today’s political climate and it is still an extremely entertaining book. It is also valuable on a creative level as well; when you really take a minute to appreciate what Moore and Gibbons were able to achieve here, it is pretty astonishing.

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Daniel Boyd

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Daniel is a 26-year-old writer from Glasgow. He loves sci-fi and hates fantasy. He also hates referring to himself in the third person and thinks that bios are dumb.

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