An exemplar graphic novel that consistently builds until its shocking climax, 'Watchmen' eviscerates the idea of the superhero in fiction with a complex narrative and deeply conflicted characters - just because they're superheroes or vigilantes doesn't mean they're the same in private.
A group of superheroes disbanded twenty years hence find themselves being targeted by an assailant, and begin to piece together what is going on - though their findings are more shocking than they could imagine.
Like 'V for Vendetta', 'Watchmen' (by the same author, Alan Moore) is much more than a glorified comic book - in fact, if totally contained within a novel format, it would maintain much of its power. As it is, the images both support the narrative and give it power, and the forthcoming feature film adaptation should prove interesting in comparison.
'V for Vendetta', not at all to be confused with the film that takes its bare bones, is a gripping combination of imagery and clever storytelling. Set in a dystopian yet Thatcher-like Britain, the narrative follows V, a mysterious anarchist aiming to take down the government. What the novel offers is more than just rebellion however; key to the flow of the story is the idea of right and wrong, balance and the limits people set themselves. If there's any graphic novel that should be used as an example that the genre is certainly not 'adult' comic books, this is it.
Like Maus and the works of Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb, Watchmen was one of the "comics" that suggested there was more to the medium than four colour heroes.
Taking the conflicted misfits of the X-men to their logical extreme, Watchmen nevertheless presents a realistic group of costumed 'heroes' who are as divided by their way of life as much as they are united by it.
Exploring the origin of the masked adventurer from the pulp age of the 30s through the atomic wonderland of the 60s, Watchmen foresaw the Dark Age of Comicbooks that came in the 80s.
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