Recommended by Bill Doughty, Circulation Assistant at the Krupp Library
So there’s a good chance you saw the recent movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ famed graphic novel Watchmen. But if you haven’t read the book, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And if you have read it before, you owe it to yourself to read it again.
The movie is very faithful adaptation of the comic, going so far as to recreate entire scenes verbatim, like you’re watching the panels come to life. So yes, you’ll still be getting the story of murder of a controversial former superhero, and the conspiracy behind it that draws several other ex-crimefighters back into the costumes they were forced by law to abandon a decade prior. But the movie, while good, is inevitably a very “surface only” translation of the work. Moore’s words and Gibbons’ pictures are richly layered, absolutely dense with meaning and ideas, using the comics medium to its fullest potential to tell the story in a number of ways. Narrative captions, flashbacks, non-linear storytelling, recurring imagery and motifs, all-text back-up features, and even a metaphorical comic-within-the-comic.
And while the story is, at it’s heart, a whodunnit, Moore and Gibbons make it so much more, offering commentary on the Cold War, the cost of lasting peace, politics, vigilantism, the connections between sex and violence, the sort of people who’d put on a mask and fight bank robbers in the first place, and even some metatextual musings on the comic book industry itself.
It’s a thought-provoking read, and the sort of work that improves and deepens upon subsequent re-readings. There’s a reason it made Time magazine’s list of the 100 best novels written since 1923 (the year Time debuted), the only work of graphic fiction to make the list. It earns the distinction.