Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Watchmen

I finished this book ages ago and am now reading "The Last of the Mohicans", but of course, completely forgot to write about it here. Please pardon the tardiness.

I was inspired to pick this up after seeing the trailer for its film adaptation by dull, overpraised director Zack Snyder which is being released sometime next year. I had read in various places about it being one of the greatest comics of all time, it being one of the most unfilmable stories ever, and it being by Alan Moore. Of course, the last of these traits is what really motivated me to pick it up.

The story starts with the murder of The Comedian, one of the legendary team of heroes known as The Watchmen. A day or two after he is beaten up and thrown out of the window of his high-rise New York City apartment, the police began to investigate, but Rorschach, another Watchman and quite the black-and-white moralistic right-winger with a scarring past, decides to investigate the murder himself. In the backdrop of the prideful nuclear arms faceoff between the United States and Russia that is the Cold War, the mystery takes the story through the history of the rest of the team members such as Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre and others, the interaction between themselves and society, and a shocking hidden conspiracy boiling underneath it all.

This is definitely one of the greatest stories I've ever read in my entire life. Another literary jewel, and perhaps his most popular, by Alan Moore, "Watchmen" has a very in-depth but straightforward, magnificent plot and storyline. The characters, who are superheroes viewed through a much more realistic, grey-area lens rather than the problem-of-crime-solved-with-superpower perspective that comics are built upon, are meaningful with life and emotions passing in between them, questioning what it means to be a superhero or even questioning which morals are to truly be considered morals. The story within a story "Tales of the Black Freighter" which coincided with another individual plotline within the greater narrative, was also a small but powerful part of the graphic novel experience that gave it a world within a world feeling.

Here's my thing, though. Ozymandias, whose name is supposedly taken from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, is held by Wizard magazine to be one of the greatest villains of all time. The villains on this list come from all formats: film, book, comic, video game, whichever. Now, I don't know about this. Ozymandias worships power (or symbols of, such as Alexander the Great and Rameses II) and sees himself as one of the greatest beings ever, mentally rendering other people's lives to nil. Furthermore, his actions at the end of the story made me seriously question where he stood morally, as they had both great and terrible effects and he claims to have done them for the greater good of man. So, he is a bit of an interesting character with some intriguing complexity, but I would not say one of entertainment's greatest. Alonzo Harris from "Training Day"? Yes. Vincent from "Collateral"? Definitely. Agent Smith from "The Matrix"? Most certainly. Even Davy Jones from "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" should have some rank in the list. But I don't know about Ozymandias.

Regardless, I of course recommend anyone looking for an intriguing and epic masterpiece of a story to pick this up and begin it immediately. I certainly see this as one of those books that have to be read once or twice a year.

2 comments:

  1. Ozymandias was not my favorite character, either. Oddly enough, rather than one favorite character, the highlight for me was the handling of most of the Watchmen as group -- superheroes with angst, superheroes as the focus of celebrity gossip. If I had to pick two favorites, they would be Rorschach of the Comedian. I'd bet they were Alan Moore's favorites, too.

    I do like Ozymandias' early appearances in the book, as a former superhero who markets action figures of himself. That's a nice piece of satire.
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  2. I just read this one, myself (right after finishing the Savage Detectives, which I'm still not sure what I thought of...definitely the most difficult to get-through book I've read in a while, which is not necessarily either a good or bad thing). Unfortunately, I saw the movie first, so I knew all the major plot points going in (though, interestingly, some were changed--and I liked the fact that the Watchmen were never actually a group, but fell apart at their first meeting). Actually, I found the Black Freighter story an incredibly important part of the book, thematically, so would have been really disappointed by the movie if I'd read the book first (though I can see why the filmmakers left it out).

    Moore really captures some disturbing truths about what superheroes would, most likely, really be like. Vigilantes, unfortunately, tend to be very right wing, violent, generally unbalanced people, so, there's little reason to think that super-vigilantes would be any better. And, if there were a being like Dr. Manhattan, no doubt the government would use him to slaughter people in whatever country we found ourselves at war.

    As for Ozymandias, he was interesting. Overall, I think he was far more interested in glorifying himself than creating peace on earth, so that I don't find myself morally justifying the millions he killed at all (and then, generally speaking, any plan that involves killing innocent people, no matter how lofty and humanitarian its goal, is highly suspect, at best).

    Wow...this comment's already longer than any of my recent blog posts. So I'll end it here...

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Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?