Watchmen - Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

(recommended on several graphic novel lists on
I read this about a month ago. The art is more "typical"-looking superhero art, although the story certainly isn't. The Watchmen are costumed crime-fighters, but without the special powers that most comic book superheroes possess. The book is a great example of using the medium to accomplish things that wouldn't be possible in a different medium—repeated symbols, page/chapter layouts, and the like. The story is something of a mystery, so it's the sort of book you read once, and then read through again after you know how it turns out so you can catch all the references.

Updated 3/15/07: I just re-read Watchmen since Elizabeth's doing it for her book club and talking to her got me interested again. I'm really impressed, more than I was the first time (or at least more than you could tell from my little blurb). First, a little about the plot: It takes place in 1985, in the middle of the Cold War, but this world's history is a little different from ours. The biggest difference is that when Superman showed up in the comics, real-world folks started dressing up and fighting crime as well. These aren't people with superpowers, though, they're just folks who (for one reason or another) wanted to dress up in costumes and fight bad guys.

In 1977, the Keene Act was passed, outlawing most vigilantism (think "Incredibles") and most of the heroes retired, except for a few employed by the government, and Rorschach, who may be a little bit crazy. But now, in 1985, some of these former crimefighters are turning up dead, and Rorschach is trying to piece together the clues.

It's an amazing piece of fiction, with a mystery to solve (and some minor side-mysteries). I think it's one of the best examples of a story that's designed for the comics medium. Clues are sprinkled throughout, but if you're just reading what looks like the plot, you miss out on all sorts of motifs and hints about this world.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 28, 2002