Although it’s a great idea to include a graphic novel on this list, I sort of wish that the compilers would at least mention one for each decade. That way we get an idea on how comics developed through the ages as well.
Saying that Watchmen is a mighty fine choice. This was my third reading and I still discovered some new things. I’m also ashamed at the fact that I missed so much the on the first two readings.
Watchmen is a complex, multi-layered story which tackles different aspects of the burning topics of the 80’s. Such as the cold war, communism and the burgeoning rise of information technology. However, at it’s core I see it as a treatise on the the psychology of the superhero or vigilante.
It is 1985 and one of the most ruthless vigilante, The Comedian is killed. Another one of his colleagues, Rorschach suspects that there is someone killing off the first and second generation of superheroes that ruled America and in the case of the only person with super powers (Dr. Manhattan) still is keeping the world in check from nuclear war.
As Rorschach continues his investigation he ropes in the remaining vigilantes to try uncover clues and in the meantime through letters, documents and other written evidence we readers find out more about these caped crusaders past and how it psychologically affected them. All of it badly.
Eventually the mystery is solved and it is revealed to be all part of a plan to ensue world peace. Don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything. Trust me this is whole scheme is both twisted and brilliant.
And I didn’t even mention the sub plot about the pirate!!
I have read all of Alan Moore’s works and all of them feature intelligent plots but I find Watchmen the most satisfying and the most detailed. The fact that I have read it three times in the space of 6 years is something alone. This is a book that will continue to twist brain cells for a very long time – until at least Moore brews up something equally potent. In fact out of all the graphic novels I’ve read the only thing which matched it this are the Hernandez Brothers comics.
As the illustrator is included and it is a comic I thought I’d better say that the images are incredibly memorable. In my case the very last image is the one that summarises the greatness of this influential novel.