Watchmen

February 28, 2009 – 2:29 pm

There has been a lot of buzz over a new film coming out called Watchmen based on the graphic novel of the same name. Basically a film about costumed heroes and the trailer points at an action packed adventure with at least some murder mystery.

Before last year I don’t think I had ever heard of Watchmen, I’m not really a follower of graphic novels but I know what I thought were the big names, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four and quite a few others. The trailer got me interested and learning that Watchmen was the only graphic novel to make Time magazine’s top 100 novels list peaked my interest so I ended up buying the book on Valentine’s day. I’m not really a big reader, I hardly get through a book a year and I finished Watchmen yesterday. I could have read it quicker but its twelve chapters are split up like twelve episodes of a television show, each has their own story but they all progress towards the final conclusion.

The book cleverly weaves a history for the watchmen, who they are, where they came from, why they do what they do. It is set in a gritty world where the arms race hasn’t finished so people are under threat of nuclear attack. For the most part people carry on as normal but as the war looks to be escalating tensions rise too. Each chapter ends with a section of text, diary entries, police files, newspaper clippings that sort of thing, this gives a deeper look into the history of some heroes past and present and emphasises some of the smaller details that are included in the book. The chapters themselves also make good use of flashbacks and memories to give a complete history to the main characters and their interactions.

At the time the book is set costumed heroes have been outlawed so the history shows most of the characters in their prime crime-fighting days to compare with the normal people most are in present day.

The majority of the heroes described are regular people who were just trying to make a difference to their community, some have different reasons to fight than others. There are only two real exceptions of note. One is described as the most intelligent man ever who had progressed from taking down individual criminals to bringing down organised crime. There is also the worlds first super hero, dubbed Dr. Manhattan by the government this character was originally human but after an accident has become a being of energy. He isn’t constrained by the normal flow of time and this made for one of my favourite chapters, where he recalls parts of his history where he spoke with people knowing what the outcome would be, frustrating for other characters to understand but very entertaining for the reader.

Some of the chapters also involve a comic book about a man shipwrecked by pirates and his struggle to save his family from those same pirates. I found this difficult to follow at first as while one person is reading the book other people are having conversations but after a chapter or so I was adjusted to the style and quite enjoyed the story within a story. I am interested to see if there is any attempt to bring that into the live action feature it may not translate well but should at least get a mention.

I don’t want to spoil the outcome of the story but it is quite fantastic and thought provoking and I can hardly wait for the film, although I do have concerns that it won’t now hold up to the story I have already experienced.

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