by Alan Moore
Published by: DC Comics
Big Themes: Superheroes, Realism, Morality
Earning a spot on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 best books of all-time, Watchmen examines morality and humanity through the stories of deeply flawed superheroes.
If you haven’t read Watchmen and want to take on one of the genre’s foundational texts, you should be aware going in that this is not an easy read, for many reasons. This comic is DENSE. Every panel, every page, every section has so many layers and so much meaning that reading this comic is hard work. You won’t catch every layer of meaning on a first read, much less your tenth read. This comic is also deep and dark. It’s not a light read, though it has it’s moments of humor and hope.
You should approach Watchmen as you would a difficult piece of literary fiction. Be prepared for it to challenge you and make you think about life’s essential questions.
I embarked on Watchmen when my boyfriend mentioned it was one of his favorites. We’d only been dating a month, and I purchased it at a bookstore and toted it to the beach. It would be three years before I finished it. Three years.
It took me that long because I didn’t enjoy reading about such flawed and unlikable characters. This was a kind of story I did not usually read. While I can handle darkness, hence my love of Poe, I had a hard time pushing through such a dense text without any characters I wanted to root for.
What ultimately got me to finish it? Over time, I’ve become more fascinated with the idea of gray characters. Characters who move along the line of the morality spectrum. I want to write characters with more layers and who aren’t easily distinguished as good or evil.
And while I don’t think I’ll ever write something as dark as Watchmen, it was the kind of reading experience that, being outside my comfort zone, helped me to grow as a reader and writer.
My favorite part of Watchmen, was Dr. Manhattan’s realization on Mars for why mankind is worth saving. That moment really pulls the entire book together for me. That despite evil choices and evil people, good and miracles can grow even in the darkest circumstances.
Ambitious and thought-provoking, Watchmen deserves its reputation as a landmark and literary work in the comic book genre.