Monday, February 26, 2007

The Watchmen - A Review Written While Watching the Oscars

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If you haven't read The Watchmen, put down whatever you're reading right now, and start.

One of TIME MAGAZINE's 100 Best English-Language Novels since 1923, The Watchmen is the epic work of Alan Moore, who also penned V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing.

Before this, my only foray into the graphic novel/comic genre was Neil Gaiman's incomparable, and for me, life-changing, opus, The Sandman. Having read everything I could get my hands on about The Sandman, I knew that it had been influenced by Moore's The Watchmen.

From the very first panel, The Watchmen is a spectacular study of some of the most compelling characters to inhabit fiction. The story around the stories of a few individuals - call them super heroes if you will - exploring their motivations, their pasts, their demons. The heroes don't have any special powers - save for one - and grapple with a changing, increasingly paranoid world. The crimes and villains they fight evolve from your typical 2-dimensional comic book baddies to the intangible, permeating presence of an impending cold war.

The themes that Moore weaves through the story resonate especially in today's socio-political climate. Escalating crime resulting in vigilantism, the power of PR and the importance of harnessing the media, the omniscience of technology, the resulting loss of personal freedom, all against the backdrop of an imminent nuclear war. Oh, and there's a pretty creepy-cool secondary story line involving a half-crazed sailor trying to escape being marooned on an island.

Oh and I haven't even gone on about the visuals yet. I hear that they're making a movie out of this. I don't know how they're going to do it justice. But then again, they managed with V for Vendetta and Sin City.

On this note though, I'm really looking forward (ok, in a sadistic sorta way) for the movie adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I'm watching the Oscars as I type this, and watching Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman walk out arm in arm, I think it's just so right that they were cast in the title roles.

So back to The Watchmen, for those not sure about the genre, this one is going to surprise you. It's better than many of the fiction novels I've read this year. Certainly better than the shocking winner of the Man Booker last year, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. The Watchmen at least benefited from a better editor!

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