Monday, January 05, 2009

The Magical Radioactive Smurf

Title: The Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore
Bookmark: the official 50% recycled bookmark of the Union Pacific railroad

Masked vigilantes (not "superheroes") have been outlawed by the federal government. Most of them are along the lines of Batman; highly trained physically, often with shiny gadgets, but no actual powers. Except for Doctor Manhattan. He was a normal particle physicist and watch fancier until the typical comic book Radioactive Incident made him into a glowing blue god-like being who can duplicate himself, change his size, teleport, alter matter at a subatomic level, and tends to walk around naked an awful lot.

The plot revolves around an impending nuclear war with Russia, and a huge convoluted plot to... well, that's actually part of the plot. Moore doles out tiny clues, red herrings, and details along the way, and although it's possible to guess who's responsible, there's no way in hell you'd ever be able to guess what the whole plan is because it's too damn far out there.

There's a really big deal over Watchmen right now because of the movie, and all the comic geeks are slavering over it, there's a lot of hype about people who don't like comics love it, and it even made Time Magazine's list of the 100 best novels...

and I'm just not sure why. The story telling has lots of little tricks, with extended flashbacks, side stories and archival documents to fill out the world Moore creates, but I never really cared for the story itself, or any of the characters. I mean, every character, even comic book heroes, should have some flaws or shortcomings to make them vulnerable and interesting, but every character in the entire massive work is a dickhead of some kind. Most are mainly concerned with themselves, or with nothing at all, and apparently got into vigilantism for the glory or potential lucrative modeling deals. The one character who fights crime solely for the purpose of fighting crime is a violent psychotic who raises himself above the criminals he hunts only by limiting his violence to criminals. The god-like Manhattan, who exists in all times and turn a bullet to vapor after it's fired, could care less about the welfare of people, including his girlfriend, and spends most of his time trying to discover subatomic particles (that bothered me mainly because someone with his level of power should have no trouble at all with such an endeavor). One of the violent psychopathic vigilantes is even a rapist. How am I supposed to care about the welfare of characters that I don't like at all in a plot line that is convoluted and bizarre even for a comic book?

Moore makes most of the world very believable: his masked vigilantes have no superpowers, and their escapades are made illegal to protect the populace. Then he launches far past believability with the Big Underlying Plot. It's all or nothing with the guy. It almost seems like he's trying to make a very human drama of people who in his world are seen as above humanity, while simultaneously threatening all of human existence, and I just don't buy any of it. I'm not even sure I want to see the movie anymore, and the only reason I read the book was to find out more about the movie and whether I wanted to see it. I guess that backfired a little.

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posted by reyn at 1:27 PM


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