Sunday, 29 July 2012


Watchmen is often cited as the title that completely changed the comics industry. It routinely makes it into Best Ever lists and has been referred to as the greatest comic ever written so many times that the accolade has lost all meaning. Frankly I think it’s overrated.

Don’t get me wrong, Watchmen is a superior comic, but the amount of praise heaped on it is ludicrous. No, I wasn’t around when it was first released in the 80s (well, technically I was but I was around three at the time) and so I don’t know what sort of impact it had on the industry. Having looked at comics that were around at the same time it is clear that it did have a strong influence but after a quarter of a decade that’s largely irrelevant. Watchmen should be able to stand as a series in its own right, without a constant reminder that it was revolutionary when it first saw print. Bringing changes does not necessarily make something worth reading.

My main problem is the book’s ending. The revelation of why artists, writers and other creative types have been disappearing is massively disappointing and provides an unexpected science fiction twist that jars with the world writer Alan Moore has created. When we live in a world where terrorism is all too real this fabricated menace from the mind of poet-junkies seems laughable by comparison.

The plot that leads up to the twist is basic, following the murder investigation of a dead costumed vigilante (no “superheroes” here). That’s not such a problem. Its simplicity allows the characters chance to breathe, brought to life by Moore’s excellent characterisation and Dave Gibbons’ incredibly detailed artwork. Characterisation is the book’s greatest strength, boasting a pantheon of memorable capes that all have their own quirks, habits and foibles.

The art on display is far more consistent than the writing. Gibbons doesn’t draw a single bad panel throughout the entire book and rewards eagle-eyed readers and those enjoying a second or third read-through with little nods and pieces of foreshadowing. I’d argue that this is Gibbons’ greatest ever work.

If only Moore had been on as good a form. Instead his great work creating characters and building a believable world is overshadowed by the self-indulgent Black Freighter vignettes (a comic within a comic, telling the story of a pirate becoming shipwrecked), an ill-plotted final act, and a tiger with antlers. If only the inventiveness he ploughs into the additional work at the end of every issue could have made it into the story proper, as opposed to being relegated to world-enhancing background material, then maybe some of the negatives could have been overcome.

This is generally regarded as the greatest example of work by either of its creators. While that may be true for Gibbons it is not for Moore. Watchmen may hold historic significance but ultimately it’s overrated.

Critical information:
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons
Colourist: John Higgins
ISBN: 9781852860240 


  1. Come over from your wrestling blog which I'm read for a while now. This will be an interesting read as I'm a big comic fan although completely different to you in that I dislike the superhero genre. Hmm, maybe dislike is too harsh, it's just not my favourite and its rare I read those type of comics.

    If you're not a fan of Watchmen, I'm guessing you haven't bothered giving the Before Watchmen lot a try? Probably for the best.

    I look forward to reading this once a week and seeing what you're reading. If you want any non superhero options I've got plenty past, present and future.

    1. I'm pleased it's of interest. I've not given Before Watchmen a try, mainly because I think Watchmen works well enough as a standalone piece. I don't see the need for prequels.

      Have you read it? Is it good?

    2. I'm with you on them not really being worth it but like all things, and understandably, it's all about the money. They're massive sellers but so far I've read them all and have only been impressed with the Silk Spectre one. I'll give the Rorshach one a look but I don't hold out too much hope for that either. To be honest most of the good, original stuff doesn't come out of DC or Marvel any more in my opinion, although Vertigo still produces the odd gem.

    3. Marvel's Ultimate line was good up until a few years ago when Jeph Loeb came on board and they did Ultimatum. It's been a mixed bag since then. Mostly I'd agree that Marvel and DC aren't producing anything amazing as they're too concerned with their own continuities (although have a look at my second review).

      The Before Watchmen titles I'vve flicked through haven't impressed me art-wise and I don't know what stories they could find that are worth telling without spoiling Watchmen. I may eventually read them as trades at some point, but I'm not going to bother with them as singles.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.