Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
(logo by Wolden)
Well, here we are. The grand finale of this little column. Well, sorta. The archives aren’t all filled in yet. But don’t worry! They will be shortly! Anyway, it’s been real, folks, and I thank you for being here. So what did I choose for the final Reason?
Some people say this is the final word on comics. Might as well make it the final Reason.
Who archives the archive?
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is the finest graphic novel in the history of the medium. It’s highly touted, but rightfully so; it really is that good.
Author John Gardner spoke of the “vivid and continuous dream” authors needed to produce in order for their work to hold true power. It is very much my belief that Moore achieves this, sucking the reader into the world he creates. It’s incredibly well thought out, every character is fully realized, and it unfolds wonderfully, as all the disparate elements are brought together, as in a true novel. No doubt about it; Watchmen is visual literature.
Explaining the plot of Watchmen doesn’t make it sound as grand as it truly is. “An old superhero turns up dead and it leads to a conspiracy of sorts, etc.” Yes, that happens, but Watchmen is on an entirely different level from that. It’s the story of superheroes past their prime, how they live their lives, and how they’ve impacted society. It’s also about the human experience, morality, coincidence, the confluence of events, pirates, timekeeping, naked blue guys, and more, of course. With Moore, there’s always more. Heh.
The characters are superbly fleshed out, and I mean that for everyone from Rorschach to Bernie the newsstand guy. As Watchmen was an attempt to bring superheroes into the real world and deconstruct the concept, back when that idea was new, the characters become truly real. The relationship between Dan Dreiberg (“Nite-Owl II”) and Laurie Juspeczyk (“Silk Spectre”) plays out beautifully. Rorschach is revealed as a deeply disturbed individual, but he’s really the hero of the piece. The nigh-omnipotent Dr. Manhattan, the only character in the book with superpowers, as I’ve discussed before, has to learn how to appreciate humanity again. Adrian Veidt (“Ozymandias”), dedicated to his purpose, sees his plans out to the end. Even the Comedian, who’s dead as the story opens, has a character arc. Everybody gets one, from Rorschach’s psychiatrist to Laurie’s mom, the original Silk Spectre, to poor old Moloch. It’s a terrific work of characterization. I’m quite glad that Moore or editorial or someone changed it from being the Charlton characters; I don’t think he would’ve gotten away with this kind of thing, in the end.
Dave Gibbons’ art is splendid. Yes, I think that’s the best choice of adjective. It’s excellently structured and layered. Moore keeps him to a nine-panel grid most of the time, and the pages are dense, and rife with information both verbal and visual, but they’re never crowded, thanks to Gibbons’ skill. His style is beautifully fluid and perfect for capturing the human spirit so embedded into the narrative. And man, that symmetrical chapter…! Amazing.
I know I’ve shared this scene with you before, but I’ve got to do it again. It’s the most beautiful moment in all of comics:
Ahh, that gets me every time.
I’m sure I could go on and on about the book, but I’ll spare you. If you haven’t read it, for God’s sake, do so! If you have read it, pick it up and read it again. It’s the type of work that encourages and rewards multiple readings, and I pick up new threads every time. Watchmen is surely the most brilliant achievement in comics, and I’m very thankful for it. I would go so far as to say it’s… prepare yourselves… awesome.
Also, they’re, like, making a movie or something. I wonder how that’s going to go; I maintain the book’s unfilmable. I suppose we’ll see. You can read more about the upcoming film and the graphic novel itself at this website. There are also two sets of annotations, a reconstruction of the Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic, and the ever-present Wiki.
Thanks for joining me on this wacky yearlong look at what makes comics worth loving. I’ve enjoyed your company. One year could not contain all the greatness within the medium! If you’re jonesing for more Reasons, remember, there are still some retroactive ones to come, and those will appear in the archive. I’ll also put up a post or two listing them all out for you in due time. Plus, you can expect an epilogue post at some point.
Until then, my friends, I bid you adieu. Happy New Year.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.