Suspension of Disbelief: Watchmen
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.
Review: Graphic novels aren’t really my thing. I have nothing against them, really; I just don’t read them very often. My books haven’t had pictures since I was very, very small. I read text really quickly, and the comic/graphic novel format either allows me to read insanely fast, focusing just on the words and missing the art, or distracting me from the pace of the story. I enjoyed Persepolis quite a bit, but that’s really the only one I found compelling. Until reading Watchmen, that is. Before I get into my thoughts on the book, though, I will mention that this is a story that I hestitated to read for a long time, Many friends of mine have seen the movie and read the book, and they warned me that it was graphic, violent, and psychologically disturbing. I pass this warning on to you, at least for the book. It deals with some really rough themes, and it’s impossible to escape the really gory details the way to can in a novel without pictures. If you’re really uncomfortable with or triggered by graphic physical violence, insinuations of rape, sociopathy, genocide, and/or images of blood and death, even in a cartoon form, read Watchmen at your own discretion.
Now, all that prelude stuff aside, I can dive into my review of the story proper. Like I mentioned before, I don’t typically find graphic novels terribly interesting. This one, however, fascinated me. Watchmen is categorized as a superhero story, but most of the characters don’t have superpowers. They’re more of the Batman variety, ordinary(-ish) people putting on costumes to fight crime and serve justice. At the time of the story, though, such vigilante action is illegal, and most of the masked adventurers are retired or working for the government. The death of one, as the world spirals towards a nuclear WWIII, starts a chain reaction affecting the whole gang of “superheros”.
The most fascinating part of this story is that there’s no good guys and bad guys, the way you’d expect of a superhero story. The whole idea of justice is twisted, broken apart, and put back together. One of the characters sees justice as completely black and white, and refuses to surrender until justice is served. But is justice necessary when the crime is for the greater good? Is a sacrifice of some worth the lives of many more? Another character, through an accident and shear willpower, has turned himself completely non-human, and poses questions of the value of human life, that most of the other human characters are too biased to ponder. He, along with at least three other individuals, qualify as sociopaths or psychopaths, falling outside the norms of humanity. Are they even human without empathy? What defines humanity?
I love books that make you ask questions, particularly hard ones. Watchmen, for me, was definitely thought-provoking. Like I mentioned before, it’s a really rough read. It’s one of very few books I actively chose to put down for a couple days at a time between chapters, simply because it’s too intense to really digest as a whole. Definitely not suited to our younger readers. However, I do think this is one of those books that, as cheesy as it sounds, you should probably read at least once in your life. Despite the goriness and the format, which usually turn me off to a book individually, I couldn’t escape from the alternate reality present in Watchmen, and it’s one I’ll probably return to again.