Wow! This is NOT my Uncle’s comic book. (inside joke there only my brothers will appreciate). Regular readers of this blog will recognize this is not my normal reading genre. I’ve wanted to read this for years, ever since I heard it won a Hugo Award, so upsetting in Sci-Fi circles that they changed the rules. A comic can no longer win. If you do something that makes em change the rules…you’ve done something extraordinary.
Furthermore, in most circles it is not considered a comic book, but rather a graphic novel. What’s the difference? Length mostly - it's like a 400 page comic book. Graphic Novelist Neil Gaiman offers this pithy distinction when responding to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, Gaiman said the commenter:
meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.
So as the Gold Standard of the Graphic Novels I wanted to give this a read, and let me now repeat – Wow! I read it in a single day, but it will be troubling me for some days more I’m certain.
Set in an alternate history of the mid 1980s, with flashbacks as far back as the 30s. It is a world not terribly different than our own, with the 80s world on the precarious brink of nuclear holocaust and mutually assured destruction. It is also a world of superheroes, though more commonly referred to as masked adventurers or vigilantes, most in forced retirement due to public law. With one exception, the masked adventurers possess no superhuman abilities – they are simply physically, or mentally, or technologically powerful. They are also – damaged goods. You think Batman is dark and brooding – you should meet Rorschach. When ordered to cease and desist by mandate of the Keene Act, Rorschach’s response was to leave the body of a dead multiple rapist outside police headquarters with a one word note – NEVER!
Most of the others submit to the law, until one of their number, The Comedian is murdered in what seems to be a conspiracy to eliminate the erstwhile crime fighters.
It is a riveting mystery that raised the question of the ends justifying the means to an epic scale. Besides the written story that I thought was complex and fascinating, I have to say a word about the illustrations. The word “Graphic” is there for a reason. The artwork is fantastic and critical; the story would fail without the illustrations. Many panels with no words or dialogue tell an important part of the tale.
Hollis Mason (the original Nite Owl)
Daniel Drieberg (Nite Owl II)
Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias)
Edward Blake (The Comedian)
Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II)
Walter Kovacs (Rorschach)
Dr. Jon Osterman (Doctor Manhatten) – The one exception with superhuman abilities due to what else: a laboratory experiment gone wrong.
This is the first Graphic Novel I’ve read, and although it isn’t Shakespeare or Tolstoy, I liked it very much. I plan to give a few more Graphic Novels a read. So what do you think of Graphic Novels: serious literary genre or childish comics?
…part of the art of being a hero is knowing when you don’t need to be one anymore… ~ Hollis Mason (Nite Owl)
I am watching the stars… I am trying to give a name to the force that set them in motion. ~ Dr. Jon Osterman (Doctor Manhatten)
The only other active vigilante is called Rorschach, real name unknown. He expresses his feelings toward compulsory retirement in a note left outside police headquarters along with dead multiple rapist – NEVER!
Man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace.
As they dragged him away, Rorschach spoke to the other inmates. He said, “I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with me.”
Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) to Doctor Manhatten – “Jon, wait, before you leave…I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.
Doc Manhatten – “In the end? NOTHING ends Adrian. Nothing EVER ends.”