Wow! This thing really does live up to all the hype. Alan Moore has become one of my favorite authors with each new thing I read by him. For a graphic novel, Watchmen is extraordinarily complex and adult dealing with the psychoses of superheroes ranging from the sexual hang-ups of someone who dons a cape and cowl and beats the crap out of people for a living to the messiah complex that necessarily goes along with the profession.
There are so many layers to this story it's hard to know where to begin. It's set during an alternate timeline of the 1980s, one in which the Cold War still rages, but with the U.S. victorious in Vietnam. I love stories of the Cold War, especially of either the espionage or science fiction genre, and this one has a little of each. The mystery of the Mask Killer, the impending nuclear show down between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. serve as a backdrop through which we can examine how ordinary people might become involved in vigilantism and how ordinary people would react to masked vigilantism around them.
The characters and their development are unique and I was especially drawn to the figure of Jon Osterman (Doc Manhattan), who is really the only character in the story who has any type of "super" powers to speak of. His cold detachment from the world and the role he is expected to play in it is really eye opening compared to the run of the mill stories from the superhero world. Another awesome character to me was Rorschach. I loved his quirky observations about the human condition, and I think in many ways he was the most developed of the characters.
It'll be interesting to see how this is going to be condensed into one film, or how they're going to fit a lot of the brilliant narration into the visual medium. Moore makes insightful observations about humanity and the world in such clear and evocative ways that you wish you could just quote every line.
Loved it. Maybe, because I've always been a comic nerd though. This piece may bridge the gap for those who've never been interested in the genre - it definitely reads more like literature than a comic.