Sunday, May 11, 2014

Alan Moore and Mike Bennett's "Watchmen": Book Review

As review #1200, I wanted to add my brief acclaim. What is amazing is that about 2/3 of the way in, six or so story lines unfold in a manner that neither a novel nor a screen can yet reproduce well. That is, the tales, the captions, the images all hover and as they flit across the page into your mind's eye, you "see" resonances in your imagination from the layered stories, in a most engaging and intricately fashioned way of verbal and visual narrative. The sophistication itself deserves acclaim, let alone the fresh way that the middle-aged and elderly crises of superheroes make for a new take on a by-now familiar genre.

A second attempt rewarded. I had tried it years ago but found the pace slow as I was scanning each frame for context or clues. The density, as in an engrossing film or novel, rewards rereading or giving it yet another try.

While near the end some genre limits of the force of compression needed as the tales came together, and certain surprises seemed to be tucked deeply away in what had been previously shown, this sort of tension, explication, and sudden revelation is standard for the well-told adventure. The complexity of this, and the coordination of the caption and image with the multiplying narratives build this up into a memorable experience. As if you get to read a novel and see a movie simultaneously, and best of all you still with the words spinning out keep your own vision of the story somehow intact. Pay attention to the newsstand, as by then, the levels of story piling up make this rewarding for the patient reader.

I came to this in a different direction from perhaps most readers. I rarely read graphic novels but as I liked "V for Vendetta" on my then-teen son's recommendation, and even the film--which benefited by prior exposure to the printed story, I sought out Alan Moore's debut novel. I liked for a similar immersion into words spun out well the overlooked and ambitious "A Voice in the Fire." I recently reviewed (8/2013) it; it too was recommended after I finished David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas"; that left me wondering about similarly expansive linguistic novels and themes.

So, I came to finish "Watchmen." It kept me up late more than one night. As with "V," and "A Voice," Moore's talent is evident, and while the pace and theme of "Watchmen" may be less local and more global than his novel set in his native English city of Northampton, it shares the love of conspiracy, hidden forces, anarchic ideals, occult energies, and compassion for humanity and creatures which infuses so much speculative fiction nowadays--and in the inspirations for Moore and Bennett. I will seek out more from both. (Amazon US 9-8-13)

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