Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
A quick summary stolen from back cover: This is the book that changed an industry and challenged a medium. If you've never read a graphic novel, start with Watchmen. And even if you have, it's time to read it again.
(Wow, they really go into detail there!)
How I'd sum it up to another reader: The setting is an alternative 1985 where the United States is on the edge of a brimming nuclear war between the Soviet Union. Costumed superheroes are a staple of society, and Watchmen dissects a group of heroes, churning their pasts dry and forcing them to make both moral and personal decisions. It's the story of identity and strength and of the mysterious murder of The Comedian, one of their own.
The cover sez and shows: An elongated black oval with a splotch of blood over top it. It's catchy in its simplicity, and as the story unfolds the image becomes clearer and more powerful. That yellow makes me think of ponchos though for some reason.
(Really, it does.)
Number of dragons, wizards, and reluctant farmer boys: None, but we have a bunch of superheroes and villains. That more than makes up for it.
Hardest name to pronounce in my head: Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias
Best part: The story of Rorschach. His is a rough one, buried beneath secrets and a horrible childhood. How he became to be Rorschach is fascinating, and as events unfold everything he says and does begins to make more and more sense. To call him a superhero would be easy; to call him a villain would be ever harder. He's just a man trying to figure shit out, running into problems and people that want to eagerly disagree with him. His ending is appropriate: a downer, shocking, and over in a flash.
Worst part: I really enjoyed everything about this graphic novel. The metafiction, the over-arching dialogue, the pace, the stylistic choices. Seriously. Every. Effing. Thing. No wonder this thing won the Hugo Award.
Random thoughts and theories: The human condition is strained to the point of breaking in Watchmen. Social issues abound, the costumed characters must deal with being themselves in an era where the notion of caped vigilantes is unwanted. It reminds me--not in tone, that is--of Pixar's The Incredibles. And then if any of this was real, how accepted would men and women running around in colored spandex beating up crooks be? Would they really be wanted? And if at first, but then later not, how could society expect them to go back to a quieter life?
If said book were a ride at a Disney theme park: It'd probably be one of the action-packed ones in Universal Studios. It'd have a bunch of cool costumed folks leaping out at tram cars, fighting off bad guys on raised platforms, and taking a member of the audience on stage to be part of the show. There'd be smoke and strobe lights and a whole bag of awesome.
If in school its grade would be: A+
Come on, write us a haiku:
Tell me, scared city
of the Black Freighter and who
watches the Watchmen
Overall, y'all: Definitely one of the best books I've read in 2007. Modern literature coated with strong, captivating artwork that says more in a few panels than many other things ever could. The dialogue is well-done, the characters flawed and complex, and the intertwining storylines both haunting and wholly ambitious. I know, I'm gushing. But really--I absolutely loved Watchmen. I can only imagine what this would have done to me if I'd read it when I was younger.
Books I might or might not compare to: I got nothing. One of a kind. But I can see some similarities to the television show Heroes.
Some linkage: There'll be a movie coming out in 2008.