This is it. This is the perfect comic. The essential graphic novel that appears on more lists than any other. There is a reason for it. Alan Moore created a 12 issue series featuring original but familiar Superheroes, all of which became icons.

The story itself is rich and dense. It starts with a simple question: what if Superheroes were real? How would the world be different? Most of the superheroes are like Batman, the Green Arrow or the Punisher; they are not immortal, they have no powers, they are real people who don costumes and take on criminals. And what happens when a freak accident results in a new breed of Superheroes with godlike powers?

The world of the Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985, and Superheroes have been outlawed. Only a handful of “masks” are still active and primarily work for the Government. After the death of a former mask named the Comedian, a rogue vigilante believes he’s stumbled across a plot to eliminate former masks. Rorschach enlists and warns fellow allies, and they must work together to foil the plot, unaware of the bigger conspiracy that has a shocking outcome.

The characters of Watchmen are icons now. The Comedian was only in the story through flashbacks, and you only get to know him through the other characters. You see many different aspects to his personality, and some characters are very biased so he is hardly depicted in a good light. Rorschach is instantly recognizable with his trademark inkblot mask. He sees the world in black and white, good and evil. He is an active mask, but he works alone, not for the government. Dr. Manhattan is a God, and he’s American. He is the only character with true powers, however he is no longer able to relate to anyone, not even his girlfriend Laurie. Laurie is also a second-generation mask, known as the Silk Spectre, like her mother before her. Another mask goes by the name Nite Owl, he is very similar to Batman in a lot of ways, just more of a wuss than a badass. Rounding out the main cast of superheroes is the self-proclaimed smartest man in the world, Ozymandias.

Not only is the plot complex and the characters well thought out (possibly excepting Laurie), but the artwork, panel layout and color schemes add even more depth to the story. Chapter 5 (Fearful Symmetry) is symmetrical for crying out loud! Watchman uses a 9 panel layout primarily, but it manipulates is often to give a sense of action or pacing. It reads like a movie, they zoom in and out, they pan over, they enlarge details in scenes. There are hidden smiley faces and crazy background details. There is a comic within the comic. How meta is that?

Not only is Watchmen worth reading 2 or 3 times, I feel you have to read it at least that many times. There are so many throw away lines that allude to different events and characters. The story is so dense, the plot lines weave in and out and blend together. If you ever thought about getting into graphic novels, this is the one to start with.

Critically Rated at a perfect 17/17.

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