I'm sure I'm not alone in this, but I've started reading "Watchmen" again, in preparation for the film's release this weekend. I hope to polish off the second excerpt of "Behind the Mask" tonight before I go to sleep. My position on the movie has changed considerably since it was first announced some time ago. Rumors have abounded about a film adaptation since before I started reading comics, though obviously they've been a bit more substantial in recent months. After the first read-through, I was convinced that the story was unfilmable, and other Alan Moore adaptations (JLU's "For the Man Who Has Everything" excepted) have only cemented that opinion. Despite all that this film had going against it in my mind, from the director of "300" to the track record of Alan Moore movies, the trailers have made me really hopeful that it'll actually be good.
They've also made me really hopeful that the movie won't be quite so full as sudden slow-motion shots as the trailers are. I'm hopeful, but I'm prepared for disappointment. And, I guess so I'll be really prepared for that disappointment, I've cracked open my giant and gorgeous Absolute Watchmen (which, thanks to a combination of coupons and rewards dollars, I got very cheap at Borders some months back) to review the story before the weekend. I even went out today to pick up the "Tales of the Black Freighter" DVD, only to find out that it's not coming out for a couple of weeks yet. Fine by me: "Wonder Woman" was pricey enough.
So, this is the third time I've read the book. The first was during or just after my senior year of high school. That first time, I thought the book was good, but vastly overrated. I "got it," but didn't find it especially brilliant. I liked it more the second time through, which was still several years back. This time around, I feel like I'm noticing a lot of the little nuances that were lost on me before.
Take, for instance, Rorschach. I don't think I ever quite noticed how disturbed the man really is, which makes it all the more disturbing and darkly humorous the way modern writers seem to give Batman the same sort of narrative. Much of what Rorschach has written so far reads like a Frank Miller internal monologue, except Miller rarely seems to use them to suggest that the character is unhinged. I especially like the bit where he obliviously wonders why so few of his colleagues have managed to get away without major personality disorders.
The bit in the bar, where he breaks a patron's fingers, once read to me as a demonstration of his dedication and mercilessness; now I see it for what (I think) it is--a demonstration of his insanity. The guy clearly didn't know anything, clearly wasn't involved, and was clearly singled out for making a rude remark. Rorschach was playing the scene as though he were in a typical comic book setting, in which such typical comic book interrogation would inevitably elicit typical comic book confessions. But he wasn't in such a scene, he was in a bar full of people completely ignorant of the crime in question. This wasn't the Penguin's night club, full of ne'er-do-wells; this wasn't Matches Malone infiltrating Rupert Thorne's dock workers; this was one masked nut walking into a random seedy bar and asking basically nonsensical questions. He might as well have been shouting "Kenneth, what is the frequency?"
I'm paying more attention to the recurring motifs and the characters' interactions this time around as well. There's a real richness to the detail here, and it's the sort of thing that I've really liked in Alex Ross's work. I've been trying to pour over every panel with a little more attention than I normally give to a comic, trying to soak everything in.
And that's the real value of "Watchmen," at least this time around. It's a book that rewards patient and thorough reading. If you read it like a normal comic book, you're going to be disappointed. The characters, the plot, even the setting has a different sort of structure and format than what you'd normally get, and that's not necessarily apparent on the sort of quick read-through that one might do as a high school senior.
I'll probably be posting more as I read. Feel free to leave your own thoughts.