Author: Alan Moore
Publisher: DC Comics
Illustrated by Dave Gibbons
Captain Metropolis / Nelson Gardner
Dollar Bill / William Benjamin Brady
Hooded Justice / Rolf Müller(?)
Mothman / Byron Lewis
Nite Owl / Hollis Mason
Silk Spectre/ Sally Juspeczyk
The Silhouette / Ursula Zandt
Captain Metropolis / Nelson Gardner
The Comedian / Eddie Blake
Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman
Nite Owl II / Dan Dreiberg
Ozymandias / Adrian Veidt
Rorschach / Walter Kovacs
Silk Spectre 2 / Laurie Jupiter
Here's the closing item to the recent reviews of the Before Watchmen series which I've been reviewing lately. I decided I needed to close it out with the original, even though it's old news now and everyone who cares already knows all about it! I liked the graphic novel and I recommend it.
Watchmen is set in a parallel universe and in the eighties. It's pretty much like ours except that there are superheroes (only one of whom actually has real super powers - Doctor Manhattan), who have been rendered illegal by an act passed in 1977. The only two who are legally sanctioned are Manhattan and The Comedian, a sociopath who is nothing more than a government sanctioned hit man. A third, Rorschach, still operates, but illegally.
Rorschach, curiously, is also a sociopath who actually investigates crimes, and is good at what he does, but he's also very prudish and judgmental. He used to drop off his captures outside the police HQ for them to dispense justice, but at a certain point, he quit doing that and simply dispatches them himself.
The story begins in 1985, with (and centering around) his investigation into the death of Eddie Blake, who Rorschach discovers is really The Comedian, now retired, but still in good physical condition. Except that someone more powerful beat him up and tossed him to his death out of the window of his apartment block. Thinking that there's a plot to assassinate the super heroes, Rorschach begins visiting each in turn to warn them.
He first visits Nite Owl 2, who is himself in the habit of visiting the original Nite Owl, who has written an autobiography about his super hero exploits. He and Adrian Veidt are the only two super heroes to have 'come out' (unless you count Manhattan whose identity has always been known). After warning Dreiberg (who doesn't believe him), with whom Rorschach was once partnered back in the day, he visits Manhattan and Silk Spectre 2, who are living together in a government compound as Manhattan works on an energy project, working with Ozymandias, supposedly the world's smartest man.
It's Dreiberg who visits Ozymandias to pass on Rorschach's warning, but he doesn't take it seriously either. Several of these heroes attend Blake's funeral, where Rorschach looks on in his 'disguise' - that is, without his mask and toting a "the end is nigh" type of poster. Shortly after this, Manhattan is confronted by his old girlfriend on TV. She's peeved that he ditched her for Silk Spectre because she was growing older, and he wanted someone young. She accuses him of causing her cancer via his glowing body, which causes him to abandon earth for Mars.
His absence triggers some aggressive moves on the part of the Soviets. Meanwhile, an attempt is made on Ozymandias's life, seemingly confirming Rorschach's suspicions, and Rorschach himself is arrested for the murder of super-villain Moloch, who had previously revealed to Rorschach that he was visited by The Comedian, who had evidently made some shocking discovery which caused him to have a minor breakdown. He sat crying at the foot of Moloch's bed.
Silk Spectre, disillusioned and angry with Manhattan for his lack of human feeling for her, hooks up with Dreiberg, and they go out one night and beat up on some thugs who thought that the couple were an easy mark. This triggers nostalgia for their former costumed glory days, and they later don those costumes and go rescue some people from a burning house. After an encounter with Manhattan, the two of them bust Rorschach out from prison. meanwhile Silk Spectre is transported to Mars where she learns from Manhattan that The Comedian is her father. She despises the man because he once tried to rape her mother, the original Silk Spectre.
Dreiberg comes on board with Rorschach as they discover that Adrian Veidt is behind the murder of Blake. His motivation is to cause a war with fake aliens to get people to realize how fruitless their petty differences are, and thereby bring them together. Confronting him in his polar lair, they try to take him on, but he is stronger than the pair of them together. As he demonstrates the success of his plan, Manhattan realizes that they have no choice but to follow it now. He murders Rorschach in order to keep him from exposing what Veidt has done.
Dreiberg and Jupiter go into hiding together, but Rorschach has sent his journal, containing the details of his investigation, to a local right wing publication which will reveal all.
I liked the graphic novel, but I preferred the movie version of it. The two are much the same, but the movie tells a cleaner story, more compact, and more engrossing for me.