Comic Review: Watchmen #1

Watchmen #1

Watchmen #1

The Comedian is dead.

Who killed him and why is the mystery of the story. Was it the communists or someone hunting down masked vigilantes? Or is there something more going on?

The cover image is of a smiley face, streaked with blood. This will become the iconic image of Watchmen. The juxtaposition of the light hearted smiley face in a pool of grim-and-gritty blood will surely come into play. When this was first released, it was one of the first mainstream comics to break away from telling superhero punch-ups to kids and instead tell a mature superhero story to adults.

The world of the Watchmen is one where people in the 40s, inspired by Superman comics, put on masks and fought crime. By 1985, the setting of this comic, masked crime fighters are illegal unless they’re working for the government. And it appears that one of these “masked” men has real super powers. There are a lot of subtle differences between this world and ours. Different cars, different men in government, different fashions. And a feeling that there is a lot of tension in the world. The Cold War amplified.

In this chapter, we are introduced to our main characters:

The Comedian – a masked crime fighter from the 40s who later went on to work for the government. It is his blood on the cover as he has been found dead, thrown out of his appartment window. There are allegations that the Comedian was not well liked and may have raped a fellow team mate.

Rorschach – a masked vigilante who refused to quit once he was outlawed. He is violent, smells bad and is anti-social. His journal narrates this chapter. He is a right-winger, blaming the ills of society on the usual suspects. And there are suggestions he has issues with women. He has an interesting gimmick in that his mask creates changing, symetrical ink-blot images – like a Rorschach test.

Night-Owl – we first meet Night-Owl as he is spending time with the 40s Night-Owl. The modern Night-Owl gave up being a hero when they were made illegal. Since then he has started to let himself go as he ages and puts on weight. The many gadgets he created as a hero are hidden in his basement, gathering dust.

Ozymandias – “the world’s smartest man” turned being a hero into a multi-million dollar industry. Marketing himself, Ozymandias has turned himself into a man with his fingers in many pots.

Dr. Manhattan – a big blue naked guy. Manhattan is not just a guy who put on a mask to fight crime. He has real powers. It’s unclear at this point what exactly he can do, but he is considered the US millitary’s greatest weapon. Romantically attached to the Silk Spectre, he demonstrates that he is incredibly brilliant, yet very much distant and detached.

Silk Spectre– a young woman who spends her days no longer fighting crime but keeping Dr. Manhattan happy. She was forced into the hero life by her mother, the 40s Silk Spectre. Silk Spectre feels trapped by her life.

Rorschach is investigating the murder of the Comedian. He believes it was a mask killer. The others think he is paranoid. No one is sad to see the Comedian gone. Rorschach’s diary is an interesting narration device. It is detailed and sickening. He is intense and that makes you feel uncomfortable. You know that he’s right that the world isn’t all that great, but you have to wonder if he’s seeing things as pitch black when it’s really a shade of grey. You also have to wonder if Rorschach is more of a problem than the social ills he blames.

Rorschach is focused and unrelenting. “Because there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished. Even in the face of armageddon I shall not compromise in this.” It makes me wonder. Are Christians like Rorschach in our pursuit of making God known? Do we stop at nothing, allow no compromise as we evangelise? Should we be? Because Rorschach scares me. He scares me because he seems unhinged, as if he is not fully aware of what he is doing. His pursuit of his goal is so important that his methods don’t matter. In a bar, he breaks a guys fingers, looking for answers that aren’t even there. As a Christian, shouldn’t our methods reflect our goal?

Christians want to make God known. We want God to be glorified in all things. But sometimes, in our eagerness, we can appear to be extreem. To be attacking the man and not the ball. That in our over zealousness for Christ we end up making people feel unwanted and unloved. That’s not the situation we want. We are to love our neighbour. So how can we love them, with out compromising our faith in God? Rorschach wants to fight evil, but in the process he commits evil acts and brings fear. As Christians, we can’t afford to be hypocrites on that level.

Who killed the Comedian? Why? What did you think when you first started reading Watchmen ? Has all the hype convinced you to read it for the first time? Let me know in the comments.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

One response to “Comic Review: Watchmen #1”

  1. Rich Clark says :

    I’m about to finish it for the first time. Really loving it, though I am finding it to be a bit oppressive at this season in my life. I may forego finishing it tonight and read the Bible a lot instead. Looking forward to the rest of these posts!

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