This is my first post of the DC Read-through that I was talking about earlier this month. A quick introduction to catch everyone up to speed on why this will be a sort of different review: I recently got a booklet by DC that talked about where to start with graphic novels and comics. It was packed full of so many books and characters that I decided to simplify it a bit. I picked out a dozen or so graphic novels to give a try, based on whether DC claimed it was a good place to start, whether it was critically liked, and whether I had an interest in it. Every ten days or so I'll be posting a review for one of these graphic novels. I started with Watchmen because it has constantly been listed as one of the best novels of all time and how can I pass that up? It also has a of positive recommendations from friends that I trust so I knew I would be getting to it eventually. Going into it I had read already read the synopsis, though that was years ago. The details were all faint in my head and I honestly couldn't remember a single character's name. Even so, had I known what was coming I would have enjoyed the book the same. The goal of this review, and the other reviews for the DC Comics Read-through, is not whether I liked it but whether I think it's a good jumping on point for newcomers or people still getting their feet wet in comics.
Describing Watchmen is very hard. The story itself is less important than the themes that story unearths and the backdrop. Watchmen is about morality, it's about politics, it's about humanity, it's about what being a superhero is, it's about comics in general, and it's about power. I don't want to put down the plot, but like art-films, you don't read this for the story. You read it for the elegance through which the themes are developed. It's a slow burn story that packs one hell of a punch in the end, but isn't necessarily something you'll care about for the majority of the book.
The big question is whether it's a good place to start in comics. I wouldn't recommend this as the first thing you pick up due to how dark it is, and how you should have some idea of how comics function normally to see how well they're being subverted and twisted here. Of course, since pop culture is stuffed full of superheroes right now it's not something you really need to worry about if it is the first thing you pick up.
The biggest problem that would stand if you picked this up for the first time is that it doesn't really introduce you to the wider world of DC comics. Yes, it's a wonderful story, and if you want to add diversity to your shelf and play around in the corners of the comics world, it's wonderful. But if you want to read superhero comics and want an introduction to that world, this is the wrong place to go. I do understand there was a set of prequel comics released at one point, but they aren't written by Alan Moore (and he actually hates that they happened, if I understand it correctly) and didn't last very long. I, personally, have no plans to read them since I'm not really interested in seeing what happened before this book.
My opinion of the whole graphic novel: wow it was amazing! It was not what I expected but I loved it all the way through. In no way did I expect it to take me this long to read, and it does disappoint me that it did, but every second really was a pleasure. If it's been something you've debated I recommend picking it up sooner rather than later, even if it's just from your library.
TL;DR? It's not the best place to start, but is a wonderful book I recommend everyone read at some point in their lives.