Writer: Alan Moore
Illustrator: Dave Gibbons
Published: 2008 (collection; DC)
You guys, this is totally a gateway drug.
It’s a first taste of humans who decide to become superheroes because of their principles and not because they have powers. It’s a first look at how corruption erodes even the best of intentions, how disillusionment leads to fast decay, how maybe the world is just too far gone to be worth saving anymore. It’s a first insight into how humans struggle so mightily to do the right thing only to see it crumpled under the weight of suspicion and nuclear war.
I like Rorschach’s absolute commitment to justice. It’s his kind of psychopathic slavery to black and white right and wrong that highlights how fluid justice actually is. I like Dr. Manhattan’s gradual detachment from the world, I like that the new Nite Owl has a bit of a gut, I like the Comedian’s explosively disillusioned reaction to Vietnam as a shaper of his general world view, and I loved the parallel to the real world in the pirate story the kid at the newsstand was reading.
SPOILER ALERT: I love Veidt's reasoning. Let’s blow up something so everybody gets too scared to fight anymore and bonds together! It reminds me of when the Emperor in Star Wars outlines his plan to take over the Galactic senate in some violent way and then goes, “And then we shall have peace” making the creepiest face to ever go along with that sentiment. But Veidt really does believe he’ll bring peace with war, and it’s such a fatal flaw in a guy who’s convinced himself and everyone else that he’s perfect and therefore assumes the weight of making the ultimate decision for mankind, like a parent who doesn’t trust a child to understand the “lesser of two evils” concept. Brilliant dissection of how much sacrifice is worth saving the remainder of the world.
I didn’t like Lorie. She was whiny. But even she stood up for herself.
This is my favorite example of how comics and graphic novels tie words and pictures so closely together. It’s absolutely uncanny how closely Gibbons reflects not only Moore’s words but the irony, cynicism, and double meanings of them. I’d love to sit in on one of their work sessions to see how they bring everything together so freakin’ well.
Moore gets progressively weirder from here, sometimes with Gibbons in tow again. As far as I remember, V for Vendetta has the same tone and saving-a-corrupt-humanity-from-itself-with-terroristic-measures plot and the same lack of interspecies sex scenes, so that’d be a Recommended Next if you’re looking to ease into Moore and get away from superheroes.