There are a lot of great comic books in the world. There are few that have been as lauded as often as Watchmen has. It is the only comic book to ever win a Hugo award. It is the only comic book to ever appear on Time Magazine's "100 best English-language novels", despite not actually being a novel. It is also being made into a major motion picture that will be released in March 2009.
Watchmen begins simply enough. The age of superheroes is over. Most are retired or working directly for the US Government. When the former "superhero" known as the Comedian is killed, the vigilante Rorschach begins investigating the murder.
The story then begins to go in directions far removed from a simple murder mystery. In Watchmen, Alan Moore begins to play with many storytelling techniques he would latter perfect, including heavy symbolism, no thought balloons, text pieces inserted into the comic, and even a pirate comic within the comic used as a dramatic echo of the main plot.
Using these tools Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons weave a complex morality play. They do not take the easy road and tell you who is right and who is wrong. Instead, they present their characters with a no win moral dilemma, and leave it up to the reader to decide who is right.
Watchmen would be innovative if it was released today. It is not surprising people were stunned by it when it was first released in 1987.
Sorry for the delay in posting #2 on my Top Ten Favorite Comic Stories. Tune in tomorrow for #1.