by Alan Moore (story), Dave Gibbons (art), and John Higgins (color), 407 pages
Costumed adventurers (except those working for the feds) have been outlawed since the Keene Act in 1977. But Rorschach never came in from the cold. And now that a middle-aged sellout, one of his former colleagues--never exactly a friend, the Comedian, though they may have seen the world similarly--has been murdered, Rorschach takes it upon himself to investigate, suspecting a mask-killing conspiracy is at work. But the more this lost soul digs, the bigger and more unbelievable the truth is revealed to be.
How to sum up this classic graphic tale? It's dark (really dark), twisted, clever, violent, thought-provoking, and a turning-point in comics history. Moore, Gibbons, and Higgins create an alternate history in which masked vigilantes were for a time a part of everyday life in America. They also pull back the curtain and show the reader how sadly mundane and dysfunctional that nostalgically idealized era was and how those behind the masks have variously dealt with the changes in their circumstances over the years. Not exactly "heroes," most of them. Sunshine and bunnies this is not, though there are a few surprisingly good zingers. The reader is challenged to feel for these imperfect people and to consider the weight of their responsibilities and the consequences of their decisions. Do you agree with their choices? Can you blame them for making them? While I was getting ready for my book discussion on this title, I realized just how dense and complex a story it really is. The artwork is riddled with motifs and symbolism. The meticulously plotted story falls into place through multiple storylines and timeframes, flashbacks and meta-fiction, snippets of files and articles and tell-all autobiographies. It's a bit insane, really. And I think it's rather brilliant.