Comic publishers today like to tout certain issues as “great jumping-on points.”  I’ve never understood that theory, as ANY issue can serve as a jumping-on point if you do it right.  Case in point: My first issue of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ game-changing ‘Watchmen’.  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Watchmen #9 awaits!

*Today’s Retro Review contains adult themes and language, and partial blue nudity.  Reader discretion is advised.*

Watchmen9CoverWATCHMEN #9
Writer: Alan Moore
Penciler: Dave Gibbons
Inker: Dave Gibbons
Colorist: John Higgins
Letterer: Dave Gibbons
Editor: Len Wein
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $8.00

Previously in Watchmen:  I sincerely hope that you already know at least a little about ‘Watchmen’, but on the off-chance that this is your first time checking in?  Welcome!  The story of Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe where masked adventurers existed in the 30s and 40s, all of whom were rendered essentially moot by the dawn of a genuine superman in the 1950s.  Jonathan Osterman, known also as Doctor Manhattan, changed the history of this world in ways both noticeable and not-so-much.  By 1985, Richard Nixon is in his fourth term as President, the Cold War is still raging, and one of the first mystery men, The Comedian has been murdered.  Targeted by forces unknown, Doctor Manhattan is accused of causing cancer in his friends and associates, and has fled to Mars.  As this issue opens, Doctor Manhattan has gathered his now ex-girlfriend Laurie (also known as The Silk Spectre) bringing her to Mars that they can have a conversation that his unusual perception of time tells him is important to both of them.

He has, however, momentarily forgotten that Laurie needs to breathe…


It’s a telling moment for him, illustrating clearly what The Comedian claimed in an earlier chapter of the book: Jon is losing touch with humanity.  Her air restored, Laurie takes a moment to berate her ex before realizing that they’re on another planet.  Upon my first reading of this book when I was 15, this was the moment that cemented the book as interesting, the fact that the female character was yelling at the clearly super-dude, even cursing as appropriate.  It was both refreshing and shocking (and, honestly, still is today.)  The balance of esoteric suprahuman and relatively normal woman makes this issue, wordy though it is, a really entertaining read…


Once she makes her way upstairs, Jon tells Laurie that they’re about to discuss the Destiny Of The World, as soon as she tells him for the first time that she’s been sleeping with Nite-Owl back on Earth.  It’s… complicated, like a Facebook status twenty years early, as he tries to explain how his view of space/time works: “What is your earliest memory?”


Listening to her mother and stepfather argue, she is entranced by the magical, slowly-falling snow inside a snowglobe, so much so that she doesn’t realize at first that she’s been discovered…


Among the many things that Watchmen reimagined was panel/scene transitions and manipulation of time, and the way Jon makes her realize a little bit of how his view works, while sparking her memories for her pivotal character moment.  Along with the grand visions of Manhattan’s watchmaker’s castle floating over the Martian landscape, it immediately got my attention, making me want to know everything that had come before…


Laurie is once again lost in her own past, remembering the constant training that her mother forced upon her in order to form Laurie into her own image as a new Silk Spectre, and also the most terrifying vision of what that life could mean to those who weren’t as lucky as her mom…


It’s at first unclear what Doctor Manhattan is trying to achieve, whether he even knows himself, but as Laurie remembers their first meeting, she also remembers a chance encounter with the murdered Comedian, a man who seemed to have an interest in her beyond just the professional.  Her mom arrives, pulling her away before relating the story of how The Comedian sexually abused her, causing Laurie to make the case that the lives of normal people, however flawed, should be more moving than the strange alien landscape that Jon has adopted as his new home…


Jon’s counter-argument once again causes Laure to remember her past,  once again keying in on interactions with The Comedian..


Having seemingly proved his point for him, Laurie stalks off down the staircase, only to be reminded that it’s not just time that Doctor Manhattan handles differently.  I’ve always been unsure whether or not Jon was entirely aware of the chain of events that he was creating in Laurie’s mind or if it was just his sense of time telling him what to do, but whatever his motivation, the chain of memories is finally complete, leading Laurie to finally answer a question she didn’t realize was unasked…


And, as Jon predicted, it ends in tears…


The recurring image of the hurtling perfume bottle is finally realized, and her action smashes the glass house in which Osterman has been living (METAPHORS!) once and for all, allowing him to finally finish his thought regarding ‘thermodynamic miracles.’  Jon tells her that he doesn’t believe her life is meaningless, and when questioned, simply answers: “I changed my mind.”


The issue ends with Doctor Manhattan telling her that it’s time to go home, leading to the final act of the story (which, if you haven’t read, I won’t spoil, just…  go read it.)  As an introduction to the world of Watchmen, this issue serves as a compelling sketch of the kind of depth and perspicacity that Moore was capable of, and it inspired me to buy the next three issues and the trade paperback as soon as possible.  When it comes to your introduction to comic book narratives (or for that matter, ANY narrative), worrying about the whens and the wheres seems unnecessary to me.  My introduction to Star Trek was a Gold Key collection from the 70s; my first issue of Marvel’s Ghost Rider comic was the second-to-last issue published.  Watchmen #9 was my first introduction to this world, and it’s one hell of a good book, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall and reminding us all that worrying about “jumping-on points” will only cause you to miss a lot of good stories.  Just read some damn comics already!



A very intense and powerful issue that proves that you don't have to start at #1...

User Rating: 4.69 ( 8 votes)

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. I’ve tried to read Watchmen several times, and I never fail to be disappointed. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it’s the “Greatest Comic Story Every Told”, I think it’s the “Most Overrated Comic Story Ever Told”. My problem with it is that I don’t care for the art style, and I don’t care for any of the characters, miserable sods, the lot of them – and when you add in a complex and complicated storyline it was just too much to wade through. I’m not against complex and complicated storylines – one of my favorite comics of all time is “Starstruck”, after all – and the “Starstruck” storyline is more complex than a tangle of old Christmas lights, but “Starstruck” offers you interesting characters you care about rather than the sterile old stereotypes found in “Watchmen”, and Kaluta’s art will knock your socks off. Personally, I think people ought to quit parroting each other about how “great” Watchmen is and give Starstuck a try instead – it’s a much superior series.

  2. Bill the Seeker on

    I love the complexities of story. the realistic way several of the characters behave (like Laurie’s inability to put the clues about her paternity together before this issue). The comic style is actually very classic 70’s comic books, the era I started seriously reading comics, so I ate it up. Thanks, Matthew! I always enjoy these reviews and this one was like visiting an old friend.

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