In Slate, Tom Shone takes a swipe at Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen as the seminal "graphic novel" approaches its 20th anniversary:
Alan Moore's Watchmen, originally published in 1986, was the comic-book series that supposedly revolutionized the industry, defrocked the superhero, and invented the graphic novel at a stroke. Yet reading Watchmen today is a distinctly underwhelming experience. Its fans would say that is appropriate: The world's first anti-heroic comic book is supposed to be, well, anti-heroic. The mode is pyrrhic, deflationary, its tone deadpan, spent. Either way, like a math savant at a party, the book seems to shrink from the hullabaloo surrounding its approaching 20th anniversary.
I haven't felt the need to open my one-volume edition of Watchmen in quite some time, so it may be true that it doesn't live up to the fond memories, but Tom Shone is a douche who has made a career of policing signs of highfalutinitude in American culture. (That the silly Yanks shouldn't try to get above themselves is the implicit argument in his poorly selling book Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer.) He seems to want to blame Watchmen for changing comics from a pop medium into a pompous genre that's sold in bookstores and reviewed in The New York Times—an argument I'd normally sympathize with, though I wouldn't blame a one-off comic series for the change. But his argument against Moore (like Shone an English writer with a primarily American readership, but one who takes pleasure in introducing highbrow machinery into lowbrow media) amounts to an objection to the literary parodies that ended each Watchmen issue. This is a criticism? I remember those parodies being what the English would call "spot-on" renderings of the hipster-sycophancy of Rolling Stone interviews, the weird overedification of specialty (or "speciality") magazines, the quibbling that goes on in popular histories, and so on. In any event, it's a good bet 90 percent of the book's readers skipped these all-text bits without noticing anything missing.
But Shone buttresses his argument that Watchmen was "more a triumph of writing than draftsmanship" by disparaging Dave Gibbons' drawings—a feature of Watchmen discussion since the book first appeared. I never grokked the hatred people seemed to feel for Gibbons' plain drawing style, which got across a vast amount of information about locations and historical periods while making the important points (that Dr. Manhattan was DC's version of the Silver Surfer, etc.). My favorite Moore bit is "The Bowing Machine," with the more daring drawings of Mark Beyer, but would anybody want Watchmen to have punk illustrations?
If there's an obvious criticism of Watchmen, it's that it has what may be the stupidest plot resolution in the history of comics. It was a distinct letdown when all the smoke and mirrors turned out to be preparation for a hokey plot twist which I won't give away, in case anybody hasn't read the book after all these years. So, in the language Shone believes Americans should be using, I'll just say: Watchmen roolz, Tom Shone droolz.