Two teenage girls are whiling away their nothing lives in a nameless nowhere exurb of malls and fake diners and empty sidewalks. They’ve graduated from high school, but in their hyper-ironic state any ambition they have feels cheap and pointless, so they just wander from day to day, sifting through the broken refuse of popular culture. Their sardonic banter is so funny, and their anomie so total, that on the rare occasions when an actual authentic emotion breaks through, it’s like a battering ram that crushes the reader’s heart. The movie — staring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson — is fine, but it’s no substitute for the book’s pale blue-washed panels, so orderly and still and perfect that you just know nothing is going to happen, ever.
Top 10 Graphic Novels
Watchmen is one of TIME's Top 100 Novels. Book critic Lev Grossman picks nine other graphic novels to join it in the pantheon.