Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Cover: Gary Frank
Publisher: DC Comics
Doomsday Clock was only ever going to be one of two things- a methodical slow burn, or a twisty mind-blower. Considering not even a writer as skilled Geoff Johns can keep up the latter for twelve issues, I had counted on the former. What I didn’t expect was a DC event that featured so little DC Universe.
It’s November 1992. The world is on the verge of nuclear apocalypse- literally hours away. It’s now when the world’s heroes are needed… and so they do- in the form of a new Rorschach. He frees a pair of imprisoned villains, and leads them to Ozymandias. The former hero is dying and he knows that to save the world, he needs to find Doctor Manhattan… who we know is in the DC Universe.
Johns is a brilliant writer, and that’s apparent here. He captures the fear and paranoia of Watchmen wonderfully. The story is paced in such a way that the stakes are apparent and the escalation builds a sense of dread. However, like I said in my opening paragraph- this isn’t a DCU story quite yet. It’s a Watchmen sequel. Until Superman has a nightmare of his parents’ death in the last few pages, it is firmly a Watchmen story. Now like I said, this story was bound to be a slow burn. I’m glad it will be, instead of a 12 issue brawl. But if you were expecting a brawl, you may be disappointed.
Where the issue doesn’t disappoint is the art. Frank and Anderson’s work together is absolutely fabulous. Frank’s use of the nine panel grid ties it back to Watchmen so wonderfully, and it’s just SOAKED in atmosphere. The characters each carry great weight on the page. It’s just stellar work.
In the end, if you were expected fisticuffs between Superman and Dr. Manhattan, you’ll be disappointed. If you come in expecting more of a slow-burn thriller, you’ll enjoy it quite a bit.
review by: Tony Thornley
The Watchmen Universe collided with the DC Universe for the first time this past Summer during their Rebirth special. Over the last few months we’ve gotten small glimpses at the larger story unfolding in “The Button”, a crossover running through the solo Batman and Flash books. The story has had major effects line-wide, bringing the whole shared DC Comics continuity back from the Flashpoint-caused New 52 universe.
Geoff Johns, being so busy with DC’s cinematic ventures, hasn’t written many books in the last few years, but he’s never lost focus on the core of the characters. He’s (arguably) one of the only writers to have a successful Superman run in recent years, and his handy work is apparent in the new Justice League movie, adding the heart that’s been sorely missing in their films so far. Most readers know he can do those types of stories well, but how does Johns handle a dark, hopeless world like we saw in the original Watchmen?
Wasting no time, the story actually starts on the cover, and continues into a familiar 9-panel grid. There are some shots that are purposely reminiscent of the source material, but done tastefully. Fans of Watchmen will feel right at home with the mix of Rorschach’s journal and newscasters narrating over the first half of this issue, as we see the world tearing itself apart. It’s been several years since the events of the original book and the reveal of Ozymandias’s twisted machinations. The public as a whole has become the seething monster he predicted, leaving us to wonder if Rorschach, a man caught between being a hero and a villain himself, made the right call pulling the curtain back.
(For more commentary on the story, scroll down past the ***SPOILER*** warning.)
Anytime we get some Gary Frank art it’s a treat. He also collaborated with Johns on the aforementioned Action Comics run. He’s always been a detail-heavy artist, and he looks like he took his time breathing life into this book. He nails the mood and established characters, but is still able to inject small touches of humor and comic book bombast into his realistic interpretations. A small bit that stuck out to me was the use of Rorschach’s mask. While it’s literally meant to be left up to the viewer to see what appears in the inkblots, it does seem like Frank orchestrated it to reveal Rorschach’s current state in some panels.
This issue is a lot of setup with a bit of action to carry us through. I would have liked to see some more of the DCU connective tissue, but it was a good start, that keeps the tone of Watchmen, while leaving some mysteries hanging to keep us reading. On the other side of things, it was slightly concerning that there didn’t seem to be any credits in this issue(in my review copy at least). I wouldn’t let it affect my enjoyment of the book, but I couldn’t even find the letterer on DC’s website. Most people are probably going in knowing Johns and Frank, but even superstars deserve their due. I know some people think adding to the Watchmen mythos is sacrilege, but you’d be missing out on one of the most interesting books DC has going right now.
I usually try to avoid giving away too much of the story, but this issue is hard to talk about without directly commenting on the big moments. The obvious topic is the fact that Rorschach is alive and well after being atomized by Dr. Manhattan at the end of Watchmen. I suspected this might have been part of the whole “Flashpoint/Multiverse break that’s brought back many of DC’s other dead characters. I originally thought that Johns’ interpretation of Rorschach seemed a little “off”, but after learning that this may not be the same character, I pulled back on that judgement. He just seemed to be drifting through the book without having the normal edge, but after a small confrontation with Veidt I felt like we were starting to see the character we know so well. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the introduction of a new character, a criminal named Mime. Some of the gags surrounding him were genuinely funny, and it added some levity to an otherwise serious affair.
As I mentioned, I was sad to have so little of the actual DCU involved with this issue, but the Superman scene was done really well. After a steady pace through the issue, the creators slow it down, introducing Clark into the story through a dream of childhood. I’m a little foggy as to what this scene meant, but what I took from it is Dr. Manhattan coming to the main universe has changed things in the past, shifting how the Kent’s met their demise. Whether Clark realizes this or not remains to be seen, but the variant cover with him breaking into watch pieces in front of Dr. Manhattan may support this theory…