Doomsday Clock #1 – Geoff Johns, Writer; Gary Frank, Artist; Brad Anderson, Colorist
WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Nope, Nope, Nope
Ray: It goes without saying that this is one of the most anticipated and significant comic books out of DC in a long time. DC has revisited the world of Watchmen before, but (aside from one segment that’s proven key to this story), it was only in backstory and expansions that didn’t really add much to the canon of Watchmen. As such, Before Watchmen was overall well-received (especially the segments by the brilliant, late Darwyn Cooke) but didn’t really have staying power. This is different. This is a direct sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed comics of all time, fusing it with the DCU, by one of the most storied creative teams at DC. Geoff Johns is arguably the DCU’s king of myth-making, as we’ve seen time and again on his extended DC runs like Green Lantern and Flash. A comic like this requires a big name with big ideas, who has no problem tipping over sacred cows. That’s Geoff Johns in a nutshell. And it requires an artist who can capture both the pitch-black, hopeless world of the Watchmen and the brighter world of the DC heroes. That’s Gary Frank. So put it together, and does it work? In two words – Yes. Spectacularly.
Spoilers will be kept light to nonexistent here, as this is an advance review – and also, because this is a comic that should be experienced for itself. But what we already know is that this comic takes place seven years after Watchmen. Ozymandias’ gambit has been exposed, his peace has failed, the US President doesn’t care as the world falls apart around him (he likes golfing, in a segment that may be just a bit too topical), and nuclear war is looming. And as was revealed in the segment we got to see at NYCC and soon afterward online, a certain inkblot-masked anti-hero is back among the living. Or is he? There’s a lot of questions, and this issue doesn’t drag them out. In fact, it answers them right away, in a conclusive fashion that is sure to get quite a few people talking – and will get all the right people angry.
A surprising amount of time this issue is devoted to a new pair of villains, Marionette and Mime. They’re the Watchmen reinventions of the old Charlton characters Punch and Jewelee, last seen in Batman, and they are fabulously creepy. They play a key role in Rorschach’s agenda – and that of the person he’s working for. That’s where this issue gets spoilery, but suffice it to say that some characters from Watchmen are still around and taking very different paths, and others are significantly missing. There’s a lot of mysteries in this issue and a lot of unanswered questions. Surprisingly, the DC characters are almost missing, with Superman appearing in a brief segment that calls into doubt one of the defining moments of the New 52. Watchmen was a slow burn, and this comic feels like a Watchmen comic. This is going to be a wild, year-long ride that promises to bring massive changes to the DCU. And I, for one, am completely on board. DC’s been taking a lot of risks lately, and most of them have been paying off. But how can they not when you’ve got creators of this level steering the ship?
Corrina: My one unadulterated positive comment about this issue: I absolutely agree with Ray that Frank was the right choice for artist. His work is excellent.
Now, onto the other stuff. Yes, this is a direct sequel to Watchmen by Geoff Johns, the king of taking elements from iconic comic stories and spinning them so they seem original. Except his expansions rely greatly on the fondness for the old stories, on nostalgia for those tales, rather than creating anything original. (I would argue that Mark Waid’s run on Flash and Darwyn Cooke’s incredible portrayal of Hal Jordan in DC: The New Frontier exceed Johns work on both those characters because it distills their essence, rather than trading on nostalgia.)
But, more than that, Watchmen was a singular vision by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It hit a nerve at the time it was published, with criticizing the American need for heroes who could solve problems with a punch and showing where that idea might realistically lead. It is not one of my favorite comics. It’s actually one of my least favorites because I find its portrayal of humanity acidly bleak. I can see the technical brilliance of Moore and Gibbons and still not enjoy the story. But, still, Watchmen had something to say and it said exactly what it intended.
So is Doomsday Clock a thematic sequel to Watchmen that will show how super-heroes might exist in modern times, especially with the current state of the world?
It’s your basic comic book sequel, treating Watchmen as just another superhero story, and thus loses all the thematic depth inherent in the original.
This is exactly what I’ve have expected from Johns. It tosses away depth for the supposed “coolness” of having Watchmen characters affect the regular DC world and it dares create a sequel that has nothing new to say about the original. What it does say is “we know you wanted more of the Watchmen world, so here you go, let’s hit all those points, let’s have a twist on our favorite ink-blotted hero,” whose narration, not so incidentally, seemed a parody rather than a homage to Watchmen.
This reads like DC is eager to get the last drop of water out of both the Watchmen property and the whole big crossover crisis thing, whose well is also dry.
Can we please get back to a focus on finding creators with a unique voice and letting them take the regular DC Characters in new directions? I would far prefer this rather than a sequel to a story that needs no sequel, or fifty gazillion evil version of Batmen who want to destroy the world in the umpteenth crisis crossover THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!
I fell in love with the DC characters without any of that. Johns did too. Why he’s going backwards instead of forwards is anyone’s guess but for Warner Bros. and DC Comics in general? I suspect it has something to do with $$$.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.