The much-teased sequel to Watchmen that merges Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel with the DC universe is finally here. Here’s our verdict on Doomsday Clock‘s first issue…
When it became clear that DC Rebirth was going to crossover with Alan Moore’s seminal Watchmen – one of the most acclaimed works in the comic book medium of all time – questions were raised over whether this needed to exist. Would this be a shameless cash-grab that served up a cheap story (like The Simpsons‘ Watchmen Babies)? Well, at last the debut issue of Doomsday Clock is here… And it’s pretty darn amazing so far.
Most importantly, writer Geoff Johns has completely nailed the tone, atmosphere, dialogue style and overall ethos of Watchmen perfectly. If he wasn’t so infamous for hating follow-ups to his work, you’d suspect Moore himself of having a hand in it. Johns had the difficult task of answering the question of: “What actually happened after the ambiguous climactic events of the graphic novel?” Thankfully, he comes up with something satisfying and in-keeping with what has come before.
Just as Moore’s work reflected the troubles in society in the 1980s, Doomsday Clock explores the issues facing us today. Though the timeline is only moved ahead to the 1990s and deals with a nuclear armament conflict with Russia, the discussion of a U.S. president who made fraudulent claims during his election campaign, civil unrest and terrorist attacks in inner cities makes it all too clear that Johns is echoing our own world. I’ve loved Rebirth for its brightness but it’s fascinating to revisit the nihilistic, fatalistic worldview of Watchmen.*
For all its fidelity to the original, Doomsday Clock isn’t afraid to make its own mark on the Watchmen universe. Chiefly, it reveals that Rorschach is still alive! Or at least the mantle of the violent vigilante survives. In place of the ill-fated Walter Kovacs is a mystery African-America man who nonetheless shares much in common with his predecessor. But who would be crazy enough to pick up where Kovacs left off? My money is on it being that comics-loving kid from the original story.
There are also a couple of new characters introduced. Namely, Mime and the Marionette, a murderous married couple that Rorschach – and his boss, Ozymandias, hiding in Nite-Owl’s Owlcave – recruit to help them save the world. They are an interesting pair, written with a lot of dark humour that helps keep things from getting too dour and portentous. As for Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre, it looks like they managed to find their happy ending, after all, as Adrian mentions them being “retired.”
But what about the two flagship characters of this crossover – Dr Manhattan and Superman? The former doesn’t appear but is frequently mentioned throughout. Now that Ozymandias’ scheme for global peace has failed, the world is in desperate need of a savior. While Adrian believes that’s Manhattan, there is another godlike being out there who could help them. Yes, Clark Kent appears in Doomsday Clock #1, although he is still on his own Earth. We get an intriguing coda where Supes dreams of the night Ma and Pa Kent were killed when he was a teen. This is apparently the first time Clark has ever had a nightmare – suggesting some dark times ahead.**
All in all, Doomsday Clock #1 is a riveting read, with a superlative script from Geoff Johns and some very fine artwork from the terrific Gary Frank which does a neat job of echoing Dave Gibbons’ original iconic artwork. Going by this opener, it looks like the 12-part maxiseries might actually pull off the impossible and live up to its forebear. I’ll definitely be watching the Watchmen to see how things develop.
*DC fans will note the importance of Doomsday Clock‘s setting – 22nd November 1992. In other words, the date when The Death of Superman storyline first arrived.
**This also confirms that the Kents’ death from the New 52 is still part of continuity. “God” is mentioned frequently in this scene. Could Manhattan have something do with their deaths?