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Review Brew: The Doomsday Clock #1 (Spoiler-Free)

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
DC Comics

You’ve wanted to know for over 30 years what came after Watchmen. This week, DC takes a chance on answering that question, and we have opinions on how it went down.

Accessibility: “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”  – R.E.M.

Wow, this is a book where I can say, “I told you so…” to the fanboys who want to keep real life away from comics. In the first three pages, we get to see: a world close to nuclear meltdown; Russia invading Poland; governments given over to anarchy; and so much more. Yet, this is another book that is trying to stand with the seminal Watchmen book from three decades ago. It’s a really depressing beginning, and if you are just getting back into comics after a long break without any context to what’s happening, this book will not help in the long run of things. The only thing about this book I was remotely interested in is who the new Rorschach is and what is their motivation is with work alongside [SPOILER] but, not enough to keep me interested. If Secret Empire was trying too hard, then unless this event is self contained, returning comic fans and new fans can sit this one out. — Harry

Characterization: Rorshach is our gateway lens into this curiously crafted hybridization of classic DC mythologies. This iteration of the titular character is imbued with sobering, scattered charm; he has all of the menace and tenacity that we’d expect, and yet, he’s different somehow. Some burden hangs heavily over his shoulders. Speeding from him into the infamous terror himself, [SPOILER], another returning character from Watchmen, has been tempered, not humbled, by time and consequence. The two other primary players in this first issue of Geoff Johns’ offering are a woman by the name of Marionette and her mute husband, simply known as “the Mime.” This murderously devoted couple serve as the release valves for the tension pent up in Rorshach’s relentlessly musing brain. As always, the world is shifting and the effects smatter themselves in varying patterns across the open canvasses of these exciting characters. Featuring a storytelling landscape both hauntingly familiar and disturbingly close to home, the veins of potentiality here are rich with a depth of intrigue begging to be explored. — Joshua

Historical Significance: Doomsday Clock is something of a mixed bag for me. It looks gorgeous; anything drawn by Gary Frank is likely to be. But it’s hard for it not to feel like a sleeker version of Dark Knight III: The Master Race. It’s nominally a sequel, but one that feels forced, it’s adding things but it feels like a cover band of someone else’s work. Gary Frank is accurately capturing the type of style Dave Gibbons brought in, and Geoff Johns is attempting to capture the political relevance Alan Moore captured at the time with Watchmen. Which is a shame, since Geoff Johns and Gary Frank are a perfect team, but this doesn’t feel like them. — Slewo

Living up to the Legacy: I cut my Comic teeth on the Moore-Gibbons-Higgins opus, Watchmen, while in middle school. It was so opposite of my books with good-as-gold Superman or Captain America. The lines between hero and villain were so blurred, it made the characters human. It left a lasting impression on me, even now in my 40s.

Along comes Doomsday Clock from Geoff Johns and I have to tell you, I’m not impressed. The players in this little production seem like cardboard cutouts of themselves, with the replacement Rorschach and the disgraced [SPOILER] going through the motions. Granted, this title is supposed to be the big “Rebirth” for Dr Manhattan, so I will share my ultimate opinions in due course, but for a first act, I was grateful when intermission came. — Paul

Overall: How do you do a follow-on to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen? You really don’t. It’s going to forever stand apart as its own work and closed story, regardless of what prequels and sequels are written and how much people love or hate them. But this isn’t exactly that. Granted, The Doomsday Clock is, functionally, a sequel to the original comic, and Johns and Frank are doing their best Moore/Gibbons impersonation with the familiar nine-panel grid and the overlay of busy text, a despondent world, and yes, at least one familiar member of the Watchmen cast makes an appearance. But this isn’t that. Rather, we’ve been told over and over that this is a collison of ideologies: the bright, positive universe of DC Comics against the bleak realism-based world of Alan Moore’s vision. So, a word of caution in reading this: the opening issue of Doomsday Clock is very much a “what came after” in the world of Watchmen. But we should be careful not to be fooled by it: after all, the opening issue of Dark Knight III appeared to be one thing, and then totally turned out to be something else in the remaining issues.

I will say, though: as far as opening salvos go, this is pretty good. This is chapter one of a twelve-part saga, so it doesn’t answer many questions about the mysteries of “DC Rebirth.” And the only flaw is that if Rorschach is who I think he is, then Johns really telegraphed it way too soon. But other than that: this is a great start, and one that demands that we come back next month.  — Adam

The Doomsday Clock is released at 11:57 on November 21. Stay tuned for further coverage.

About Adam Frey (372 Articles)
Adam Frey is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. In the meantime, he's an attorney and moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician in Maryland. A comic reader for over 30 years, he's gradually introducing his daughter to the hobby, much to the chagrin of his wife and their bank account.

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