Doomsday Clock – the official crossover between characters from Watchmen and the DC Comics Universe proper – is a hard book to review, not only because of its ambition but because of the weight of its history. The ownership issues, Alan Moore’s perhaps too-influential atmosphere and tone; Dave Gibbons’ precise layouts and style… anything that’s moving the Watchmen story forward has a lot to live up to. Even more so than with the several Before Watchmen prequel series, which, of course, were backward looking. So how does Doomsday Clock #1, which hits stores on Wednesday, measure up? Spoiler-light (but not spoiler-free) impressions below.
It’s 1992, a few years after the original Watchmen ended. Rorschach, undoubtedly the most compelling character from Watchmen, is back and is the central figure in this issue. In fact, we don’t even get to see anybody from the DCU (at least, not knowingly) until the last couple pages. Assuming that the original volume of Watchmen is in-stone continuity, then Rorschach should be dead. It becomes clear that it’s a new man under the mask, but with all the affectations and brutality of his predecessor.
The bigger story is that Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt’s weird plot from Watchmen, where he kills millions of New Yorkers and makes it looks like the work of alien invaders in an attempt to unite humanity against a common foe, has been found out, and Veidt is now the world’s most wanted man. The world is in chaos. Whoopsie! Veidt has problems (and a new baby Bubastis!), and this new Rorschach is helping him for some reason, first by recruiting a pair of villains.
WHAT WE LIKED
Marionette and Mime – As you likely know, the Watchmen characters were based on Charlton’s old superhero characters (Rorschach = The Question, Silk Specter = Nightshade, etc.). These newly introduced villain characters appear to be analogs for silly villains Punch & Jewelee. In classic Watchmen style, they are more brutal, pessimistic versions. But our favorite moment of mirth in this issue comes when Mime, this silent, savage guy, collects his weapons from the locker room of the prison he is busting out of. Not spoiling this one, but we found it pretty funny.
The Art – Oh lordy, the art is amazing, and Gary Frank’s penchant for making people and objects look sort of real and distinct and grotesque all at once may fit the Watchmen world even better than it fits his DC work (though, of course, we love how his Superman invokes Christopher Reeve).
The Mystery – We have a theory of who this new Rorschach could be. But scrambling back to our old copy of Watchmen to formulate this theory was half the fun.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE
Swimming in the Watchmen pool, if you can get past the ownership issues and possible moral squirreliness, is cool, fun, interesting. But it feels so far like the story is too much a servant to its predecessor. Marionette and Mime were a welcome, fresh addition; having to stuff Watchmen tidbits into every corner of the story gets a little old. The physical issue that Veidt is dealing with, for instance, is a callback to the original material, but rather than freshly ironic it feels too on the nose.
There’s a little too much dialog and explication. The worst example is Veidt; it seems off character; he was a good villain because he was so coy and competent. A lot of his dialog is cardboard and static.
More Veidt woes: His mission – apparently to find Dr. Manhattan – also seems out of character for “the world’s smartest man.”
The team of Gary Frank and Geoff Johns certainly capture the feel of the original work and put their own spin on it. It’s not mind-blowing, but pretty good thus far, and, if not necessarily on-the-edge-of-your-seat anticipation for the next one, we’re definitely looking forward to see what comes next, with hopefully more of a look from the DCU side of things.
GEEK Grade: B+
Images: DC Comics