Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen is widely considered to be one of, if not the best comic book ever written. I remember the magic of getting into to comic for the first time and being blown away by the classics of the medium: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and of course Watchmen. Watchmen still holds up as a brilliant, powerful masterpiece of storytelling. I don’t think Watchmen’s impact on the comic book medium can be understated.
However, as comic books have become more and more mainstream, Watchmen itself has become more mainstream. 20 years ago meeting someone else who read Watchmen was special because it was rare. If you read Watchmen, you knew something amazing that everyone else didn’t. As superhero stories and comic books became a part of pop culture in a major way, so did Watchmen. More people started to read the original graphic novel. We got Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film (an under appreciated gem, in my opinion), DC published Before Watchmen (Many of those miniseries’ were excellent), and like anything else, the more there is, the less special it becomes.
I still love the original Watchmen comic book. I’m making this point because Watchmen isn’t the sacred cow to me that it may be to some people. Which is why I’ve been on board with almost everything DC has chosen to do with the Watchmen Universe in the wake of DC REBIRTH. However, I’m mainly here to tell you that Geoff John’s and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock is one of the best goddamn comic books on the shelves right now.
I will be discussing SPOILERS here, so fair warning if you want to remain SPOILER–FREE…
A few weeks ago, Issue #7 of the 12 Issue miniseries went on sale and as the story hit it’s half way mark, it really kicked into a new gear. I wanted to wait awhile for people to read the latest issue before I commented on it. This is arguably the most significant series DC has published since the creation of THE NEW 52 in terms of its impact on the DC Universe.
For the most part I’m not going to recap the previous 6 Issues and instead focus mainly on Issue #7. First if all, hats off to the amazing art by Gary Frank. Frank’s been one of the best artists in the business for years, but he’s doing career best stuff here. He perfectly captures the “feel’ of the original Watchmen with copying the work of Dave Gibbons. I don’t think there’s another artist working in mainstream comics that can do what he’s doing here. He’s walking a fine line between being his own artist while making this series feel very much like a follow up to Watchmen.
The entire series, if not everything since DC REBIRTH, has been building to Doctor Manhattan’s full appearance. We finally get it here and it is suitably epic. You could definitely say this is the chapter of the story where the shit begins to hit the fan. Ozymadias, the new Rorschach, Marionette, Mime, The Comedian, Batman, and The Joker finally come face to face with Doctor Manhattan and the whole issue is pretty fucking awesome.For the most part, Johns makes the insanity of all these unique characters coming together wildly entertaining, but I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Before I get too ahead of myself, the book opens with a fantastic scene that involves Doctor Manhattan and old school Green Lantern Alan Scott, that’s pretty damn chilling. It not only gives insight into how Manhattan perceive reality, but it also lets us see Jon ( Doctor Manhattan’s real name) as a more sinister character than he was in the original Watchmen. It gives the reader a sense of ominous dread that sets the tone for the story to come.
Johns is one of the best writers of DC Comics characters of all time. He’s so often able to take characters that aren’t that compelling and turn them into some of the best characters in comics. He did it will Green Lantern, The Flash, The JSA, Hawkman, Aquaman, and more. One of the reasons this issue is so impressive, is that Johns beautifully captures the “voice” of each of the Watchmen characters, which is why the comic works so well. However, for some reason the character he can’t quite get right is Batman.
Geoff Johns has an almost supernatural ability to get inside the heads of DC characters, with sole exception of Batman. Batman should always be the smartest guy in the room, but under Johns’ writing he comes across as being 2 steps behind. That is NOT Batman.
I will concede that Johns may be improving when it comes to writing Batman. There’s a moment in this chapter when Doctor Manhattan finally shows up, in the flesh, for the first time. A moment that has been building since DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH. As the closets thing to God himself that Bruce has ever seen teleports into a room full of killers, mad men, and geniuses, Batman immediately glares right into Doctor Manhattan’s eyes and says “I know how you are”. A very cool, very Batman moment.
Each of these characters get some great moments together, but I wish there was a more substantial confrontation between Batman and Doctor Manhattan. I don’t mean physical, obviously, but I would have liked to see them interact more. We’ve still have a fair amount of issues left before the series wraps up, so I’ll probably get to see something like that sooner or later.
Without getting into too much detail, we finally find out why Doctor Manhattan came to the DCU. It’s a great scene where we’re given some answers, but even more questions.The scene also underscores the slightly darker character Doctor Manhattan has become. One thing he makes very clear to Adrian Veidt is that he has no intention of going back to the Watchmen Universe. He believes that world’s time is over. It beyond saving and not worth his attention. Needless to say Veidt is not happy. The scene ends with some shocking revelations about Veidt that fundamentally change his relationship with Reggie, the new Rorschach.
This is perhaps an Adrian Veidt more dangerous than we’ve ever seen. He’s just as ruthless and cunning as he’s always been. This issue shows us that the man who killed millions in service of “the greater good”may not have learned from his mistakes after all. He’s the same manipulative sociopath he’s always been and he’s got a plan. By the end of the Issue it seems like Ozymandias has gone “full villain”.
Finally, the most unsettling revelation is that in one month, Doctor Manhattan will have a fateful encounter with an enraged Superman. We know Doctor Manhattan doesn’t perceive time in the way everyone else does. He sees the past, present, and future all at once. So, what makes this information so disturbing is that Jon cannot see the future beyond the point of his confrontation with Superman.Which means one of two things, either Superman will destroy Doctor Manhattan or Doctor Manhattan will destroy everything. Considering that we’ve seen very little of the Man of Steel in this series so far, it seems like that’s about to change in a big way. It’s hard to see a scenario where Superman comes out on top in a fight with Doctor Manhattan, so I’m anxiously awaiting their meeting. After all, Doctor Manhattan has screwed with Clark’s life in significant ways recently. Most notably “resurrecting” Jor-El, who’s been running around the DCU causing trouble as Mr. Oz.
Though the shipping schedule has been somewhat frustrating, the series began in November 2017 and Issue 8 is slated for release in mid-November, at least it’s picking up slightly. Regardless of these minor flaws, Doomsday Clock has been a fantastic series that has vastly surpassed my expectations. What could have easily been a cash grab by DC has become a truly worthy follow up to Watchmen.
If you were skeptical about what is essentially a sequel to Watchmen, rest assured that these characters are in good hands. I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s a must read.
Doomsday Clock: 9/10
Thanks for reading!