Back in 2011 DC Comics made a bold decision. They would reboot the ENTIRE DC Universe, the entire line of comics would start from scratch. All new #1s, new creative teams. Much like Marvel’s successful “Ultimate” re-launch of their characters in 2000. This relaunch of DC’S Comics was called The New 52.
The story telling mechanism they used to reboot their universe was a mini-series event comic called Flashpoint. If Flashpoint sounds familiar it’s because it’s been often used when talking about the cinematic DCU. The idea is if things get bad enough and their movies continue to be failures, they’ll make a Flashpoint film and completely start over the DC movies from scratch. The Flash TV series did a VERY different version of Flashpoint on their show.
So the basic set up for Flashpoint Barry wakes up one morning to find himself in a world vastly different from his own. He’s not The Flash, so no powers, there’s no Superman, no Justice League, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are about to start WWIII, etc. But he’s still a CSI and most importantly for him his mother, who’d been murdered when he was a child is now alive and well. I wont go into details because Flashpoint is a good read, but it’s an even better animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. It’s one of the best animated films DC has put out. So Barry gets his powers back and with Batman’s help fixes the timeline. But when changes that massive have been made to the timeline, things aren’t EXACTLY the same. There were a lot of little and HUGE differences from the classic DC Comics people had been following. So, Flashpoint was basically the “IN STORY” explanation for the NEW 52. Almost none of the characters remember the world as it was before Flashpoint.
For the life of me I absolutely cannot understand why some people hated the NEW 52. I don’t interact with a lot of other comic book fans on forums or Reddit, which is where I think much of the NEW 52 hate came from. Sure, not everything worked and some beloved characters didn’t immediately make the transition, but lets run through some of the books the DC published at during The New 52:
• Swamp Thing
• The Flash
• Animal Man
• Green Lantern
• Batman and Robin
• Action Comics
• Wonder Woman
• Batman Inc.
• Justice League
• Forever Evil
• Green Arrow
That’s just to name a few. With excellent creative teams and excellent storylines.For some reason DC felt that they’d fundamentally lost something along the way. They felt like they lost legacy, a sense of family, a sense of optimism that DC had always been known for. I personally don’t agree, I think the stories where great. But one things that did bug me a little, was that several DC characters didn’t make the transition in the NEW 52 and nothing scares hardcore comic books fans more than change. As a response to what they felt was the negative reception the NEW 52 received. They decided to address the problem with a new intuitive called DC REBIRTH. They didn’t reboot the universe, they just began to take their series in a different direction. They just decided that DC line wide would focus on hope, family, optimism.
DC Comics wanted infuse their books with more of that hope and optimism I mentioned. So, DC released a special called DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH. This special planted the seeds of stories that would affect all of the books DC Comics had published. One of the massive revelations of DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH, was the fact that Barry Allen WAS NOT at fault for the timeline being slightly “off” when he fixed the changes from Flashpoint. Certain classic characters no longer existed, people with powerful relationships in the past weren’t together anymore, key figures like Red Robin had their deaths unwillingly faked only to be held captive in a prison outside of time and space. Basically, for whatever reason, certain people were being take off the board. Barry found out that their was a much more powerful Being out there. Someone or something was altering space and time in the DCU. Someone they’ve never encountered before. At the end of DC REBIRTH, they scene cuts to Mars. It’s revealed that the person that has been manipulating the DCU was the God-like DR. Manhattan Of Watchmen.
So it seems that characters from Watchmen, at the very least Dr. Manhattan, will be interacting with DC characters. At this point I think it’s important to say that it’s real easy to be cynical about a project like this. But every little piece we’ve been given from REBIRTH leading up to Doomsday Clock has been handled very well. Most of the talk about this project coming from DC wasn’t about a fight of any kind between the DC and Watchmen characters, but an ideological conflict between the cold, clinical view of the world held be Dr Manhattan and the hope and optimism of Clark Kent… Superman.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON…
CONTIUE AT YOUR OWN PERIL IF YOU DONT WANT SPOILERS…
The thing that surprised me most about this book was how much of it was a Watchmen book. I figured this story would mostly be set in the DCU with Dr. Manhattan visiting that reality and maybe an appearance from one or two other characters. Instead the majority of the story takes place in the world of Watchmen, years after we last saw these characters. It’s a world on the brink of annihilation once again. The first line of dialogue is from our narrator, who tells us it’s “ December 22 1992… or is it the 23rd?” Geoff John has been quick to point out that from the first line of dialogue we’re dealing an unreliable narrative. It’s also been pointed out multiple times in other places that December 22, 1992 is the day that The Death of Superman came out (obviously this date wasn’t chosen by accident). You see “The Great Lie” has bee exposed. Rorschach’s Journal at the end of Watchmen eventually showed the world that Veidt’s attempt to save humanity from nuclear holocaust, was built on an atrocity. Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandias is now the most wanted man in the world. Then we’re shown a prison full of men begging to be released. The Soviets and the U.S. are minutes away from launching their nukes and beginning nuclear Armageddon.
The story cut to chaos at a prison, with the inmates screaming to be let free. The news is telling everyone to get to “Safe Zones” , but this seems like bullshit that the government is pushing on people through media and the guards are cutting and running. One of the inmates manages to grab a guard as he runs past his cell and the inmate demands for the guard to unlock the door. Before he can do anything, the guard is knocked out by someone else in the hallway with him. This is the books first huge reveal: the man who knocked out the guard and who’s now stealing the keys to the prison is Rorschach. Suddenly the inmate isn’ t quite so eager to get out of this cell.
From here on out, I’m going to give you the very broad strokes of the issue. The first six pages of this book were released by DC at NYCC and the Rorschach reveal was one of the last scenes in the promotional material. As I expected as soon Rorschach was revealed, later in the story were shown (without revealing his identity) that this is NOT Walter Kovacs, the original Rorschach. Someone else has taken up his “mantle”. Even if it wasn’t explicitly revealed, if you’re an avid Watchmen fan, you would have been able to tell that this isn’t the Rorschach from Watchmen. There are subtle, but noticeable differences.
Basically Veidt sent Rorschach to break one very specific criminals out of prison: Erika Manson AKA The Marionette. Manson won’t leave with her husband Marco Maez AKA The Mime. From what we briefly see of The Mime in prison he seems like a very dangerous psychopath. Rorschach reluctantly takes them both and they head to Nite Owl’s old hideout. Once everyone’s gathered Veidt reveals a key piece of personal information and explains his plan. Adrian has a brain tumor that is killing him and as bad as things are on their world, there’s still one man who can fix everything: Dr. Manhattan. No matter where he is Veidt intends to find Dr. Manhattan in an attempt to save his world (if that is indeed his true motive). It’s unclear how he intends to accomplish this and why he needs these SPECIFIC individuals. The last scene is Clark Kent asleep in bed next to Lois. He has a horrific nightmare of his adopted parents dying in a car crash (I’m honestly not sure if this is the current continuity, so this could be a memory or something else entirely). He wakes up startled and Lois asks him if he’s ok. Clark’s not really sure. It was just a nightmare, but as he says to Lois, he’s never had a nightmare before.
Bottom line, I really liked this story. I get that to some people Doomsday Clock will always be sacrilege, but if you go in with an open mind you’ll realize this is a great book. If the first chapter is an indicator of what’s to come,. this could potentially be something special. The art by Gary Frank is incredible. I already considered Geoff Johns to be an excellent comic book writer, but it seems like he stepped up his game here. If you didn’t know any better, you’d be forgiven to think that this is Alan Moore is Watchmen.It was a great set up to the miniseries and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Several interesting details stood out to me. We’ve been shown that Batman was told that somehow it’ s an irrefutable fact that there are “three Jokers“. Both The Marionette and The Mime are clown themed villains. At one point, you see The Mime smiling with blood smeared across his face and mouth, which is very evocative of The Joker. Is this a version of Joker and Harley Quinn?
Another interesting point was when Rorschach was asked to prove that he is not in fact Walter Kovacs the original Rorschach, he takes off his glove and his skin is brown. We all know the original Rorschach was white. This is a complete wild guess here, but could this be the psychiatrist that Rorschach seemingly warped so deeply in the original miniseries? (However, I’m pretty sure that character died in the original Watchmen, so I don’t now)
I also found that it spoke volumes that Ozymandias seemed to be genuinely frightened of this new Rorschach. He explains to The Mime and The Marionette that Rorschach is not a man to be pushed. Veidt explains he doesn’t have limits like the original Rorschach did. Which is scary because it didn’t seem like the original Rorschach had many limits beyond his black-and-white code of justice. Especially considering that Adrian so easily physically overpowered Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and the original Rorschach in Watchmen, this guy must be a pretty big bad ass for Ozymandias to be genuinely afraid of him.
Anyway those are my initial thoughts and impressions. My biggest questions are: How many of the Watchmen characters are we going to ultimately see in this story? How does Adrian intend to actually breach through the multi-verse to find Dr Manhattan ? Why is all this causing nightmares for Superman? and how does the rest of the DCU fit in? I definitely recommend reading it twice. Even though it seems slow at times, there’s a lot more going on than you may think after initially reading it. Personally I can’t wait for #2.
P.S. Below are the covers for some of the upcoming issues!
As always thanks for reading!