A Look At DC’s New Film JOKER


Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

The Red Hood. The Pale Man. The Clown Prince of Crime… THE JOKER. Without a doubt the best villain in comic book history and one of the best characters in all of fiction. 

  Batman is the best superhero in comics, so his arch nemesis should reflect his greatness. All of Batman’s villains, the best rogues gallery in superhero fiction, reflect Batman in some way, some aspect of his psyche. Harvey Dent represents Batman’s struggle with duality, Ra’s Al Ghul represents Batman’s temptation to take his mission too far and commit to a darker way of trying to save society, The Penguin represents the idea of the wealth and privilege he was born with turning into something ugly, greedy, and gluttonous, and so on…

    Then, there’s The Joker. Batman’s true, broken reflection. To paraphrase better writers than me, Batman is an engine of meaning. He turns tragedy into purpose. As The Dark Knight Detective himself once famously said “My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for not reason at all. They taught me that the world only makes sense… when you force it to.” Everything Batman does is built upon the foundation of that idea. That his actions and his mission have meaning.

     That’s why The Joker is Batman’s greatest antagonist. The Joker’s point to Batman is that nothing we do has meaning. It’s all pointless. The Joker is trying to prove to Batman that his mission, his ideology, is pathetic. It’s a joke. There is no greater meaning to life. Nothing you do matters. He’s inviting Batman to abandon his beliefs, to come with him and embrace how The Joker sees the world. In doing so, he’ll become truly transcendent and immortal, but most of all, free.

    Which brings me to the upcoming film JOKER starring Joaquin Phoenix….

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck the man who’ll become The Joker

Over the past several years DC has announced literally dozens of films. Many of which will never see the light of day. Remember that Flash movie that came out back in March 2018? Yeah, me neither, because they didn’t fucking make it. They’ve announced so many movies at this point it’s hard to take them seriously when they do. So when a stand alone film focusing on The Joker was announced I really thought it would never be made. DC seemed to be trying to build a coherent movie universe like Marvel and I didn’t see them realistically making a movie focusing on Jared Leto’s Joker, who was divisive at best. 

   Then I started to here that they were going in a different direction. That Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro were involved and my skepticism grew. No way was Martin Scorsese directing a DC film. Finally, it became clear that this was a stand alone movie existing OUTSIDE the established DC movie universe that Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and SHAZAM! exist in. Todd Phillips would be directing, whose credits include Road Trip, Old School, The Hangover Trilogy, and War Dogs. Martin Scorsese would produce the film, co-staring DeNiro, with Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker in an origin movie telling the story of the man who becomes The Clown Prince of Crime. This is the movie hitting theatres this October and you can check out the trailer below:

Looks pretty good, right? However, at no point have I had any interest in this project. Despite the fact that the trailer seems to show a genuinely good movie with what could be a great performance from Joaquin Phoenix, the only reaction I can have to this movie is ambivalence. The reason being that I think telling a straight up origin story for The Joker is kind of missing the point of a large part of the character. If this were “officially part of the DC movie universe”, I’d be genuinely pissed this movie is being made. However, because the movie is it’s own thing, a one off crime story that doesn’t involve Batman (even though we do see a young Bruce Wayne and Thomas Wayne is a major character) I can live with them telling their fucking Joker origin movie.

  Oh, I almost forgot! Here’s a real fucking shocker the movie is drawing inspiration from comic book stories like… wait for it… THE KILLING JOKE! Brav-fucking-vo! How original! 

  Don’t give me wrong, the comics have hinted at possible origins for The Joker in the past. But that’s what they were: HINTS, possibilities, not a concrete origin. That was one of the reasons The Dark Knight was so brilliant, the story of how The Joker got his scars was different every time he told it, one of my favorite aspects of the film. They had no fucking idea who this guy was. He had no past, he came out of nowhere, he was like the fucking bogeyman. I’ve always said that The Joker is to the normal citizens of Gotham, what Batman is to it’s criminals: a terrifying, unexplainable nightmare.

  The only reason DC is choosing to tell an origin story for The Joker is because everyone and their fucking grandmother knows who The Joker is. Even if you fucking hate comic books or comic book movies you know who The Joker is. 

   I think it’s kind of a shame that Joaquin Phoenix looks like he may be giving an excellent performance as The Joker. Wouldn’t it be so much more entertaining to see that performance in a real Batman film? 

   If he knocks it out of the park in the role, it would be kind of a shitty scenario because we always want to see Batman go up against a great Joker. As I wrote earlier in the article, Batman and The Joker have this very complex relationship that spans years. Yet we’ve only ever seen them face off against one another in one film in their different incarnations. In Tim Burton‘s Batman they killed the character off and the tragic death of Heath Ledger meant we wouldn’t see that character in Nolan’s Batman universe beyond The Dark Knight. One thing we genuinely haven’t seen from the Batman and Joker dynamic on film, is how that relationship plays out over years of twisted, violent confrontations. 

   Well, that’s my two cents anyway. I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who will disagree with me and that’s fine. For now, I just needed to comment on this project, but this is not a film I’ll be rushing out to the theater to see.

JOKER hits theaters October 4th

As always thanks for reading!

-Paul

MUST WATCH: Gotham: The Final Season (Premiere Review)

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

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Tonight the final season of Gotham premiered on Fox and honestly I was very excited to watch it. It’s hard to believe that this is the same show that just a few years ago had some of the absolute worst superhero writing on TV.  When Gotham began, it was more or less a shittier Smallville, with proto-versions of Batman’s rogues gallery popping up each week for Ben McKenzie’s Jim Gordon to deal with. It was a shame because the show was very well cast and all the actors were perfect in their roles. Since the very first episode, Ben McKenzie has made a great Jim Gordon (he was also the voice of Batman in the animated film adaptation of Batman: Year One). Many of the great Batman stories are also great Jim Gordon stories, so it was very important for them to get this character right. 

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   We even got to see a part of Bruce Wayne’s life that is very rarely explored, the years immediately following the murder of his parents. David Mazouz is easily one of the most compelling live action versions of Bruce Wayne we’ve seen. He conveys Bruce’s dark, brooding intelligence without ever sounding like a whiny brat. With excellent actors memorably playing classic Batman characters like Alfred, The Penguin, The Riddler, Selina Kyle and more, the series felt like a frustrating waste of great talent. Terrible writing hamstrung what could otherwise have been an excellent take on the Batman mythos.

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  About halfway through Season 3, specifically the mid-season finale, something fundamentally changed about the show for the better. I think there are two big reasons for this and one of them was how the series began to use Bruce Wayne. First of all, David Mazouz had grown up enough that he was just old enough to start becoming more crucial to the action going on in the story. Pretty much from the pilot on, Bruce has slowly been learning important skills that would become crucial on his journey to becoming Batman. Season 3’s mid-season finale saw Bruce being taken hostage at a circus by Jeremiah Valeska. If you’re not familiar with Gotham, Jeremiah (played by Cameron Monaghan) is basically their version of The Joker, and a damn good one too. The episode culminated with a show down in a hall of mirrors between Bruce and Jeremiah, where Bruce comes very close to killing Jeremiah. The whole episode was pretty great and I found myself watching the rest of the season once the show returned from it’s hiatus. You started to see Bruce take a more active role as a vigilante even though he wasn’t dressed like Batman. 

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  The second reason the series changed for the better in my opinion, was because it stopped being a bad prequel series, building up to some day in the future where we get to see Bruce put on the Batman costume in the last 5 minutes of the final episode. In the same way that Smallville was entirely built around the show teasing Clark eventually putting on the Superman costume, that we only see him wear for about three seconds in the series finale. Instead, Gotham became more of an Elseworlds Batman story. I think it’s the smartest thing the show could’ve done because they took the mythology and made it their own. They were no longer slaves to the mythology of the Batman comic books. They allowed their story to be an alternate take on the mythos. This choice gave the show its own identity. It also made it more exciting for the audiences because things weren’t necessarily going to play out exactly as they had in the comic books. As a result the back half of Season 3 was a hell of a lot of fun and frankly I love Season 4. One of the reasons I love the show Krypton on Syfy is that the show isn’t a prequel, it’s more about the DC Universe’s past being changed by time travel. Changing Krypton‘s history, changes the history of the entire Superman story and by extension the entire DC Universe. 

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So coming into this final season, which was going to be drawing from classic Batman stories like No Man’ Land and Zero Year (In fact this episode’s title is “Year Zero”), I was pretty psyched to see what they were going to do. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

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  After the events of last season, Gotham has been completely cut off from the outside world. The bridges are down in the city and it’s been 87 days since Gotham was officially declared a No Man’s Land by the US government. Unfortunately, not everyone who wanted to had the means to leave the city before it was cut off from the rest of the world. Children, families, innocent people have been trapped in a city that has become an almost post-apocalyptic dystopia. Gotham’s been carved up into territories, with different factions controlling different neighborhoods. Penguin Control City Hall and the surrounding area. He’s also the only person in the city manufacturing bullets for guns, which are more or less currency in the city. Scarecrow, Firefly, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and other villains have also carved up their own peace of the city.  Somewhat ominously, Jerimiah Valeska hasn’t been seen since the beginning of No Man’s Land. I have a feeling he’s waiting to make his own suitably dramatic entrance.

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The only part of Gotham City for the average citizen who’d been left behind is the area controlled by the GCPD. Gordon with Bullock and Lucius Fox by his side, are not only leading what’s left of the GCPD, they’re also protecting and feeding hundreds of refugees and supplies are running out. A lot of this is straight out of some iconic Batman storylines, so as a longtime Batman comic book fan this is cool to see. 

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   Fortunately, Bruce Wayne and Alfred decided to stay behind as well and Bruce is doing everything he can to get supplies smuggled in. Not only to the people suffering in the city, but medicine for Selena Kyle as well. She was shot in the stomach at point-blank range by Jeremiah in the season finale last year and unless something drastic is done she could be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life. Of course this heavily weighs on Bruce, who blames himself for her condition.

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  Part of the fun of this season is seeing how close Bruce is to becoming Batman, even though he isn’t ready yet. There’s an early scene where Bruce takes down a bunch of thugs trying to steal medical supplies. The power has gone out, so he uses night vision goggles courtesy of the Lucius Fox to take them out one by one, in very Batman fashion. However, just when it looks like he’s saved the day, the lights come back on, the night vision goggles blind him, and the thieves get away. This is an important scene because it shows us that while Bruce is well on his way to becoming The Batman that we know, who could’ve easily taken down a group of bad guys in a situation like this, but he’s not quite there yet. He’s still making crucial mistakes and he still has much to learn. It’s important the series didn’t just suddenly turn him into Batman over night. Bruce’s journey throughout the series has felt earned. Based on his training it makes perfect sense for him to be exactly at the level he’s at now.

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   The episode largely sets up the status quo for the season and puts the pieces in play for things to come. We know things are going to get a lot worse before they get better because the episode opens with a flash forward to No Mans Land Day 391 and shows Gordon, Bullock, The Penguin, The Riddler, and the rest of the GCPD fending off a full blown siege by… someone. For Penguin and The Riddler to be teaming up with Gordon, it must be a pretty serious common enemy.

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All in all I really enjoyed this episode and considering that it was mostly set up, I have a feeling once the story really gets going this has the potential to be a fantastic final season for Gotham. I couldn’t help but love the scene when Gordon and Bruce were standing on the roof of the GCPD together. With Gordon shining a spotlight on the sky to give people hope, foreshadowing so many of their interactions in the years to come. As Bruce walks away at the end of the scene, Gordon ask him if he regrets staying behind in Gotham, Bruce replies “No. You?”. Jim Gordons smiles and says “Hell no”. Am I looking forward to the rest of Gotham’s Final Season? Hell, yes.

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Gotham (Season 5) “Year Zero” – 8.5/10

Thanks for reading!

-Paul

Jensen Ackles Should Play The Red Hood In The New Batman Movie

Hey Everybody,

Paul here…

Freaks and Geeks

I wanted to touch on a casting rumor that’s been going around recently: Jensen Ackles playing The Red Hood in one of the upcoming Batman film projects. Regardless of what you think of the final film, the inclusion of the suit of a dead Robin in The Batcave caught everyone’s attention in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. As soon as the image was shown in the trailer for BvS, fans immediately speculated what this meant in the larger context of the DCEU.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

As a weird side note that I think is indicative of the state of DC’s cinematic universe, the DCEU (or the DC Extended Universe) didn’t originate with Warner Bros. or DC. They never actually had a name for this cinematic universe they were creating. Apparently, it the name came from a writer at Entertainment Weekly and it just stuck. So, the powers that be finally got around to naming this shit show of a universe, with the official title now being: The Worlds of DC. Wow, there really is no one flying the fucking plane here…

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Anyway, when fans saw the Robin suit displayed in The Batcave with “HA HA HA JOKE’S ON YOU BATMAN” spray painted on it, it was assumed that this was the former suit of Jason Todd. Jason Todd was the second Robin after Dick Grayson got tired of Bruce’s bullshit and went off to follow his own path as Nightwing. In the comics, after Jason died, Bruce eventually took in Tim Drake who became the new Robin. What do you get for the billionaire who has everything? Young boys to put in mortal danger every night!

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NOPE! He’s Dead. Very, Very dead.

In one of The Joker’s many acts of horrific violence, he brutally beat Jason with a crowbar in a warehouse and then left him for dead as the warehouse exploded with Jason inside. Arguably, Jason’s death was as much of a defining traumatic loss for Bruce Wayne as the death of his parents. Bruce (very rightly) felt responsible for Jason’s death and blamed himself for not being able to save him. But that didn’t stop Bruce from continuing to churn out Robin’s! No, sir! At least 3 or 4 of these poor little bastards have bit the dust since Jason. What’s that? Another Robin is dead? Must be Wednesday!

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In comics, no one stays dead forever. So, after several years and an insanely convoluted series of events, but for the sake of this article lets just keep it simple and say Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit was involved, Jason was resurrected. (if you want, you can look up the whole story of EXACTLY how Jason came back to life, good luck and God be with you). The point is that Jason Todd was back.

 

So the story of Jason’s return to Gotham and taking on the persona of The Red Hood, was told in Judd Winnick’s excellent Batman: Under The Red Hood. I highly recommend you check it out, it’s a great read and I put the Amazon link below if you want to pick up the graphic novel. https://www.amazon.com/Batman-Under-Hood-Judd-Winick/dp/1401231454/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1535344301&sr=8-3&keywords=batman+under+the+red+hood

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At this point, you guys probably know that I’m a big fan of the direct to Blu Ray and Digital DC Animated Movies, like The Death of Superman (you can read my review for that film right here: https://best-media-world.com/2018/07/29/movie-review-the-death-of-superman/ )

One of the best DC Animated movies is Batman: Under The Red Hood, based on the graphic novel of the same name. Again, I highly recommend this one so here’s the Amazon link to the Blu Ray: https://www.amazon.com/Batman-Under-Red-Hood-Blu-ray/dp/B003ITZBVI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1535344301&sr=8-2&keywords=batman+under+the+red+hood

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From here on in I’m going to be specifically referring to the Animated Movie version of Batman: Under The Red Hood, which combines story elements from A Death In The Family into the narrative. A new and brutal vigilante going by The Red Hood shows up in Gotham and starts killing criminals and crime bosses left and right. Batman can’t have this shit going on in his town, so he confronts the very well trained Red Hood and is horrified to find out that The Red Hood is his formally dead ward, Jason Todd.

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Jason had always been a more violent Robin, but getting killed playing by Bruce’s rules seriously changed his perspective on dealing with criminals. Basically he subscribes to the “see bad guy, kill bad guy” philosophy of crime fighting. More than anything Jason isn’t angry at Bruce because he was killed. He forgives him for that, what he can’t forgive is: Why the fuck didn’t Bruce kill The Joker? Jason doesn’t think Bruce should go all Charles Bronson on the Gotham Rogues gallery, but if ever there was an exception to Bruce’s (bullshit) “No Killing” rule, it’s The Joker. As you can imagine Jason is pretty fucking pissed. I don’t want to go into too much more of the story in case you want to watch the movie or read the graphic novel.

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I should probably point out that one of the reasons this movie is great is the voice performances. Bruce Greenwood is probably the second best actor behind Kevin Conroy to voice Batman. He plays him in the soon to be returning Young Justice animated series as well. Aaaaaaand finally we come to the point: Jason Todd is perfectly played by Jensen Ackles who plays Dean Winchester on one of my favorite TV shows, Supernatural.

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If any of you listen to my podcast, The World’s Best Podcast, you may find this funny because my love of the show Supernatural is sort of a running joke on the show. But, like I said, the whole point of this article is that Jensen Ackels would make a fucking great live action Jason Todd. About a week ago a picture went viral of Ackles standing next to a Red Hood statue or costume or something.

90C03DDE-5D66-4D5E-8579-621DD90AB133  Now this might mean nothing, but sometimes pictures like this are posted when actors are in talks with a studio to take a role. Or sometimes actors will post pictures like these to get conversations exactly like this one started, so they get on filmmakers radar. Regardless, this photo prompted a lot of fans to jockey for Ackles to be cast as The Red Hood in an upcoming Worlds of DC film. Rumor has it, Matt Reeve’s Batman film may contain elements of the Under The Red Hood story. With multiple Joker movies, a Nightwing film, and Gotham City Sirens all in different points of development, there are plenty of places The Red Hood could pop up. The flames of fandom were fanned when this fucking spectacular piece of artwork, featuring Ackles as The Red Hood, made the rounds online. The very cool piece was done by artist BossLogic, who’s done some incredible artwork over the years.

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Fucking awesome, right?

Supernatural is going into it’s 14th season this fall and there’s a reason a show like that has such staying power. Especially the last few season have been among the best in the show’s run. Jensen Ackles is a huge part of that. He’s an incredibly underrated actor who’s given some amazing performances on the show.

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This isn’t the first time he’s been associated with a superhero project either. He was one of the front runners for Captain America before Chris Evans ultimately took up the shield. He was offered the role of Hawkeye in the MCU, but turned it down (I love Supernatural, but I bet he regrets that move a little bit). Personally, I always thought he would make a great Hal Jordan. Bottom line is, anyone familiar with Supernatural knows he would crush it as The Red Hood. He has the physicality for the role and he’s a great fucking actor. He has a raw edge to him that would work great for a character like Jason as opposed to say, Nightwing. Not to mention He already knows the character of The Red Hood well. He’s the appropriate age, because we’re dealing with an older Batman. Interestingly, Supernatural is producing 20 episodes this season instead of it’s usual 23. They gave a very plausible reason for this, basically that it’s easier on the cast. The main actors have families and they shoot the show in Vancouver, but they live in Texas. Or perhaps one of the two leads needed a few extra months off to shoot a high profile film project? Hmmm..

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Nothing official has come from Warner Bros or DC about this potential casting, but DC fans seem to have really gotten behind it. The World’s of DC need solid, talented actors to fill out their universe. Whatever form the new Batman movie takes, I’ve always wanted to see more of the Bat Family in a Batman film. I don’t think Under The Red Hood would be the Batman story I’d like to see DC make, but that doesn’t mean Jason Todd couldn’t be a part of the film. Jensen Ackles would be a fucking awesome Red Hood. As always, thanks for reading!

-Paul

PODCAST: Iron Man & The Dark Knight: 10 Years Later (Part 2)

Hey Everybody,

Paul here…

The fans have been clamoring for Part 2 of, the “World’s Best Podcast” presents, Iron Man & The Dark Knight: 10 years Later! Ryan and I have returned  from Gotham City and The Marvel Cinematic Universe to finish our discussion of these film icons. As well, the impact Iron Man and The Dark Knight have left behind. Enjoy and thanks for listening! Listen here or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/15310004

iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?mt=2&i=1000416420767

Stitcher
https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=55361139&autoplay=1

PODCAST: Iron Man & The Dark Knight: 10 Years Later (Part 1)

Hey Everyboy,

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This year is the 10th Anniversary of Iron Man and The Dark Knight being released in theatres.  Two very different superhero films that not only changed the genre forever, but filmmaking in general. So, on this episode of The World’s Best Podcast, co-host Ryan McDonald and I take a trip from Gotham City to Stark Industries and dive into these epic movies. This the first of a 2-Part episode! Is Robert Downey Jr. perfect superhero casting? What theories are there about the secret origin of The Joker in The Dark Knight? What legacy have these films left behind? Listen here or subscribe on Stitcher and iTunes:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/15270322

iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?mt=2&i=1000415991596
Stitcher
https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=55361139&autoplay=1

Thanks for listening!

In this episode I make multiple references to an article I wrote about the villains of the MCU, I thought I’d put a link to the article here in case anyone wants to read it after listening to the episode:

https://best-media-world.com/2018/03/12/how-phase-3-fixed-marvels-villain-problem-and-why-it-never-existed-in-the-first-place/

-Paul

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Comic Book Review: Doomsday Clock #4 (No Spoilers)

 

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Since the “Death of Superman” in the 90’s, death being a revolving door has been somewhat of joke in the comic world. Unfortunately, frequent deaths and resurrections can often hurt the Superhero genre. Mainly because it pushes people away. To some readers it takes the sense of urgency from the story, they don’t feel any substance in a story they read because this is used so often it’s a trope of the genre. Once I realized how many Watchmen characters would actually be used in Doomsday Clock, I expected immediate negative backlash from the fan community. ESPECIALLY when The Comedian turned up alive. To be honest I wasn’t exactly thrilled by his return. This entire story needs to be handled very delicately to work. The Watchmen characters we saw before The Comedian showed up were used really well, but I felt like The Comedian might have been a bridge too far. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank better have a very important reason for bringing him into the story or else it will feel like bad fan service (I have faith that a good explanation will be given, especially because everything else in this miniseries has been excellent so far).

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Having said all that, none of it really has much to do with THIS issue. I haven’t reviewed Doomsday Clock in awhile and since then I’ve noticed that some fans are unhappy with the return of certain characters. But lets focus on Doomsday Clock #4.

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This is the most character driven issue of the series so far and it almost exclusively focuses on one main character: “New Rorschach”. I put the name “Rorschach” in quotes because we already know that this isn’t Walter Kovacs, Original Recipe Rorschach. This is Reggie, the young man how took on the mantle of the legendary crime fighter/ infamous lunatic vigilante.

For readers looking for a story that pushes the narrative further in a significant way, you may be disappointed. Otherwise this is an excellent character study of this new Rorschach. We not only get to see how he became the next Rorschach, we also find out exactly who Reggie is and where he fits in the Watchmen story (which I won’t spoil here). All I’ll say is that this person wasn’t even on my list of suspects.

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Up until this issue, I was pretty sure that Reggie was an original character because, after going back to the Watchmen graphic novel there really wasn’t anyone who fit what we know about him (which is pretty much just; that he’s a relatively young man, African American, and more than a little bit of a psychopath.). But after reading the issue, I tip my hat to Johns and Frank because they have delivered an excellent vigilante origin story. They did a great job of creating Reggie’s backstory. My one criticism is that even though the creators found a very clever way of showing us how Reggie acquired his fighting skills, it doesn’t seem like enough to make into a fighter that would make even Veidt uneasy. But maybe there’s more to the puzzle coming up.

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This was the perfect point to tell us Reggie’s backstory and what drives him. Because among the cast of new characters, we know a relatively significant amount about The Marionette and The Mime and what makes them tick (even though there are still some huge questions surrounding these two). Four issues into a 12 issue series, we need to understand the goals and motivations of all the main characters for the story to work. We also get a great appearance of a relatively obscure Watchmen character that’s both sweet and heartbreaking.

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Though other issues of Doomsday Clock have wowed me in a ways that this chapter didn’t, it is nonetheless a beautiful character tale that’s tragic, sad, and illuminating. If you don’t mind one or two comic book tropes, I highly recommend Doomsday Clock as a series. This issue was definitely weaker than others, but it was still great. I can’t wait to see what Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have in store for the next 8 issues.

Doomsday Clock #4:  8.5/10

Review by Paul J. Wright