Doomsday Clock #1
Scheduled to arrive in stores: November 22, 2017
Cover date: January 2018
“That Annihilated Place”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Cover: Gary Frank
Variant Cover: Gary Frank
Reviewed by: Keith Samra
Our story begins after the events of Watchmen with the world in chaos. Ozymandias carefully crafted master plan has been exposed by the journal of Rorschach. There is upheaval in the streets, nations on the brink of war, and a manhunt for Ozymandias. A world that had been bought to world peace, has now become tumultuous to the worst degree.
There are reports that a nuclear war is all but hours away, as whole states are told to evacuate the zones that could get bombed.
We cut to a prison, with the guards trying to leave the facility, as the prisoners remain locked in their cells, demanding to be set free. Rorschach to the surprise of some inmates, arrives and sets search for a prisoner in maximum security named Marionette. Once he finds her, he offers her a deal, help him and he will reunite her with her son. She agrees, only on one condition, that her husband The Mime also go with them. Unwillingly, Rorschach agrees, and the three break out of prison and head to the underground headquarters of Nite Owl. Once there, they are met with Ozymandias, who explains that they must find and bring back Dr Manhattan, who has left for another universe.
We then cut to Earth 0, and a sleeping Clark Kent has a dream of his teenage years, the night he reluctantly goes to a school dance, the very same night his parents are killed as their truck is hit by another vehicle on the drive home, after taking Clark to the dance. Clark is woken from his nightmare by Lois, who consoles him, she tells him she can’t remember when he last had a nightmare, to which Clark replies “I don’t think I’ve ever had one”.
To be continued…
Story – 5: Let me begin with saying that, if you haven’t caught up to speed yet on the events and moments that lead into this series, please go and check out the article – Everything You Need to Know Ahead of “Doomsday Clock” here at the Homepage.
I also need to address that there are some very die hard fans of Watchmen out there, who most likely appose the decision by DC for revisiting the property, especially without both Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ involvement. And to be honest, they are justified for feeling that way. However, I’m at least glad that DC are not using the property for “cheap tricks for a summer event”, but rather using them in a story that has some gravitas to the entire DCU as a whole.That may not be much consolation to those fans, but all I can say is, that this first issue was miles ahead of most of what I read of the “Before Watchmen” stuff. I think the Watchmen universe is in good hands.
Now, Geoff Johns is on record for saying that Doomsday Clock is a sequel to Watchmen, but how direct it is, may have been a tad misleading, or misunderstood on at least my part. I went into this expecting a ‘Crisis’ like event for the regular DCU, guest starring a couple of these characters. That certainly wasn’t the case for this first issue. Though the writing is clearly different to that of Alan Moore, Johns has done a fantastic job to capture the flavor of the original, and showed us the events of that world, after Rorschach reveals Ozymandias’ secrets to the press, and to the world. To me it showed that he really is treating this property with the proper respect it deserves.
As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed the faithfulness to the original story, and in true sequel fashion, we see what the repercussions are after events of Watchmen #12, mainly Rorschach’s journal and Ozymandias’ fall from grace.
The Mime and Marionette are two new characters introduced into the Watchmen world, but they feel as if they have inhabited that world since the beginning. What role they will play, and why they are important to Ozymandias’ plan to bring back Dr Manhattan is a mystery, but one that promises to be a good one. I haven’t felt such intrigue and excitement since Batman: The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.
Rorschach, though not new, is another character from the original, with a fresh new twist. This Rorschach is a different man from the original, we are only told this from him removing his glove and revealing that he is a black man, and not white like the original Walter Kovacs. He seems to have mannerisms similar to the original, so its anyone’s guess as to who is under that mask.
Ozymandias is a character that always has a back up plan, and he is using people as he always does to further his game. But I liked that he fears the new Rorschach a bit. So this may be his last Hail Mary shot at course correcting his world and his position in it.
We see in a flashback scene Dr Manhattan telling Ozymandias that he is “leaving this galaxy for one less complicated,” and we know that he has been influencing events on Earth 0 (DCU), the big question is why of course, but another one is, how long? How long has he been at this, or rather how far has he gone back to, to alter events?… This is what I look forward to most of all. And with Johns’ track record of taking elements from previous continuities and making them work in his current stories, it’s definitely in his wheelhouse.
Now on to Superman. We only get to spend a short time with him in this first chapter, and we witness the events only mentioned in the Rebirth continuity, of Ma and Pa Kent dying in a car accident. It’s evident that this is the Superman of the Secret Origin continuity, and that he was a relative outsider through his teenage years. Johns wrote this new origin for him years back, so it’s only fitting that he revisits it here. The death of the Kents was a retcon in Rebirth, as Ma at least was still alive before the events of Flashpoint. What purpose did it serve Dr Manhattan to have Clark’s parents die earlier in his life like this? This was the burning question that I was left with at the end of the issue so I look forward to seeing all this unfold as the series progresses.
Lastly, it’s great to see Superman take center stage again after so long, he definitely had been missing from the spotlight for many years, so it’s good to finally see him where he belongs.
All in all, a good start to a series, that’s had events that have been building solidly for the last year and a half.
Art – 5: I could devote four pages of a review on the art alone. Gary Frank’s career at DC of the last decade has been nothing less than stellar. We have been fortunate enough to see him tackle Superman with Johns in regular continuity as well as Secret Origin and Batman in Earth One. He has a great working relationship with Johns of the last decade, making their work together, especially this book a true collaboration.
Frank did a wonderful job of emulating Gibbons this first issue alone. The nine panel grids for most of the pages, and the gritty and dirty real world feel, pay homage to the tone set by Gibbons, without compromising his own style and all that makes his own work so unique.
Frank has been working with Johns on setting up this series since Rebirth began last year, where we got to see the familiar clock work and Smiley Face Button. It definitely shows that a lot of time has been spent on page layouts and pacing for the story. The prison scenes felt almost a straight lift out of Watchmen, from a storyboard like framing of the action. And I can’t be the only one to think that the inmate that was threatening the prison officer for his keys bared a striking resemblance to Dan Didio. This made me go back and see if I could spot any other Easter eggs, I couldn’t find any, but if I missed some, please let me know in the comments section.
Frank has a good handle on Rorschach. I love the way he rendered his mask. Can’t help but think of the 2009 film, with the ever changing inkblots.
One thing I did feel that Frank didn’t quite nail was the facial features of some of the characters, namely Ozymandias and The Mime. Frank drew them too “heroic” looking. Square jawed and handsome. Ozymandias and The Mime could easily be substituted for Arthur Curry and Bruce Wayne. Mind you, in saying that, he is very good at making people look ordinary and different, most of the characters in the mob scenes all have different looks and personality to their faces. Frank also does have a tendency to draw too many lines on faces, making them look very stressed. Sometimes this is detrimental, but for this issue, I think everything worked out perfectly.
Minor nitpick, and not something that would knock the art down a grade.
One thing I really enjoyed was the way Frank used shadows. This to me set the mood of the scenes and also gave it a cinematic feel with the lighting. Evident when Rorschach leads Marionette and The Mime down the sewers to Nite Owl’s lair. Wonderful use of shadows and lighting, coupled with his use of line work in the details, as I mentioned above, we were left with a gritty feel to an essentially chaotic ugly world. I found that it changed as we left the world of Watchmen and entered Metropolis, which felt cleaner and more desirable.
And with Metropolis we finally see Superman for the first time. I love the way the camera pans into his bedroom while he sleeps. I’m going to use the word cinematic again. It sets the scene before and after his nightmare. You can almost imagine Zack Snyder filming this scene for a sequence in a DCEU movie.
Speaking of nightmares, we see what was teased at the beginning of Rebirth and during the whole Superman Reborn arc, the event that leads to the death of the Kents. Reading about it is one thing, but to actually see it on the page is another. This scene could have been lifted straight from the pages of Secret Origin. Frank captures the characters of Ma and Pa Kent exactly the way he did almost a decade ago. This made me love the art a lot this issue, especially the photo of them at his nightstand. They look just as they did on the cover of Superman: Secret Origin #2.
I can’t leave without mentioning the color art by Brad Anderson. Too many times a colorist goes without any praise in books like these. Back when Watchmen first came out in 1986, the coloring techniques were severely limited to what we have today. But somehow, Anderson matched the tone of the original series, and also gave this one a fresh vibrant coat.
Cover Art – 5: Though not my favorite of the two covers, this one sets the tone of the issue and quite plausibly the series, with its direct ties to the original series, “this is what happened next” is the feeling we get from it. There is so much anger in the illustration, highlighted even more so with the choice of colors.
Variant Cover Art – 5: For obvious reasons I like this cover better. It is an image that has been used to promote this series for months, but I really like the composition. And Frank has a good handle on this new belt on the costume. Some artists draw it too thin, but Frank makes it look good. Also his rendition for Superman has always been an homage to Christopher Reeve, which I like a great deal. But there is this classic look to him. He just looks like Superman.
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