‘Doomsday Clock’ #1 is a work of art in more ways than one.
It has been years in the making, but Doomsday Clock is finally upon us. It’s a series that has technically been in the works since Watchmen wrapped up, but it also has clear ties to the DC Rebirth initiative back in 2016. After surviving making pancakes with Rorschach, we got an early look at the comic and a chance to review it under the promise of no spoilers, so no worries if you are wary of those!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
DC Comics presents to you a 12-issue maxiseries from the critically acclaimed team of writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson. You are not prepared for what lies ahead within these pages, good readers.
Why does this matter?
If you’ve been reading DC Comics for the last year and a half you’ve probably noticed little hints to the DCU connecting to Watchmen lore. Batman and The Flash had “The Button” story for instance, and Titans has hinted at connections between these universes too. That’s an intriguing element, especially if you’re a fan of Watchmen. Whether you’re like Alan Moore and disagree with DC using these characters or if you love it, you’re going to want to see how writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank pull this off. At the same time, Superman is a major element of this series, so if you like his character you have to read this.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The first three panels.
Once you hold this comic in your hand you’re going to see Johns, Frank, and colorist Brad Anderson went to great lengths to make this comic as authentic and respectful to the original as possible. The majority of this comic is told via the 9-panel layout which was famously used to perfection in Watchmen by artist Dave Gibbons. The comic takes great pains to capture the melodic, slow but always thought provoking pace, and even the paper stock feels old school. If you were skeptical of the creators doing this at all, or at the very least wary of what they might do to these hallowed characters fear not, because it’s very clear they are taking this very seriously.
This issue serves as a direct sequel to the original, picking up where Watchmen left off, carrying the story forward and showing us the world may not be as fixed as Ozymandias hoped. That kicks things off well, especially considering the troubled times we’re currently in. Johns does a great job pulling the reader in, especially with the well paced story Gary Frank lays out, and you’ll want to know where these characters are going. It’s not until the final few pages that the comic seems to be veering off from direct sequel and onto something else. DC Rebirth fans are going to love a meaningful callback for a DCU icon and should have enough info here for the wheels to start spinning on where Johns intends to take this story from here.
The story itself, as seen in a few promotional materials, opens with captions torn from a notebook, not unlike Rorschach’s journal entries in the original. That beloved character makes his return and he’s written very well. What made this character so good in the original is seen again here, from his awkward nature and casual brutality to his drive to solve a big problem. That problem is the end of the world.
Frank and Anderson are exhibiting masterclass level comic storytelling here. The 9-panel layout, used nearly on every page, works to get the reader into a flow of story progression that’s appealing and interesting. It allows them extra time to focus on a turn of a character’s body, or a specific element in a scene, further making the comic more cinematic and interesting. There are also 12-panel pages too, but the melodic feel of the 9-panel layout seems to enhance moments when more page is devoted to a single panel. Frank’s hyper detailed art, especially with faces, further makes the reading experience more lifelike and realistic. It’s a gorgeous book.
Look who it is!
It can’t be perfect can it?
This issue kicks things off with much of the elements Watchmen did, but doesn’t quite get things going as far as how this all connects with the DC Universe. I suspect the second issue will flesh that element out, so patience is going to be required if you’re expecting a good deal of explanation as far as where the creators intend to take this series. There’s a long sequence that takes up much of this book that seems to drag — it makes its point, but lingers just too long. That only adds to the slight frustration you’ll have by the end, not knowing where this could be going. We have 11 more issues to go however and this issue does a great job establishing the high quality we’re in for.
Is It Good?
Watchmen fans must read this, but anyone interested in good comic storytelling should give this a go. I’ve read my fair share of indie series that push the boundaries of what we think comics should be and after reading this it’s safe to say Johns and Frank are taking superhero comics a step further. I do have reservations about how much this issue gets going — it could go further because I’m still unclear its true purpose — but that’s a typical trapping of serial storytelling.