Doomsday Clock has been a rollercoaster of a series in part because the book has varied so much from issue to issue. One chapter might be focused exclusively on a character while another progresses the bigger plot utilizing Dr. Manhattan. The ninth issue, out today, is very much the latter and may just shock readers due to the sheer amount of action contained in the issue.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The critically acclaimed series by master storytellers Geoff Johns and Gary Frank reaches its most shocking chapter yet when the DC Universe collides with its greatest threat: Dr. Manhattan. But nothing is hidden from Manhattan, and the secrets of the past, present and future will rock the very foundation of the DC Universe.
Why does this matter?
Aside from this series continuing the story of the beloved characters within Watchmen, this title has promised to affect the main DC universe for years to come. That’s huge. It’s also rendered by the fantastic Gary Frank who is producing some of the greatest work of his career.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
If you’ve been dying for more big blue Dr. Manhattan you are in luck. He’s very much a presence in this issue via captions and page time. The character’s narration is particularly fascinating as you can tell Geoff Johns is layering information to be used later and possibly enlighten readers upon rereads. He’s been a fascinating character and he continues to be. In part because of his inhuman alien nature of thinking due to his being basically a god, but also because we are still attempting to understand what his presence in the DC universe is will amount to. This issue begins to lay seeds as to his purpose and I’m sure readers will read this more than once to pick up on those.
Outside of Dr. Manhattan, Johns and Frank are utilizing Batman and the rest of the DC heroes very well. And when I say the rest I mean it, because many heroes show up, some of which aren’t appearing anywhere else. There’s plenty of action in the issue, but there’s a great use of tension thanks to Batman attempting to reach the heroes rushing off to Mars to stop Dr. Manhattan. I was on the edge of my seat. Firestorm is a surprisingly great character in this issue who gets extra focus. Essentially we are being told he’s one of the most powerful characters which comes as a surprise since he’s used so infrequently.
What is there to say about Frank’s work that hasn’t been said? The 9-panel layout style continues to work although it does get swapped in with some excellent panel pages early on to show off the sheer number of heroes on their way to Mars. I know folks are annoyed with delays but just flipping through the first few pages you can see Frank is not skimping on any of this. He’s doing it right, thankfully, and not rushing and it shows.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
It’s hard to read this series and not think about the odd pacing so far. One issue is slow and methodical in its probing of a character. Then in another, there’s more plot development to the bigger story. Here we’re given a superhero fight, not unlike something you’d see in an event comic. I’m wondering if Geoff Johns and Gary Frank approach each issue like an essay on comics at this point since the cohesion isn’t great. Maybe a single issue tells its own story? Either way, it’s throwing me off, and I can’t gather enough information or bearings to make sense of what we should care about. Joker and Rorschach, for instance, were major players in previous issues and now they aren’t even a factor. Why is that? Is it an oversight or on purpose? We won’t know till this is all over and done with but the reading experience has been janky.
Is it good?
Doomsday Clock continues to be grade A comic book storytelling. That said, when you take into account the series as a whole I’m not sure how readable the series is panning out. There’s clearly a grand plan, but that plan is so boisterous in its approach it’s hard to take in each issue and appreciate it. Still, there’s no doubt in my mind this is some of the best comic creation today.