Here we are, thirty years past the original release of the ‘Watchmen’, a comic that is hailed as THE greatest graphic novel of all time. Of course, people will argue that back and forth until death, which is a part of being in the comic community. Everyone’s got opinions to share, and it creates a sometimes fascinating, sometimes hostile environment to be passionate about a thing. Well, with today’s release of DC’s newest event, ‘Doomsday Clock’, there’s sure to be some insane debates revolving around even the idea of publishing sequel material, let alone merging universes with other DC heroes and locations with that of the Watchmen.
After all, the entire point of the original was to present a deconstruction and satirical look into the idea of superheroes as well as to speak to the apprehension of readers in the 1980’s who seemed to have grown tired of the same old tired ‘good guy saves the day’ stories, comics that largely lacked reflection of the world their fans lived in. There were a lot of dark narratives introduced around this time, many from DC or other independent publishers, but ‘Watchmen’ was the definitive voice of the era. I’d like to present that maybe–just maybe–‘Doomsday Clock’ will be the voice of readership as it exists now…?
First, I think it would be a disservice to observe this comic without any prior knowledge of its predecessor. I’m not saying that anyone should HAVE to read ‘Watchmen’ if they don’t want to, but do yourself a favor and at least check out its Wikipedia article. The most minute amount of knowledge concerning the mythos of ‘Watchmen’ is really going to pay off here and give you a sense of just how warped and changed things are in this presentation, and not in a bad way. ‘Doomsday Clock’ feels incredibly reminiscent in its visual Dave-Gibbons-esque structure and tone, but where the original material felt eerily static, calm like a world of flatly colored, possessed drones, this first issue is an incredible frenzy of activity, one tragic news story after another, nuclear fallout, bloody riots in the streets, the breaking of borders and humanity itself. I think that ‘Doomsday Clock’ might be trying to offer, during these tumultuous times, why we need heroes even if they’re not necessarily ‘super’.
DC knew that this was going to be a big deal putting Geoff Johns and Gary Frank in charge of the project, not to mention their impatience with publishing it; after all, Dark Nights: Metal is still going, an event that they advertised for nearly a year in advance of its release, a triumphant return of the Snyder/Capullo match-made-in-heaven! Anyway, the weight of this first issue is really tell-tale, from the impressive quality of the Rorschach lenticular, to the lightly deckled-edge of what feels like classic, newsprint paper interiors, but is absolutely of higher, archival value. So how better to start off this ‘big deal’ than by paralleling the world’s falling apart in a biting way to our own political climate, though perhaps with more extreme consequences, one that still gives off the mad-humans-as-drones vibe, but in this case reacting with such hostility it’s deeply unsettling. As a human myself, I want to say that it goes over the top and is unrealistic, but having experienced the absolute venom of what people are capable of, even in just this past year, I feel such a twist in my stomach that makes this first issue even more effective a statement than one might initially assume of it.
From this, we transition seamlessly into the world of the ‘supers’, and though our first examples are presented like brand new imprisoned heroes/villains, some might recognize them as the ‘Watchmen’ equivalent of classic Charlton Comics characters (as the original cast of ‘Watchmen’ were also creations based on Charlton classics), ‘Punch’ and ‘Jewelee’, which is an effective, intimate touch to add to this book, one that Geoff Johns very briefly talked about way back at New York Comic Con. We’re also given small morsels of this new Rorschach, a man that mimics the old one, but makes very clear nods towards being a changed representation. He claims to still be THE Rorschach regardless, and maybe that’s something we’ll find more about later, but just as quickly as we get to see his familiar face again, we suddenly get Ozymandias, too, who lays out the beginnings of the story’s plot we get to look forward to: the mission of finding Dr. Manhattan….And then we see Clark, our Superman.
That parallel gave me a little shiver, that sort of chill that you really don’t get out of comics very often, perhaps through no fault of their own due to the saturation of the industry, but one that I feel almost sure someone must have felt picking up the first issue of ‘Watchmen’ in 1986. The difference between these books is just that, time itself, the era in which they exist and the needs of the society that lives in it. Comics are going through a bit of a ‘thing’ right now, some argue it to be similar to enormous crash of the market in the 1990’s, others think it’s the perfect era of adaptation and rebirth, but ultimately, 2017 and the loyal comic fan-base seem to be clamoring for one thing: a return to an era of heroes. Maybe they want different story ideas, or expanded lore within the worlds these heroes inhabit, but plain and simple, there’s a call for ‘the Superman I know and love’, or the ‘X-Men I used to read’. ‘Doomsday Clock’ feels like it splits the difference in an engaging way, reflecting a grim reality with a hidden truth I think we all hope for and don’t often recognize: there ARE heroes out there, super or not. Maybe this book won’t be as rainbow and sunshines about it as some Marvel superhero books tend to be, but I hope it gives us grounded hope for molding our futures ourselves. Honestly, I implore comic fans and readers of all sorts, of every opinion, age, and disposition: give at least this one issue a try. This book is going places, hopefully important, invaluable, incredible places. Let’s hope DC holds nothing back!
P.S. It feels damn good to read a comic without any ads.
Too long, didn’t read? I rate Doomsday Clock #1 at 10/10 stars!
Honorable mentions: The Demon: Hell is Earth #1, Doctor Radar #1, and Long Lost #1.