A review of issues 1-8
Tradition versus progress. What is sacred and what can be built upon, or evolved? Every generation wrestles with these concepts, and is forced into divisive conflict with either the generation before them, or the generation that follows them. We find this in every aspect of life from politics, to religion, and even entertainment. However, my generation, those in their late thirties to late forties, does seem particularly keen towards taking classics from the past and remaking them in order to sell them to the youth of today. Be it the plague of “re-films,” (remakes, reboots, or revamps of classic films,) or the creeping in of an abundance of covers of classic songs such as The Door’s “This is the End” appearing in the new film “Dark Phoenix,” it does seem like this is becoming a tool used more and more by companies. DC comics has proven themselves time and time again to not being above this, although they are admittedly better at it than most. Their success with revamping such classic comics and cartoons such as The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, and Snaggle Puss into modern takes on the classic characters are no flukes. These comics have proven that not all revamps are doomed to fail, or are they unable to build on the quality of their previous incarnations. So as controversial as the repurposing of some “sacred” characters and stories may be to a die hard comic book scribe like myself, I can’t say that it doesn’t sometimes work.
When DC comics announced they were releasing “Doomsday Clock,” and that they would be bringing the characters of the hallowed “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbions my first thought was “what kind of rant has this provoked out of Alan Moore.” This is mostly because I’ve always both respected and been amused by the opinions of Alan Moore. When DC came out with “Before Watchmen” his response was pretty epic, and hilarious with the author criticizing the comic book giant by saying “It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity.” As much as I love Alan Moore’s writing, and even value his opinions on things outside the world of comic books, it’s important to remember this is a man who refuses to see films based on comics and doesn’t even own a copy of “The Watchmen” which he himself wrote due to his opinion of both DC and the entertainment industry, having been soured by previous experiences. Alan Moore is a character for sure, but he does hold a valid point, one shared by his loyal fanbase, that “The Watchmen” was meant to be a single story. It was a finite work of art that began and ended. Unfortunately for him though it was also wildly successful and has characters beloved by comic book fans. So yeah, when Alan Moore tweeted “I will be spitting venom all over this “Doomsday Clock” nonsense,” it wasn’t surprising. Of course though the ultimate issue is “Is it well written?” Are we getting a worthy addition to the legacy “The Watchmen” has left us?
The story starts off after Rorschach’s journal has been found and published undoing the world peace created by Ozymandias. The world of “The Watchmen” has quickly been plunged back into chaos when the truth about Ozymandias’ plot is uncovered. The government is searching for Adrian Veidt, but is unable to locate his whereabouts and bring him to justice. The story opens as the original Watchemen opens, with Rorschach narrating, dropping the first mystery in the reader’s lap. How is this possible? As you read you find out that Rorschach is Reggie Long, the son of the psychiatrist in the original Watchmen. Experiencing a psychotic break after the events at the end of “The Watchmen” he was hospitalized, and abused in the psychiatric institution until fully detaching from reality and assuming the identity of Rorschach. In the DCU we start off in modern day, with the time jump being explained as just another difference between the two realities, but after the propagation of a conspiracy theory that leads the public to believe that the reason most of the metahumans in the DCU are from America is due to a secret government program that created them. The two realities intersect when Ozymandias manipulates the new Rorschach into recruiting two villains Marionette and Mime, so they can go to the Earth Prime where Ozymandias says Dr Manhattan has went. The story winds on throwing in this and that character from the DCU, and bringing back The Comedian from the universe of “The Watchmen,” The plo bridges the two universes, and is pushed forward largely from the Watchmen characters finding themselves in, or seeking out, locations in the DCU such as Wayne Manor.
Geoff Johns digs deep in an attempt to channel his best Alan Moore impersonation for the narration and tone of the comic, and for the most part it works. He does capture the grimy feel to the world that “The Watchmen” had, and does a superb job of working political and social unrest into the story. “Doomsday Clock” is darker and more graphically violent than anything Johns has done before. This provides the writer with a chance to create some really visceral action. Some really cool scenes come from this such as when Mime and Marionette lay waste to a bar full of The Joker’s henchmen, and the scene where The Comedian starts firing at a subterranean lair containing many of DC most iconic villains. When The Comedian blows off The Riddler’s knee cap I officially fell in love with the crossover. There are other moments that felt very poignant and heat felt. When Byron Lewis, formerly Mothman, walks into the fire it slowed the pace of my reading and gave me a moment to feel that sympathy for these damaged individuals who had decided to adorn costumes and fight for what they felt was right in the world. This and other moments is where Johns shines as a writer, and where the series earns its place on my shelf.
Just like the world it conveys though, there are problems that not even a superhero can solve. It’s hamfisted at times with it’s attempts to recreate elements from the original. The “Superman Theory” is the worst of these. Why DC felt they needed to recreate the “Who Watches the Watchmen” public outcry against superheros is beyond me. It’s comes off like a desperate attempt to tie the two stories together. This is already accomplished by the overall tone, the narration, the story within a story element, and the supplemental fiction. Also, it’s really a throwaway part of the book, unlike the banning of superheros in “The Watchman” it doesn’t really have an important role in the world of the story. You know it’s there, you know that it’s going to be a plot point at some point, but it fails to have the same importance its predecessor did in the original. This is also true for the story within a story element “The Adjournment.” Apart from having a horrible title, it really just doesn’t have the same weight or importance of “The Black Freighter.” The supplemental fiction also fails to be as natural in execution, or as important as when Moore did it in “The Watchmen.” Like almost every element of “The Watchmen” recreated for this book it just pales in comparison. Overall that’s the sum of the my problems with this comic series. It just seems like a vehicle to cash in on an old classic, and to seed the future use of it’s characters. It’s a sequel to a classic that never needed a sequel, and because of this it has the problem that such endeavors always have, the rehashing of old ideas redone with less potency and with a motivation so obvious it can be cringworthy at times.
So, is it well written? Yes. Are we getting a worthy addition to the legacy of the original book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons? No, not really, but that’s ok. It’s good. It’s just not great. It’s got some moments in it that could be iconic, but the book itself is far from being a classic in the future. It’s not as bad as “Before Watchmen,” but nowhere near being the masterpiece that “The Watchmen” is. In the end I think the real question every comic book reader wants to know from a review is ultimately “should I buy it?” To that question I can only give you the answer “sure, why not?” To put it in the perspective of having some kind of scale I would say this, if you were to ask me the same question about “The Watchmen” I would say “definitely.” I found these eight issues to be good enough that I would continue to the end at issue twelve. In the end isn’t that enough? It’s not a worthy follow up to “The Watchmen,” but it’s good enough to buy and read. I’m still not sure that it needed to be made in the first place, but DC is apparently going to bring these characters into the DCU and Geoff Johns is a good enough writer to make it something worth buying for everyone who enjoys a good superhero mystery comics…except perhaps Alan Moore.
Rating: 3/5 Latverian Francs