DC’s newest event is a self-contained mini-series that pays homage to one of the greatest comic stories of all time, Watchmen, all while introducing it into the DC Universe. This is something we’ve all known has been coming, since the DC Rebirth one-shot hit comic shops back in May 2016, when fans around the world found out that Dr. Manhattan had a hand in shaping the current DC Universe.
But is Doomsday Clock any good, or does it fall flat like 2012’s Before Watchmen series? Obviously, nothing will live up to Watchmen, but judging from the first issue of Doomsday Clock, DC has something special on its hands that adds to the mythos of these characters and the world they inhabit.
The first issue is relatively inclusive. You don’t need to be a Watchmen or DC expert to truly understand what this book tries to accomplish. Does it help to have read Watchmen to fully appreciate all the subtle nuances and references? Sure it does, but not having read the original mini-series won’t hinder the audience’s understanding of the plot, the characters, or the world this all takes place in.
Doomsday Clock #1 takes place seven years after the events of Watchmen, and the opening pages do a fine job at delivering expositional narration that doesn’t feel like expositional narration. That’s because it’s introducing us to the narrator–a familiar character who now has an obsession with breakfast–as well as driving the story. The missing years are condensed and the reader is brought right up to speed. There is no time to waste in what seems to be a book that has the potential to change the DCU forever. The story’s hook is intriguing, and it’s a page-turner with an exciting hook to keep the reader engaged.
Writer Geoff Johns has channeled the pacing and tonality Alan Moore presented in the original Watchmen and put his own twist on it. While Johns is a fabulous writer who has put his stamp on many series, this doesn’t feel like a quintessential Geoff Johns book. Watchmen had this underlying idea that you can’t trust anyone because an enemy could be around every corner. Johns hits on that sense of paranoia pretty well. He doesn’t nail it out-of-the-park in that regard, but he comes close. Where the writing truly shines is in how the book is slower-paced and each scene feels meticulously crafted. Johns’ style has changed for the majority of the first issue, and while we can’t get into any details within this review, we do see his multiple writing styles–mixing Moore’s pacing and structure with his own, contemporary comic writing–within the first issue. It’s noticeable when it happens, but this change happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason in the first issue.
Johns, artist Gary Frank, and colorist Brad Anderson are an exceptionally underrated creative team. Their work on the Action Comics story “Brainiac” is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told. The art team continues to deliver some brilliant visuals in Doomsday Clock #1. Frank’s interpretation of the Watchmen Universe works. The layouts are reminiscent of Dave Gibbon’s style in the original 1986 book, but Frank is making this story his own. The story feels theatrical and epic, even when it’s just a few people riding in a car. In addition, Anderson’s colorwork is solid. There is a bit of disappointment that his work has a bit too much depth, as John Higgins’s colors in Watchmen were a bit more flat, but Anderson is working within the same color palette as Higgins. However, it would have been nice to see a little more use of purple within the first issue, as that was a big part of the original comic.
Doomsday Clock is an interesting book to say the least. Many hold Watchmen to be a sacred story, one that should be its own separate entity and left untouched. It is a phenomenal book, but Doomsday Clock only adds to that mythos. While it probably won’t be as groundbreaking as the original story it follows, the first issue is compelling, and the creative team behind the mini-series is a trustworthy team, one that you should feel comfortable with telling this story. The story feels logical, as the events leading up to this in Rebirth and the Batman/Flash crossover “The Button” have prepared readers for the Watchmen’s arrival. Thankfully, it works, and even those who are extremely skeptical of this story will find this first issue worthy of the Watchmen name.
Doomsday Clock #1 hits comic shops on Wednesday, November 22 and will cost $5.