[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
With the discovery of the great hoax, the world has started to unravel. Protests, riots and violence are popping up everywhere and the man responsible for much of it, Adrian Veidt, has become the world’s most wanted man.
Rorschach has re-appeared, apparently alive and well, and has broken into prison to break someone else out. When he finds who he’s looking for, she’s reluctant to go with him, remembering his threat if he ever saw her again. To her (and the reader’s) surprise, he proves to her that he isn’t the Rorschach that she remembers. She decides to go with him under the condition that her husband is broken out as well. Rorschach then leads them to a familiar place to meet with a very familiar face.
In another universe, Superman experiences something he never has before.
Geoff Johns and Gary Frank paint a crystal clear picture of what a dangerous place this world has become from the very first page. Gary Frank, whose art is as beautiful as ever, meticulously illustrates each panel. His style seems like a perfect match for a Watchmen title. The choice to adopt the 9-panel grid of the original Watchmen was a good one as it helps to bring the reader back into that world.
Geoff Johns is in top form and doing what he does best. He weaves a compelling story that has you asking many questions in the first issue and anxious for the next. He is able to keep the dark tone of the original while including moments of humor. And while Watchmen played on topical elements of the 80’s, this book plays on topical moments of today despite being set in the 90’s. Of course, not all of it has to take place in the 90’s when a character like Doctor Manhattan is involved since he can be in the 90’s in the Watchmen universe and today in the DC Universe at the same time.
Johns has always had a talent for writing in such a way that makes the reader just devour the book until you reach a key dramatic moment that can literally make you jump out of your seat, cheer, or simply feel the emotion it was designed to. This issue is no exception, with two particular scenes that stand out, first the appearance of Rorschach. The reader can’t help but grin even though they know some character in the book is in deep trouble if he’s back. The second powerful scene comes at the end when Superman experiences something for the first time that troubles him and Lois. The audience knows immediately the seriousness of the experience as well as its potential consequences.
Whenever you are on the first issue of a twelve part maxi-series it’s difficult to ascertain what is actually a flaw or a story point that will be explained down the road. Fortunately, there is only one thing in this issue that is troubling me at all and that would be Rorschach.
Anyone hoping to see the original Rorschach is going to be very disappointed because this is definitely not the same Rorschach under the mask. I was wondering why, during his NYCC panel, Johns said Rorschach was apolitical when Alan Moore clearly stated that Rorschach is right-wing and that he based Rorschach’s politics after Steve Ditko and Ditko’s creation “Mr. A”. But if Johns was referring to the Rorschach in Doomsday Clock, then it makes much more sense.
Regardless of who is under the mask now, it does not mean that the real Rorschach won’t show up by the end, nor does it mean it won’t play out well even if he doesn’t. However, in a world where there is a Flash Family, a Bat-Family, a Spider-verse, a Green Lantern Corps, etc. it would still be nice to think there is one irreplaceable and unique character and a Watchmen character should probably be it.
As to who the new Rorschach is, it’s anyone’s guess. But if I were to take a guess, my money would be on young Bernie who has now grown up and perhaps wishes to live the stories he grew up reading about in the comics at the newspaper stand in the original Watchmen.
When Geoff Johns had Doctor Manhattan kill Pandora in DC Universe Rebirth, I thought Johns had him do it the same way Manhattan killed Rorschach in Watchmen to remind the reader. Then he could have them both reappear down the line and show that they were teleported and not killed. But after reading this issue it appears killing Pandora was simply more of a symbolic way of destroying the New 52.
This is just the first issue of a 12 part maxi-series and it’s immediately evident this is going to be something special. Whether or not it will be the historical piece of literature that the original Watchmen is has yet to be determined, but it is obvious that this will be the book to read this year. Doomsday Clock will be looked at with an uncommon level of scrutiny due to the significance of the original, but if it maintains this quality, then it will win over some of the most devout skeptics.