Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Doomsday Clock #1

It is finally here.

The events that began with the DC New 52, through DC Rebirth have hall come to head with this:

Doomsday Clock.


For those who are unfamiliar, back in 1986, writer Alan Moore and artist David Gibbons created a 12 issue maxi-series called Watchmen that deconstructed the mythology of super heroes.  It is dark and violent and a work of genius.  Though owned by DC, Watchmen existed in a completely separate universe.  Until now.  Doomsday Clock will see the world of Watchmen collide with the DC Universe proper.

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I know that everyone describes Alan Moore's Watchmen as groundbreaking and a masterpiece.  And they are correct.  Today before I picked up my copy of Doomsday Clock, I reread the entire Watchmen trade.  There is no doubt that it is a work of dark genius.  I am in awe of the mastery that brought it about but also leary of it's nihilistic themes.

DC tried capitalizing on Watchmen's name in the past.  Back in 2012 there were a number of mini-series that went under the banner "Before Watchmen" that explored the world that Moore and artist Dave Gibbons created.  In my eyes the experiment was a failure for two reasons.

1.  None of the writers were to Alan Moore's level.
2.  The Watchmen world is exceedingly ugly.

Only a genius writer at or above the level of Alan Moore should even attempt to add to this mythos. 

But I believe Geoff Johns is the only writer who can.

Not only that, but the whole point of Doomsday Clock is to  thematic foil the Watchmen characters with the heroes of the DCU.  This to me is an exceedingly interesting concept.

This idea has me very excited.  It caused me to do something I never do: order all the different variant covers for the book.

When I left the comic book shop I went to my car and immediately read the first issue from cover to cover.

How did I feel after?

Exceedingly icky.

That isn't to say that the first issue is bad.  It is actually fascinating in so many ways.

Gary Frank's art is beautiful and mesmerizing.  He has an amazing ability to get across drama and personality in his characters.  At the same time he has the ability to create amazingly detailed environments that have every bit as much character as the people in the scenes.

But it is jarring to see the color scheme used.  Most comics base their colors around red, blue, and yellow.  The original Watchmen set itself apart by using primarily purple, orange, and green.  Doomsday Clock goes for the more traditional color hues and it's like watching a black and white movie that has been colorized.

But Johns completely embraces the nihilistic vision of the Watchmen world.  This may be the first time I've ever read cuss words in a Geoff Johns DC book.  In the pages we see a world on the brink of nuclear war, people shot in the back, brain cancer, the attempted gang rape of a male prison guard, the bloody disfigurement of other prisoners and an insane mime.

If Johns' purpose was to make us stare into the abyss of Watchmen's ugliness, then mission accomplished.

The story sees Rorschach breaking into a prison while the world is on the brink of nuclear war.  He has been sent by a mysterious partner to liberate super-villain Marionette and (reluctantly) her husband the Mime.

Now those familiar with the original Watchmen know that Rorschach was unceremoniously atomized at the end of the series by Dr. Manhattan.  So who is this new Rorschach?  Who is his mysterious partner?  Why do they need Marionette? 

All of these are unanswered but intriguing questions.

The story feels like a logical continuation of Moore's dark vision.  Marionette and the Mime are creations of Johns, but they feel at home in Moore's world.  I cannot tell yet if the Mime is a character of genius of stupidity.  The scene where he gets his weapons from his locker is so odd that I honestly don't know how to feel about it.

Johns also does a good job of making the story feel like a political commentary without taking partisan sides.  In that way it feels relevant but not tied to this particular day.

I look forward to reading and re-reading this issue and dissecting all of its nuances in the future.  But I like the thematic debt that Johns is making in the beginning.  He is painting you a world of utter despair that seems to say something truly disturbing about human nature.  This is a theme that cannot be brushed off or ignored.  It must be answered. 

I hope that the rest of the series is that answer.

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