(May contain spoilers to both Watchmen and Doomsday Clock No. 1)
In 1986, DC Comics released Watchmen, a limited 12-issue graphic novel series. Created by a British collaboration of writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins, the series shied away from the traditional, more kid-friendly, comic book and focused on more pressing social and political issues in both an explicit and mature fashion. The characters in Watchmen have flaws and battle personal struggles in a way Moore and Gibbons use to deconstruct the idea of being a superhero.
If you’re not familiar, the story takes place in an alternate 1985, one where the United States has, thanks in part to its superhero contingent, won the Vietnam War and Richard M. Nixon is still president – though masked vigilantes have been outlawed. When a regulated being with god-like powers, Dr. Manhattan, decides to leave Earth, the Cold War intensifies and Russia threatens nuclear elimination. With a world on the brink of destruction, one of the retired superheroes, The Comedian, is murdered in his home and a string of murders then takes place against those who once kept New York City safe. Now, several younger contemporaries – including Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Night Owl II and Silk Specter II, all of whom are battling their own flaws and struggles – look to figure out the culprit.
Watchmen’s theme and storytelling has been the subject of conversation since its inception, as it was seminal in reshaping the comic book landscape for the better. Quickly, the comic book series became one of the best-selling of all-time and, almost 23 years later, Warner Bros. adapted the story to film. But, since it was a limited series, Watchmen was done and after some legal difficulties with one of the creators, it seemed as though a sequel would never come to fruition. Five years ago, however, DC Comics did revive the story for a sting of prequel comic books, focused on the influential characters for a short four-to-six story arc on each – and it was titled Before Watchmen. With no tie to the original writer and artist – though John Higgins would return for a brief stint – the series was met with mixed reviews from fans and reviewers, who felt the prequel was unnecessary and, while some admitted that the artwork gave the same feel as the original, the accompanying storyline was lackluster and contradictory of the original – especially how the Minutemen were portrayed as good-intentioned.
Despite the miscue of the prequels, fans still wanted a Watchmen sequel, which seemed very improbable at that point – until DC announced Doomsday Clock in May of last year. The sequel, much like the original, is a 12-issue series that will be released over the span of about a year.
Knowing full well that Moore, the genius behind the original story, would never add a sequel to the Watchmen story, the comic book giant found a group that would. Written by Geoff Johns, with art from penciler Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson, Doomsday Clock fits right into the DC Rebirth, which was implemented to help restore the DC Universe to a much more simplistic and recognizable form. More importantly, the series will introduce Watchmen characters into DC Universe and vice versa – meaning, in all likelihood, some of the company’s greatest superheroes will be woven into the storyline.
Doomsday Clock No. 1 begins seven years after the events that took place in the original series and focuses on the fact that Ozymandias’ plan for peace was thwarted thanks to the details in Rorschach’s journal, which was published in a story on the seven-year anniversary of that destructive day. Because of his actions, Ozymandias is now the most wanted man in the world but the United States has bigger problems – like trying to force Russia to withdraw its troops from Poland. We are then introduced to the new Rorschach, whose background is explained, given that his skin complexion is much darker than that of Walter Kovacs, who died at the end of last series. In the Watchmen timeline, superheroes have essentially been passed down, as Nite Owl wasn’t the first Nite Owl and the same with Silk Spectre. He’s in a prison looking to bust out an inmate, at which point readers are introduced to some new characters.
The issue ends with Clark Kent and what could very well be foreshadowing. Just seeing Superman’s alter-ego sprinkled into the end was likely enough to get fans excited for what might lay ahead. We know we were.
WHAT WE THOUGHT
Johns and Frank seemingly reassure readers that they are fans of Watchmen too and that they’re looking to remain true to the story, while capturing everything that made the original such an incredible – and pivotal – comic book. The political references in Doomsday Clock No. 1 fit perfectly with undertone of the franchise, while remaining relevant to what is happening in today’s society – just like Moore and Gibbons did in the late 1980s. The artwork is well done and still gives the feel of the original, though it’s much more elaborate, but it feels just as gritty with, perhaps, a splash more color. And don’t worry, the nine-panel format remains the same.
While the story moves at a slightly glacial pace, the issue is laying the foundation and setting the table for what readers might expect in the upcoming issues. Would we have liked it to jump right in to Superman squaring off with Dr. Manhattan – absolutely? But first we need to know what the world is like in 1992, thanks to the way Ozymandias left much of the United States’ eastern coast. Johns and Frank grasp the ideology and qualities of the characters, especially Rorschach – a person different than the original character, who still manages to fit the tone and carry himself in a believable fashion.
Doomsday Clock No. 1 feels remains loyal to the original subject matter and has all the makings of a quality sequel, one that might just become another classic. Either way, take comfort in knowing that, while it took nearly 30 years for a sequel, it was well worth the wait. Hold on for the ride.