Deconstructing the Doomsday Clock #1

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Doomsday Clock #1

Many comics fans have been looking forward to this mysterious comics event ever since REBIRTH #1 came out. What older comics fans may not realize is that they've actually been waiting almost 30 years for this series, ever since Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons closed the iconic series WATCHMEN with the most loaded open-ending ever to grace the four-color pages. Would The New Frontiersman realize what they had in the mysterious package titled "Rorschach's Journal" or would it be tossed upon the trash-heap of crank rantings? And where exactly did Doctor Manhattan go when he spoke of his renewed interest in human life? (We have our own theories on that one!) 

Now we finaly get our answers as to what happened next. (Or might have happened next. As you know, there are multiple Earths, and whose to say there aren't at least 52 variations on the Watchmen universe?) Only Geoff Johns would be mad enough to take on the task, and only Geoff Johns could be mad enough to actually be up to it. Together with Gary Frank and Brad Anderson, Johns, who has managed to salvage both Green Lantern and The Flash from death and dead-end storytelling, is finally lifting the lid off the most hands-off Pandora's Box of all comicdom.

And it wouldn't be the first issue of a Watchmen series without opening lines from Rorschach's Journal. "But wait," I hear you say, 'Rorschach was blown to smithereens by Doctor Manhattan at the end of WATCHMEN!" True. Walter Kovacks is dead. But Rorschach is just an identity, and this one is watching the world come apart in late 1992, four years after the events of WATCHMEN, when, yes, Rorschach's original journal did indeed come to light and expose Adrian Veidt's alien invasion as a fraud. Now Veidt is the most wanted man in the world, having murdered 3 million people and injured thousands more. Robert Redford won the election, but seems to be used here more as an analog for Donald Trump than for Ronals Reagan, noted as Rorschach calls the sea of protesters "the undeplorables" who carry signs like "Make America Safe Again."

Rorschach is on a mission. To bring God back again.

Because without Veidt's lie to hold everything together, the world has fallen apart. Russia is invading Poland -- maybe. The news agencies are being shut down, replaced by the National News Network on every network. The sharp eyed viewers will see that the logo for NNN, first seen on page 5, is reminiscent of the "Nostalgia" perfume N, in triplicate, forcing me to wonder if Veidt isn't playing another game of distraction. It would ge drastically different if it is, as the U.S. is preparing to launch nukes -- not in days, but in hours.

So Rorschach has to hurry. His mission takes him to prison, to help break out Erika Hanson, aka The Marionette. But Erika has heard that Rorschach is dead, and fears this guy who once threatened to throw her down an elevator shaft. That's when we learn for sure that this is a different guy, and when asked to prove it, he dis-gloves, revealing an African-American hand. The new Rorschach thus could only be Dr. Malcolm Long, the psychiatrist who treated Rorschach while he was in prison and got sucked into his mindset.

Rorschach seeks her help, and offers the location of her son in exchange. But Erika has another price -- she's not leaving without her husband, Marcog Maez, aka The Mime. We meet him on page 12, behind bars. The shadow of the bars around his face give them the illusion of having been bent outward, as if by hand. The face is also familiar, perhaps made even more so by the shadows and wrinkles on his t-shirt, which are decidedly in the form of a stylized "S". But this isn't Superman. He's the Mime, a performance artist, and a deadly one. He never speaks, and in fact pulled out his own tongue to make sure he never could.

After many twists and turns, Rorschach brings them through a tunnel into Nite Owl's old hangar, where Archie still sits gathering dust, as does the old costume. But it's not Dan Dreiberg there to greet them, but Adrian Veidt, in full costume. For whatever reason, he needs Erika to help him find Jon Osterman, and before we leave this world we once again are reminded, "I'm leaving this galaxy for one less complicated."

And that's when we go to Metropolis. A copy of Walden Two on the nightstand, a costume over a chair, and a sleeping Clark Kent with his wife, Lois Lane. Clark is dreaming of the day his parents dropped him off at a school dance, and then drove off into eternity, struck by a truck and pushed into a tree. Right away, I'm suspicious of this universe. The last time I checked, Martha Kent was still alive. But a lot has happened during The Oz Effect, and a lot of players are on the table and off the table, with history suddenly fluid. It's almost as if someone is...editing the world on the fly.

Clark awakens from his nightmare, hovering over the bed, brought back to reality by Lois. She can't remember the last time he had a nightmare, and he doesn't think he's ever had one before. 

Fade to black.

There's a lot of setup here, and very little DC Earth-0, but there's a huge promise to fulfill with this. The 12-issue stage is set, the format is consistent -- they've even go the promotional posters set up in the same black-white-and-red style. And yes, there are the backup pages of newspaper articles. In this one we get The Great Lie headline from the New York Gazette, printed shortly before the building was destroyed for having printed the story, as well as an almost-missed article on the disappearance of the actual journal and what other secrets it might have contained.

When these events actually occur in conjunction with the timeline of the DC universe is not clear. Obviously there's a 25 year gap between the two. It's possible that Veidt and his team have been operating in the DC universe for that long undercover. We still don't know how the yellow smiley button of The Comedian got embedded in the walls of the Batcave, something it would seem only Doctor Manhattan could have done. But I'm sure we'll have more answers, and a ton more questions, next month when the second issue comes out.

4.5 / 5.0