Deconstructing the Doomsday Clock #2

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When I reviewed the first issue of DOOMSDAY CLOCK, I gave it a bit of a gush. After all, this was my favorite limited series coming into contact with my favorite universe. How could I not be giddy about it?

That review was written by Doctor Jekyll. Mr. Hyde's come to play now, so let's open up the second issue of DOOMSDAY CLOCK and rip it a new one now, shall we?

Upon opening, Marionette is putting on her costume, while we watch her in alternating flashbacks rob a bank with her husband/partner The Mime. It gets a little tough to tell that it's in the past after a bit, because it switches to full color, and it's only when the bank robbery is interrupted by Doctor Manhattan -- in his speedos-wearing era -- that we get jolted back to the notion that this is still a flashback vignette. As we see this, Rorschach is questioning Veidt's motives for breaking the two out of jail. Rorschach would have rather they recruited Juspeczyk, but Adrian fears that Doctor Manhattan, presuming they find him, might be upset by seeing the Silk Spectre be with Nite Owl. Veidt believes that Marionette provides a touchpoint to Manhattan's past that would be less jarring. However, this seems to be a rather flimsy reason, and there's some subtle "between the lines" reading that can be done here. Consider: the bank robbery scene focuses on the teller's photo of her son. Marionette soon seen again holding a photo of her son. The flashback ends with Doctor Manhattan pointing his finger at The Mime (who's pointing his "invisible gun" back at Manhattan). Marionette throws herself between them, declaring that Manhattan can't kill him without killing her. Which, of course, he's prepared to do. But then he pauses, and we hear -- in light-blue text boxes, indicating the text is Manhattan-specific, while not necessarily his words or thoughts: Babum. Babum. The focus is on Marionette's midsection, and we know as Manhattan does that Marionette is pregnant. He doesn't kill either of them, and in the present Rorschach wonders why, given the body count in the bank robbery and how Manhattan had blown away lesser criminals.

So Veidt thinks that this moment of humanity might spark something in Manhattan, if they can find him. And at that moment, the nukes are in the air and a missile is coming down on New York. We can see the protestors in the street as oneshouts out, "Look! Up in the sky!" which of course is another callout to the Superman mythos. It's a race for Veidt, Rorschach, Marionette and Mime to get onto the Owlship. Veidt apologizes for not having installed additional seating (as Nite Owl had similarly done, way back when) because he'd been so busy installing a "quantum tunneler." Veidt has deduced that Manhattan's appearance is blue because he's leaking electrons, and that trail can be tracked.  But while he didn't have time to install seats, he had a spare moment to hook up the quantum tunneler device to one of the buttons on the owlship dashboard, and give it an inked icon -- the hydrogen atom.

On the street, people are being blown to atoms -- the bomb has hit, and the owlship shifts out of phase just in the very nick of time.

We fade from the ink blotch on Rorschach's mask to a very real Rorschach inkblot test, being administered by a man in a brown jacket, bowtie and green sweater vest. This is an obvious callout to the tests administered by Dr. Malcolm Long to the original Rorschach after the vigilante had been captured and incarcerated. But in this scene, it's a psychological evaluation being given to Bruce Wayne, and all Bruce says he sees are different kinds of boats, even with the last test very blatantly looking like a bat. This scene lacks the impact of the original, because each test then brought forth a memory that the reader could then visualize, whereas here we just get three in succession and have to make our own conclusions (yes, the second one is quite definitely young Bruce in the alley crying over his dead parents). After the exam, Lucius Fox reminds Bruce that he failed this exam seven years earlier because of his honesty, and that he does so now because the board has required an "annual test for insurance." That same board is poised to vote against Wayne and sell his company to Lexcorp. The subject then turns to Batman, because such a sale would reveal all the "side projects" that Lucius has worked on for Bruce. Gotham City is currently in a very decidedly anti-Batman mood, with the streets lined with protesters looking very much like the protesters we just saw in the Watchmen world. They don't want Batman, and we don't really learn why until we get to the end of the book and start reading the supplemental materials. We do get a nice parting shot when Bruce leaves to hunt down the at-large Mad Hatter: the Bat Signal reflects off the clouds, and suddenly it has eyes as the yellow lights of the owlship shine through, the owlship then crashing to the ground and coming to rest in an abandoned amusement park. (There's always an abandoned amusement park in Gotham, or Scooby-Doo.)

Inside the ship, Veidt is the first to recover before rousting Rorschach to consciousness. Awakened, Rorschach's first instinct is to kill Veidt until Veidt brings him fully around by calling him by his name: Reggie.

So who is Reggie? We already know from the first issue that the new Rorschach is African American. There were two prevailing theories of identity that naturally followed. The first was that the new Rorschach might have been the comics-reading kid we saw throughout WATCHMEN. But his name was Bernard, so now he's out. The second, and the one that made more sense, was that the new Rorschach was Malcolm Long, since he'd had insight into Rorschach and we saw him starting to see the world through the same filter as Walter Kovacs. I cannot find a "Reggie" in the original WATCHMEN series, which means this character is a new one. And if it's a completely new character--why should we care about him? At least with Mime and Marionette, the characters have been made intriguing, even though they're made up whole cloth. When we see them passed out on the owlship, they are both laying very much in the "Thomas and Martha Wayne" death position, which makes me wonder if we should expect more from the son they're trying to get back (the whole reason they've agreed to help Veidt in the first place).

To ensure the two criminals don't go anywhere, Veidt handcuffs them to the ship, then gets his new Bubastis clone, explaining to Rorschach that she's not just a pet, but "the compass." Outside the ship, Veidt and Rorschach explore the streets. The world isn't much different than the one they left, leaving Rorschach to wonder if they went anywhere at all until he sees an ad for a Nathaniel Dusk marathon, starring Carver Colman. The narrator of the advertisement impresses upon us that the actor Colman was murdered long ago in a still-unsolved case. To learn the most about this world and this city, Veidt takes Rorschach to the library, where he identifies the world's two smartest men for help: Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor. I guess now we know who put Mister Terrific, Michael Holt, into third place. Veidt suggest they split up, with Veidt taking the smarter of the two -- Lex Luthor.

So we find Rorschach breaking into Wayne Manor, finding a foil-covered stack of pancakes waiting for Bruce from Alfred. Well, we know from the first issue how much Rorschach/Reggie loves his pancakes, so he sits down and eats them before noticing the foil cover on the ground disturbed by a draft. He gets up and investigates, and is led to the grandfather clock that apparently still lets in a draft from the cave below. One would think the second smartest man in the world would know how to put up a basic draft guard. As Rorschach descends the stairs to the Batcave, we are given some flashback scenes to the fight Batman had with Mad Hatter and the Tweedles, leavin gthem waiting for the police, their mise en scene compared immediately to the second Rorschach test Wayne took earlier. To drive the point home, the third panel in that display is the Wayne murder scene once again. Then Rorschach trips a laser sensor, alerting Batman to his presence.

Let's go over to Lexcorp for a while. Lex is leaving a lab, firing all his scientists on the way out. He vows he will end the world before he lets Bruce Wayne win. So much for his obsession with Superman. He mutters this to himself as he passeas by a series of waste chutes, labelled with yellow triangles marked with symbols for "atomic," "nuclear," and a skull and crossbones. Entering his office, he finds Veidt waiting for him. Lex calls for security while Veidt tells him why he's there. Meanwhile, on the owlship, Marionette asks Mime if he brought his "lockpick." He mimes pushing one out of his mouth, and then holds up an invisible pin. She smiles. There's something either decidedly paranormal about Mime, or something decidedly insane about Marionette. Given the death tolls they leave behind, it could be either one.

Luthor laughs at Veidt's stupidity after Veidt explains how his plans on Watchmen-world went awry. But Veidt says he knows Lex's ambitions, and if they work together he can help him achieve them.  Then we take a quick cut to the Batcave, as Rorschach examines the trophies there, chiding whomever lives there for keeping trophies like some kind of serial killer, not able to let go of the past.

Then another quick cut to Lexcorp, where Veidt narowly misses a gunshot, one that strikes Luthor instead. There in the doorway, impossibly, is Edward Blake, done up in full Comedian gear. He declares that this time he's ready for Ozymandias. And in the Batcave, Batman stands facing Rorschach, with the threatening exchange:

Batman: You ate  my breakfast.

Rorschach: Yeah. I did.

Shudder.

One final panel: empty handcuffs. Mime and Marionette are free on this Earth.

But what is this Earth? The whole attraction point of the series is that it's the Watchmen universe intersecting with the DC Universe. But other than Veidt, the characters from the Watchmen universe are all new people whom we have never met. And in the DC Universe, the events we see happening are not happening anywhere else in the DC books, and they're definitely events that ought to be shaking up the entire publishing line. We don't really understand that, however, until we read the news supplementals in the back pages, presented as a browser scroll. It lays out the theory of the rise of "The Supermen Theory." It appears there's a conspiracy in this DC Universe that all of the metahumans that have appeared after Superman came from Krypton are the result of a government program to embue people with powers, then present them to the world as superheroes and supervillains so that they can be "nukes hidden in plain sight." The examples cited are Rex "Metamorpho" Mason and Kirk "Man-Bat" Langstrom. It's an interesting theory, and if true (as it's being stronghly hinted that it is) could have a huge impact on the DC universe. Imagine -- what if every secret origin we knew other than Superman's was a lie, a fabricated tale made up for the public to cover the fact that they were all -- heroes and villains alike -- actually government agents? That would be one hell of a story, and it should have ramifications in other titles. The fact that it doesn't--and my tingling Spidey-sense that it won't even after DOOMSDAY CLOCK--tells me that this DC Universe isn't the one we really know and love. It's a replacement one, much like the replacement Rorschach. And if that's true, then why should we care about any of it? If it's not going to have a "real" impact (in the sense of the DC Universe being "real"), what's the point? I want to trust Geoff Johns, who has seldom ever gone astray when taking on a big DC Universe project, but I'm going to need something in issue three to solidly anchor this series to standard DCU before I can invest any more of my interest.

 

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0