Everything comic fans knew about Watchmen has changed, with Doomsday Clock #1 launching the sequel series into the DC Universe. The mentality that modern writers and artists shouldn't 'mess with the classics' meant DC had an uphill battle from the moment the comic was announced, having previously expanded Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's universe and characters with their Before Watchmen line of origin stories. But after reading the first issue of Doomsday Clock, it's clear this saga from Geoff Johns is going to be its own animal.
The publisher and writer have dealt with the skepticism or outrage head on, confirming almost immediately that Doomsday Clock was a certified Watchmen sequel. That means that not only is the story going to be explaining the mystery at the heart of DC's Rebirth/Superman mystery, but continuing the narrative Moore created with his iconic work. That means the return of Rorschach, a return to the doomed timeline of the fictional 'Minutemen' - and as Johns has teased, a Watchmen/DC team-up fans can't even imagine.
The first issue of Doomsday Clock arrives in stores on Wednesday, November 22nd, with spoiler-filled coverage and reviews embargo-ed for now. Fortunately, we're allowed to offer some spoiler-free reviews of the story, the tone, and most importantly, just how successful Geoff Johns and artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson seem in continuing the Watchmen legacy.
It's not a task easily undertaken, knowing full well that the Watchmen creators are less than excited about Doomsday Clock. But in the first issue, the DC storytellers make a surprising impression. As revealed in Doomsday Clock's first six pages, Johns sets himself the challenge of capturing the voice of Rorschach as originated by Alan Moore - not as an imitation, but a reminder of the kind of cynical, stark, and strangely humorous tone of the masked Minuteman.
While specifics on the story have been kept under wraps - and will remain so until release day - fans should know that Doomsday Clock is truly a continuation, not a retread, nor a sensational re-imagining of any key Watchmen plot points. Set in the future of the original graphic novel, Doomsday Clock shows a world even worse off. The world's nations may not be standing any closer to the brink of nuclear obliteration than in the first story, but with Ozymandias's scheme from the original story exposed, Dr. Manhattan's words have proven prophetic: nothing about Watchmen's story ever ended.
It's into this landscape, one heavily influenced by current world affairs (or current as of ten months ago), that Rorschach now steps on a new mission, setting out to answer a greater mystery - perhaps the greatest mystery that the Watchmen universe has to offer. He's not doing it alone, and it won't just be returning favorites from the original graphic novel joining him. The first issue is clearly bent on establishing the premise and world in which Johns's story will take shape, but it's nevertheless integral.
More issues will be need to discern just how scathing Johns and Frank's political commentary will be (and if it will do for our current society what Moore and Gibbons's did for their own), but it's a hard tease to resist. The world has changed since the first Watchmen intrigue, and with 1992 a key Doomsday Clock setting, it may be the final pages that keep readers scrambling until Issue #2 drops. Again, no spoilers... but Johns has promised to explain the Watchmen's role in Superman's Rebirth mystery, and he's wasting no time.
Skeptics may not be completely won over with Issue #1, but it's hard to imagine many will refuse to see a bit more of the mystery - which may be a victory in itself. Johns has earned the benefit of the doubt already, while Frank and Anderson attempt to create a visual style that... well, doesn't step on any of the many potential landmines in so high-profile a sequel. The result for all involved is a Watchmen sequel that refrains from 'copying,' or even imitating Moore and Gibbons' work. While still feeling like a return to the world of Watchmen.
That's for the time being, when the line between the world of the DC Universe and that of Rorschach and Ozymandias is only starting to blur.
Doomsday Clock #1 will be available Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017.