“Nothing ever ends, Adrian.”
Time’s running out. And there’s only so much longer the universe can wait for the inevitable meeting between the DC comics mainstays like Superman and the gritty creations of Alan Moore and Dave Gibsons’ much-celebrated 1985 maxi-series, “Watchmen.”
And Geoff Johns knows exactly how to play this story and these characters, so we may as well sit back and enjoy the masterstroke of DC’s contemporary golden boy.
When you crack open Doomsday Clock #1, if you’re familiar with everything Johns must juggle in this Herculean task, you’re going to be hit with a series of emotions. The first page in this first-of-twelve-issue-series is quite exposition-heavy, and touches on the raw nerve of our current political discontent with the help of all-too-real vernacular and the beautifully brutal pencils by Gary Frank.
It’s immediately clear that this will be unlike anything Johns has produced for DC before. It’s even possible for longtime fans of Johns’ writing like myself to wonder if this is going to work, because Johns’ strength lies in concise dialogue and he’s spent his whole career essentially shrugging off any expectation to match his writing style to anyone else. Therefore, it’s very jarring to see Johns attempt to emulate Moore and even throw in shades of Frank Miller’s equally iconic “The Dark Knight Returns,” which simply goes hand in hand with Watchmen in terms of tone and timing.
So, you can be forgiven for finding this initial dive into the world of Watchmen derivative and hollow at first, but, dammit if Johns isn’t extremely self-aware, because he leans right into this like Superman putting a shoulder into a powerful locomotive. Just when you think to yourself, “This isn’t going to work,” Johns has you, makes you realize he’s right there with you, then takes you down a Wonka-esque ride of emotional uncertainty and sensory stimulation.
Johns and Frank are always aware of what they’re doing, leaving no panel unwasted, in tribute to both the works of Moore and Gibbons as well as their own resolve and respect for their craft. Johns spends just enough pages on necessary homages before making this world his own and handling it through the lens of someone who picked up the original story decades ago and has grown up dogged by the notion that the comic book medium peaked before a whole generation was given a chance to take the reins of it. Frank lends his flair for realism and expression while walking the delicate tightrope of comic book storytelling, where upon one must balance fitting just enough on one panel to justify its existence before moving on to the next, with ensuring the precious space one panel uses is proportionate to its weight in storytelling gold. Both of these master creators succeed wonderfully, particularly Johns, who quickly goes about finding the right chatacters to flesh out his vision and in his particular style.
In essence, Johns writes this tale like only he can: As the ultimate fan and as the writer with the essential thesis to justify this concept that some shot down in its infancy.
Johns knows just how much to give us to leave us hurting for the next issue. And even that pang in our hearts is merely one more tick on the Doomsday Clock hurtling towards midnight.
It’s coming, and there’s nothing we can do about that.
4.5/5 – Only because I’m a greedy geek and I’m a gluten for punishment.