Even though Doomsday Clock is now on a bi-monthly release schedule, my anticipation for each chapter hasn’t waned. In fact, it has grown due to the delay increasing anticipation of each chapter. The fifth chapter arrives today and it will quiet naysayers who have complained there isn’t enough change in regards to the DC universe. Prepare to see a glimmer of how this series will change the DCU.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Comedian lives! The Mime and Marionette loose in Gotham City! Rorschach is locked in the bowels of Arkham Asylum! Secrets will be revealed as the Doomsday Clock ticks on…
Why does this matter?
After last issue, which focused exclusively on Rorschach, this issue does a lot of the heavy lifting to set in motion the big ideas that’ll bring conflict to the doorstep of our main characters. So far writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank have done a good job laying the groundwork of who these Watchmen characters are now and explaining how and why they got into the DC universe. Now it’s time to see what all these pieces mean.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
As is customary of this series there’s a lot of content in this issue — possibly even more than usual this time. That’s due to the 9-panel layout structure used nearly on every page, but also the heavy use of dialogue. One may call this an exposition-heavy issue with characters as insignificant as Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White informing the reader of what is going on in the story. That adds value to the overall experience, making this worthy of two or even three read-throughs.
This issue manages to progress a huge geopolitical change in the world along with smaller plots focused on Batman and Johnny Thunder. The book transitions between global tensions and local ones which keeps the book moving along well enough. It all builds to a rather huge idea of super-powered characters seeking asylum (and what that would mean as far as the temperature of a potential world war with such power consolidated in one area).
A key to this series working requires it to bring real world issues into a superhero world and this issue continues that tradition. A key scene involving Ozymandias, for instance, has him relate superheroes to the growing concerns and political dangers afoot. Shouldn’t characters like Superman and Batman be more involved when dictators rise? The revolving door of locking up supervillains is discussed and there’s a strong argument made in regards to the DCU characters not getting anywhere. Then there’s the asylum question which mimics the original series in an interesting way (the growing collection of power in one area typically creates hotheads and war talk), which should be fun to track as the series progresses.
Gary Frank continues to dazzle on art, getting to show off a few new faces and some key scenes with fan favorites. The acting of these characters is stellar and there are times I’m in awe of how well Frank can capture a moment of fear or confusion in a character that strikes such a strong emotional chord. There’s a beauty to the details he manages to fit into these small panels, some of which are bound to be Easter eggs for fans to find. That adds additional value to an already dense and thought provoking series.
It can’t be perfect can it?
That heavy exposition I mentioned before certainly does a lot of telling, forcing the story to slow down and not visualize what is being said. One could argue the geopolitical stuff is hard to show and not tell, but it still manages to pile up in a way to slow things down. This is a table setting issue to be sure and it has me wondering what the reading experience will be like when collected. As it stands, the first four issues, if you consider them to be the first act in a story, spend much of their time establishing the main players and getting them in position. This fifth issue appears to be kicking off the real conflict of the narrative which in hindsight might be too late, though it’s too early to really tell.
Is it good?
This issue does a lot of heavy lifting for the benefit of the bigger story, establishing the seeds that’ll create a global conflict worthy of a Watchmen sequel such as this. I’m 100% on board with this series, but if you were having your doubts I can’t see this issue winning you over. That said, there are plenty of thought-provoking moments that’ll draw you in making the two-month gap between issues all the more hard to bear.
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