What I thought of Doomsday Clock #2

DC’s Doomsday Clock started off last issue it provoked a strange reaction from the majority of comics media in that it was all strangely positive, though this series of articles by Chase Magnett made a great case against the comic while explaining the problems with it from  it from an ethical point of view. Thinking it’d be worth seeing how Doomsday Clock is developing I dipped into issue two.

We pick up with Ozymandias, Nu-Rorschach and Mime and Marionette. The latter two are a sort of generic Joker/Harley Quinn type of DC psychopath who seem to be here to show off how Geoff Johns can write ‘crazy and dangerous’, but in the verisimilitude of Moore and Gibbons Watchmen these would be characters who’d  be shot by the police but Johns has to build them up as ultra scary baddies even though this weakens Johns point that Watchmen was the well of all these characters. As said last time, in fact it was those trying to copy Moore’s prose and who only took the violence away from Watchmen that made the industry worse.

Anyhow we have a flashback to them raiding a bank, when Dr Manhattan’s shows up and doesn’t kill them because…

Yes, it does look as if Manhattan doesn’t turn them both into tomato soup because he’s clocking her tits out but this mystery is why Ozymandias freed the both as he searches for the missing Dr. in hope of saving the world and to do so they all pile in NIte Owl’s Owlship, Archie, which has been converted to follow Dr. Manhattan however the nukes have started falling.

Meanwhile in the DC Universe (I suppose all this is now the DC Universe) Bruce Wayne has some issue with Lex Luthor, as well as Gotham protesting Batman while Geoff Johns shoehorns something in he heard on the news.

The group makes it through into the DC Universe, and we find out Nu-Rorschach is Malcolm Long’s son Reggie.

We then get what DC have been wanking themselves into a fury to achieve for nearly 30 years as Watchmen characters walk the streets of Gotham City!

Nathaniel Dusk was a great series DC did back in the 80’s by Don McGregor and Gene Colan. Not content with dragging Watchmen through the mud, Johns drops this in here hinting (well, making an obvious bloody reference) to something important in the plot and dear god, this is all plot. Every page is dense plot dripping from the page with no time for characterisation or any form of subtlety which by the time we get to Lex Luthor and Ozymandias swapping cringe-worthy dialogue with each other has left the building.

That isn’t what people came for. They came to see Nu-Rorschach fight Batman!

Which is teased for next issue, but this issue features the return of the Comedian who shoots Lex Luthor, while the text pieces tell more about the backstory. No characterisation of course, just more big, bleeding, juicy chunks of plot.

All Doomsday Clock is, is plot. As an example of the sort of comic Moore and Gibbons were satirising in Watchmen, and what followed as lesser talents tried to ape the success of Moore and Gibbons.Doomsday Clock works as fan-fiction because lets all be honest here; that’s what this is. There’s no attempt to deliver a greater meaning outwith of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if X met Y‘ and while that can be fine, watching the industry cannibalise itself this way isn’t good.

Reason being that if you’re an up and coming writer, or any writer in any stage of your career with a Great Idea, and you happen to work for DC why the hell would you deliver it to them when you’re watching them dissect the work of the biggest writer in comics of the last 30 years? Doomsday Clock isn’t even a very good comic as I couldn’t care less about any of the characters on display. Nu-Rorschach is probably the most interesting as there’s still something to find out about him but Johns will flatly just deliver those revelations as plot points spelled out tediously on the page.

As an example of corporate comics unleashed, Doomsday Clock does what it has to. Here’s the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe. That’s it.It carries a pretence of trying to be something greater but as said, this is fan-fiction that has managed to give DC clout over its main competitor Marvel (who to be fair, are shooting themselves in the foot constantly) and make themselves lots of money which is the point of all this. So when you cheer on Batman and Nu-Rorschach fighting (or not) remember the purpose of this isn’t to create, but generate product to keep shareholders happy and people in a job who were running out of ideas.

What I thought of Doomsday Clock #1

There’s a song by Pulp called Bad Cover Version.

How it relates to Geoff Johns and Gary Franks’ Doomsday Clock #1 will become clear very, very soon but first a quick recap as to what Doomsday Clock is. It is the sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen. It looks like Watchmen, it has characters from Watchmen in it, and it looks like it in design but every page reminds me of how good Watchmen was and how much of an unpleasant aftertaste Doomsday Clock leaves.

Johns starts this as the world of Watchmen faces imminent nuclear destruction and as he throws out Moore-esque prose but something isn’t quite right. Moore told the story of Watchmen using the world as it may have been in 1985 and restricting himself to a world where costumed heroes were real and one superhero was the most powerful thing in the universe. In Doomsday Clock, Johns throws in 2017 references such as Brexit or the American president playing golf during a crisis (imagine if Moore had chucked in mentions of Thatcher and Reagan to make it really obvious) to spell it out for the reader because Johns doesn’t seem to trust the reader.

Hence the large chunks of Claremont-esque exposition such as above which means the story doesn’t unfold as a mystery (which is one of the many ways one can read Watchmen) but as conventional superheroics influenced by the post-Watchmen/Dark Knight ‘dark’ comics that poured out like a pissy golden stream from 1986 onwards.

This is the odd thing here. Johns has publicly said the entire idea of DC’s Rebirth relaunch is to flush the ‘dark’ comics introduced by Moore and Gibbons away for something more cheery, yet the problem with ‘dark’ superhero comics wasn’t Watchmen, it was from people like Johns trying to be Alan Moore and failing. It was the reams of imitators who read Watchmen and only took the grim stuff and violence (and compared to a book like Punisher or Wolverine it isn’t as violent) out of it and thought that’s what made it so good. It isn’t easy to forget or disconnect from Moore’s vision when this happens.

Rorschach was the most popular character from Watchmen but he’s dead, however fanboys want to see him fight Batman, so he’s back! But not quite.

The obvious candidate is Rorschach’s psychiatrist from Watchmen #6,   but he died in #12, unless of course Johns is going to make him not dead making his small human sacrifice in Watchmen pretty useless and Johns wouldn’t be that on the nose surely?

Oh…

Anyhow, this Rorschach is springing a jailbreak in order to try to find Dr. Manhattan who we assume, will then save the world from the aforementioned nuclear destruction but not before we’ve been treated to a few pages of the sort of stuff Johns seems to think Watchmen was about.

This seems to me to be Johns having his cake and eating it. There’s no real intellectual weight here, and Johns seems to be just throwing in things that makes it all feel Watchmany, but like a saccharine kiss it doesn’t feel true.

By the time we get to Adrian Veidt (complete with cat) acting like Dr. Evil and a brief taster of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the ‘proper’ DC Universe the idea of Watchmen as a complex, multi-layered book that can be read in many different ways is flushed away for the promise of Ozymandias and Rorschach fighting Batman, and Dr. Manhattan and Superman throwing planets at each other.

There’s a lot of good reviews of this quoting things like ‘it adds to the Watchmen universe‘ but that of course is shite. It didn’t need to have anything else said and if it did then why not try to do something original, new and different rather than be an imitation that’s got it all wrong?  Sure Gary Franks does a good job and as a simple superhero story this isn’t better or worse than many out there however why can’t Johns do some self-reflection and create something that deals with why superhero comics became dark, miserable and the home of ”fin-headed rape” as Warren Ellis once put it? After all in the 21st century he’s played a major part in making superhero comics what he’s now trying to correct and I’d be genuinely interested in seeing Johns test himself as a writer.

Doomsday Clock is not a test. It’s a bad cover version and a last desperate roll of the dice from a company devoid of ideas hoping to cash in on the last big thing it could cash in on. Sure, it may be devoid of an artistic soul and be the equivalent of an own-brand box of cornflakes but it’ll give a core of fans what they’ve fantasised over in some cases for decades.  There isn’t any reason for this comic to exist except to make money and give the impression that DC is still artistically challenging by wrapping itself up in the trappings of what Moore and Gibbons did but like any sad cover version it’ll let you down.