Comic Book Review: Doomsday Clock #4

Doomsday Clock #4 Cover - Art by Gary Frank - DC Comics

“Millions died because of Veidt’s nightmare.”

Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias, made a choice that would affect millions. Dr. Manhattan made a choice in not stopping him. Rorschach made a choice to take necessary precautions. The sequence of events that led to those decisions is the story that is considered the greatest comic of all time: Watchmen. Doomsday Clock #4 is the next entry in Geoff Johns’ pseudo-sequel to the original work of Alan Moore. With Gary Frank alongside him, Johns is more than equipped to tell a fantastic story. Every page is filled with a compelling story; every panel is filled with eye-catching art. But this issue slows the pacing down to explain one mysterious character: Rorschach.

Any reader will know that Walter Kovacs didn’t make it through the previous Watchmen story. His morals and scruples became the quake that tore Veidt and Manhattan’s plans asunder. But here is this brand new character, this new Rorschach. Doomsday Clock #4 decides to take things slow on plot to give a few answers about the new vigilante. But is it entirely necessary? Not really. Reggie was just as compelling when he was mysterious. A little bit of information goes a long way. But too much information is a different problem entirely.

“I tried to gouge out eyes. Seeing the dead.”

One of the highlights of the original comic remains so in this sequel: grizzly, old superheroes. Johns is just as talented at Moore at showing the realistic side to the future of a superhero or villain. The sad and misunderstood life of someone who tried to do good, and failed. Embarrassing themselves along the way. That’s what made the first Watchmen so compelling. The idea that even though he didn’t have powers, Rorschach was the most moral of the entire group. He was the most heroic because his ideals kept him up at night. Made him keep working.

Doomsday Clock #4

But that was all expressed in the inner-monologue of the character. There was only a few scenes about what happened to Kovacs as a kid to demonstrate why there was so much hate. Maybe a quarter of the pages that encompass Doomsday Clock #4 were dedicated to the origin of Kovacs in the first story. But Geoff Johns gives Reggie, the new Rorschach, an entire issue all to himself. And unfortunately, he reveals an entirely unsurprising connection between Reggie and the first Watchmen. 

Many fans and readers will be elated with another connection between Doomsday Clock and the original story. If only it didn’t feel so forced.

“I visualize it. I picture it right up here.”

Gary Frank and Brad Anderson need no introduction. Just like Ivan Reis and Jim Lee, their styles are almost synonymous with DC at the moment. If Geoff Johns is writing something you can expect Reis and Frank are somehow involved. But Frank is tasked with an even more difficult job: following in the steps of Dave Gibbons. Gibbons’ work in the original Watchmen was somehow both classic and satirical. Dramatic and clear. Luckily, Frank’s work is all that and more.

The disgusting and filthy world of Watchmen is beautiful in the hands of Gary Frank. Colorist Brad Anderson knows just how to fill in the furious emptiness of the pages. The world comes to life with this vibrant shimmer of awful, highlighting the dark themes at play in the mature side of DC Comics. While the story isn’t as exciting or action-packed as previous issues, there are quiet moments that stand out. Frank is able to take something humorous and make it existential; to take something violent and make it ridiculous. That isn’t something easily done for even the best comic artists. But Gary Frank makes it look easy. No one knows if Doomsday Clock will be as highly regarded as the previous story, but it is every bit as gorgeous.

The Verdict

Doomsday Clock has been a worthy sequel to Watchmen, so far. Geoff Johns knows just how to paint the Alan Moore-created characters into the typical DC Universe. But Doomsday Clock #4 is a bit of a detour. It takes a break from the overall plot of the story to focus instead on the identity of the new Rorschach. However, this detour feels as if the story is answering a question that no one asked. Every previous issue has hinted at or directly mentioned why this “Reggie” character took up the mantle of the deceased hero, Walter Kovacs. But Doomsday Clock #4 goes into details and reveals why Reggie was already connected to the Watchmen story. It’s interesting and well-written, but it doesn’t serve the overall story. Instead it feels like a forced connection between a story and character that no one wanted.

But Johns is still a great writer with an interesting script. He gives the artist more than enough beautiful imagery to realize on the page. Readers will dwell on more than one panel. Realizing that they haven’t read nearly enough stories drawn by Johns’ regular collaborator, Gary Frank.

Doomsday Clock #4 is another great comic by these two legendary artists. But without enough plot or justification to its story, it’s more filler than killer.

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