The world of Watchmen and the DC Universe have collided. Will either survive the experience? And… is that Johnny Thunder? Your Major Spoilers review of Doomsday Clock #5 awaits!
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: May 30, 2018
Previously in Doomsday Clock: Rorschach’s journal has been discovered, and the world of Watchmen is on the edge of destruction. To try and stave off nuclear war, the new Rorschach and a few friends have set off to find the missing Doctor Manhattan, which has brought them to the DC Universe. The last issue gave us the origins of the new Rorschach, Reggie Long, who is currently trapped in Arkham Asylum… or at least, he used to be.
SATURN GIRL IS IN PLAY
Rorschach has been busted out of Arkham by Saturn Girl, while Adrian Veidt lies in the hospital, sedated after trying to murder Lex Luthor. Breakouts are the name of the game in this issue, though, as Veidt breaks out of the hospital and a one-hundred-and-two-year-old man breaks out of his retirement facility to make his way to Pittsburgh to find his friend’s magic lamp and save the day. This would all sound like a particularly wild delusion, were the man in question not Johnny Thunder, once of the Justice Society of America. As for Veidt, he returns to the Owlship he used to cross the dimensional barrier, only to find that Batman has already read Rorschach’s journal and knows quite a bit about him already. As for the Mime and the Marionette, they’re seeking out The Joker, thanks to being poorly treated in one of his clubs. (Apparently, wearing makeup in a Joker establishment is instantly punishable by death?) All the while, the world of Doomsday Clock #5 continues to fall apart, with ominous sabre-rattling by the governments of the world and the threat of war hanging over everyone, a situation so grave that Luthor himself agrees to work with Lois Lane to help stave off annihilation.
MORE THAN JUST A SEQUEL TO WATCHMEN
The previous issues of this series have had a weird timelessness to them, with Veidt and company explicitly coming from the early 90s. This issue cements that Superman, at least, is sort of current, referencing Jon Kent during Clark and Lois’s attempts to make sense of what seems to be a government-sponsored effort to discredit superhumans. Weirdly, though, the mix of characters and the tone of the story feels very much like 80s DC, with a return of Pozhar and a new People’s heroes featuring characters mostly extant during 1987. Even a sequence involving Batman (outsmarted by Ozymandias and deposited in the middle of an anti-Batman riot in Gotham) feels eerily reminiscent of the ‘Legends’ miniseries, where something similar happened to Robin. Gary Frank’s art has me of two minds in this issue: On the one hand, it is intentionally designed to emulate Dave Gibbons work on Watchmen, and is remarkably good at showing quiet moments like a sequence in The Daily Planet or a couple of nurses discussing Veidt’s terminal cancer. On the other, his characters still have the wild-eyes that are so problematic in his works, making everyone look like they’re inches from strangling you. When we’re talking about The Joker or the clearly dangerous Mime, it’s one thing. But Perry White should not look like he wants to stab you.
BOTTOM LINE: BUT ALSO LESS
Still, Frank has the skills necessary to make all the scenes work, and the use of a (mostly) nine-panel grid makes it feel like we’re getting more story than many modern comics. Doomsday Clock #5 has many parallels to Watchmen #5 in structure and art, and compared to the previous two issues, we get some significant plot motion and incident, with Frank providing strong visuals, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s interesting to see the Justice Society and Legion plots that have been simmering since Rebirth in play here, and it makes me wonder what the end game of Doomsday Clock actually is. Could it be something as world-changing as the end of the original Crisis or of 52?
I don’t know that I’ll ever been 100% sure that this series was necessary (a long and drawn-out argument that others have articulated better than I could ever have and which rehashing won’t undo the decision to make this book) but the creative team is bound and determined to do their best work to make it sing…