A 31 year old comic book series has been brought back to life…
Not too long ago DC Comics started their Rebirth line of comics. It’s as the name implies which means there’s new problems behind every corner that our superheroes turn. Things started to pick up with the Batman and Flash crossover comics(only 4 issues long) which leads up to the real meat and potatoes. Something no one has ever thought would happen, yet everyone wanted it to happen. That’s right my friend, DC Comics incorporated The Watchmen into the DCU.
I won’t spoil the story for you, because this particular post isn’t about what’s happening right now. I want to dive into the backbone of this particular story arch. The reason why is because if you’re a comic book fan, or you’re looking to get into reading comic books you’ll need to read The Watchmen series. It’s 12 issues long, but the way it’s written could potentially make it feel like it’s a bit longer than that – I’ll get to that point in a second. After comic-con here in NYC, the geniuses behind this new story arch gave those who attended a bit more information as to what’s going to happen without revealing anything of substance.
This new story is called The Doomsday Clock. Would this story be broken up into other comics like all of the other stories? Absolutely not! Geoff Johns was pretty clear, if he was going to helm this project it had to be exactly like the watchmen. It had to be 12 issues long, all one story, and it wouldn’t cross over into the other character’s comics. You wouldn’t believe how happy I was to hear that, especially since these companies pretty much force you to buy different comics just to continue one story. It’s ridiculous!
Anyhoo, I was with a close friend of mine and my girlfriend(Emily) and we were talking about reading this story and how exciting it would be. Fast forward to a couple of months later and my girlfriend surprised me with the complete volume of The Watchmen. I was so excited I started reading it almost every night after work when I got home. Oh my goodness this series has such an amazing beginning, it makes you want to keep reading it. I would talk about it often with Emily and she would just smile at the mere excitement I was experiencing.
This comic takes place in the year 1985. Without giving too much away, just know that Nixon is president at this time and there were some real world parallels being drawn. This book is gritty, it’s dark, it’s unforgiving and sometimes(depending on how messed up your humor is) it’s even funny. This book feels like an exact representation of it’s time and it’s setting, which is New York City(best place on Earth. Yeah I said it). Some of the characters do have real world situations that are a part of their past. Just like every other superhero, it’s what makes them…THEM. This story takes place over a few decades predating the 80’s but the writers execute the illustration of what’s going on perfectly in that regard.
Onto the characters in this lovely story. First up is Walter Kovacs a.k.a. Rorschach. A guy with a backstory so messed up it almost makes you want to cry. Besides the explanation about his childhood, they tell you that he’s very smart. But somehow he talks in incomplete sentences which can best be described as short-hand note taking. He’s really cool but gets a bit annoying after a while. Him being a bad-ass sort of makes up for it because of that raw element he brings to the series.
Next up on the list is Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl II. You can think of him as a much, much softer Bruce Wayne/Batman and also a bit nerdy. I compare him to Bruce Wayne because he’s also rich(not as rich as Bruce). Which is how he’s able to have all of the gadgets and crazy things you see him with in the comics. Given the design of his costume and his backstory you can see how this would make sense. To be completely honest there’s nothing really special about this guy, and he’s not an original superhero. He took up the mantle of Nite Owl from someone else – which brings me to my point from earlier. The backstory for Nite Owl comes from an autobiography from the man named Hollis Mason who was the original. Nite Owl II doesn’t really have his own interesting story and the autobiography has absolutely nothing to do with him. So for me, why give so much detail about the original and not make up something good for the 2nd Nite Owl?
Then there’s the love interest that doesn’t really stand out but she ends up being a main character anyway. Laurel Jane Juspeczyk a.k.a. Silk Spectre. She doesn’t necessarily have a troubled past but she’s a bit messed up because of something that turns out to be directly related to her, and it’s a bit creepy. She has both mommy and daddy issues, which is a factor because her mom, Sally Jupiter was the first Silk Spectre. All of this tends to make her the unstable character out of the bunch…second to Rorschach.
And then we have Edward Blake a.k.a. The Comedian. The only real backstory on this guy is he started out on the original team of superheroes with Hollis Mason and Sally Jupiter. Besides that there really isn’t much to him. As you go further into the story you’ll see what he has done in the past and why he matters on a small scale regarding the overall plot. He’s a pretty messed up guy and a little bit of a mental case. Despite all of that he was still considered a hero but wasn’t a likable guy among his teammates. His views on fighting crime differed vastly from the others except for Rorschach…once again.
Next up is someone who is considered the smartest man in the world. In this universe it was actually proven as a fact, so there’s that. His name is Adrian Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias. Adrian is pretty interesting because his backstory is the polar opposite of everyone else. He was born into wealth, gave it away to charity when his parents died at 17 years old and started traveling the world, specifically following the path of Alexander The Great. His travels are part of what inspired him to be a superhero. He later became a self made multi-billionaire by using his super hero persona to make and distribute action figures, and also by making very smart investment decisions.
Last but not least, the grand daddy of them all, the big kahuna, the only one with some real power, Jon Osterman a.k.a. Dr. Manhattan. This guy right here is literally THE ONLY ONE with a super power. Everyone else are just people playing dress-up.
An experiment that was scheduled to happen in some kind of container activated and locked him in. There wasn’t a way to get out so he ended up getting fried, and later on becoming Dr. Manhattan(this is the really short version of it). The comics show all the things Dr. Manhattan can do, for instance make things levitate, take them apart with his mind, and instant teleportation to anywhere he wants! He can also see the past, present and future all at the same time, which has drastically altered his thinking. He started out fighting crime on the team and then later ended up working for the government. This little tid-bit is a key factor in the story as well.
ON TO THE STORY
Everything was going great, and then I started to have some issues. The story started to die down and the comics were filled with somewhat useless pages that ended up being explained later on anyway. I know the writers wanted to give some context and a little background info on the origin of some of the characters but the level of depth to convey it was unnecessary. To the best of my memory, this started to happen somewhere around issue #4. One issue that really sticks out is the introduction of another comic book within this comic book. The comic book has something to do with pirates and it begins with someone reading it, whose being spoken to by the newspaper vendor, while a bunch of stuff is going on at the same time. What happens in this comic book doesn’t seem to be relevant to anything that’s happening with the real world(real world= watchmen universe). It feels completely random, and even toward the end the comic book it doesn’t seem to draw any parallels to what has happened.
The characters…as fleshed out as the writers tried to make them, just weren’t. Hardly any of their backstories were interesting or made you feel for the characters except for Rorschach and Laurie Juspeczyk, and that’s only because of her mother. Then there’s a little part involving Rorschach going to prison that would’ve been the perfect way to really make this guy shine. Instead they wasted it on the stupid comic book about pirates. Literally a good 4 pages was wasted. Don’t believe me? Go and check for yourself!
The monologue and inner thoughts from Dr. Manhattan are bland. I get it, since his accident his entire way of thinking changed, and it’s because of his new abilities. Jon tells his own backstory and bounces around all over the place. One minute he’s in the 1950’s and the next minute he’s in the 1960’s, and then jumps forward to the 80’s and then back to the 50’s. It’s frustrating because he goes back and forth throughout his entire back story. They make Laurie out to be the helpless victim in this comic even though she’s supposed to be a superhero. There is one part where she goes up against a gang with Dan and they of course come out on top. But that’s about it really, she starts off as Jon’s love interest and the soon after becomes Dan’s love interest. That whole situation was just bizarre to be honest.
It starts to hit the climax to where you think there’s something huge going down towards the end, but it just fizzled out very quickly. Dud. Flat soda. Chicken with no seasoning. A burger without the ketchup and one pickle from Burger King. Unsatisfactory. Maybe it’s just me being bitter because as a comic fan I expected much more and now as I’m thinking back on it, I’m starting to feel like I wasted my time. Hopefully things will be much different in The Doomsday Clock now that the DC superheroes will be involved.
Emily had once told me the writers, when speaking of this piece of literary work, this critically acclaimed garbage(I’m really just being bitter), they said something about everything in the comic being connected. The things you’d look over and write off as small and insignificant actually have meaning and once you’re finished you’ll realize it. I’m going to take a break from it and maybe re-read it now that I have a better understanding, and hopefully re-approach this with a new perspective.
I would personally give this series a 5/10 comic books(that’s my new grading scale). It is something that’s required to read and understand The Doomsday Clock so I would have to suggest you to pick it up or rent it if possible. In addition, I tried to give an honest review for you without spoiling anything at the same time. Once you read it then things will start to really fall into place and make sense for you. If you’ve read this already, how do you feel about the characters? Or the story for that matter? Is there something that I’m missing? Please comment below and share your thoughts!