First things first - if you are an Alan Moore purist or if you have an unbreakable love for the original Watchmen story, chances are you are not going to be interested in this story. Much like you probably had no interest in reading the “Before Watchmen” stories (I have not read those stories myself so I don’t have an opinion on those). You might even be someone who just really prefers grounded and realistic stories like Watchmen, preferring to read stories that deconstruct the genre much like how Alan Moore did. If any of this sounds like you, chances are you aren’t going to be interested in this. But maybe there is a small chance what I have to say might make you curious enough. With that said, let’s dive in.
When it comes to “Watchmen”, I will be one of many people to say it as an epic story that transcends the medium it comes from. It is a story I still very much love today, one of my personal favorite stories. However, I will admit especially looking back on it recently, there are a few flaws. I have made a separate post that goes into more detail. While it does explore philosophy and real world issues, “Watchmen” is a cold story, one that presents a dark deconstruction of the superhero genre. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It could come off as a touch pretentious at times, but it still an important and relevant story even to this day. But…this has inspired the Dark Age of comics, a lot of new anti-heroes and dark stories that have really turned the genre itself into a depressing landscape. But those stories and characters that came afterword, despite how popular they became or how laughably bad they ended up becoming, did serve as a reminder that “Watchmen” is a story with a dark, cold, even pessimistic core.
In hindsight, it should come as no surprise that one of the characters that story created ended up being the one responsible for the New 52 of the DC Universe. Looking back on the New 52, it does seem like something that did come out of the 1990s.
But let’s get back to the present. When we return to the world of "Watchmen"in the first issue of “Doomsday Clock”, it is living in a state of anger and conflict that feels uncomfortably natural. New characters Mime and Marionette bring a dark glee to the world, similar to Joker and Harley Quinn, but the new Rorschach (Reggie Long) is a reminder of how dark and grim their world is. This reminder pops up again periodically throughout “Doomsday Clock”. Whether it is how Ozymandias talks to Saturn Girl or how Doctor Manhattan explains what he has been up to all these years, the pessimistic tone and logic is still there.
I wanted to start this off by talking about “Watchmen” and how dark and cold it can be because the tone of the original story is hugely significant in “Doomsday Clock”. Look, I am never going to say that we should never have realistic and grounded stories like “Watchmen”. They are needed, important even in this day when it feels like everything related to the superhero genre has over-flooded pop culture. Not only do these stories bring variety, but they do help some people get a better understanding of why people like superheroes to begin with.
But we also need the fantastical. The bright and optimistic stories. The stories that embrace everything that comes with the genre. Because those stories show even more why people love superheroes.
“Doomsday Clock” is both a tribute to “Watchmen” but also a critique. It respects Alan Moore’s story, reminds us that it is something that should still be talked about. But this sequel also shows the danger of what a dark philosophy and viewpoint of the world can bring, how it affects people. Doctor Manhattan is passive because for years he has been under the belief that he can’t change what is to come. He believes that there is no difference between a dead body and a live one. He has drifted away from what makes him human. Ozymandias sees himself as a hero, but is more like the madman Lex Luthor that he seeks help from in the beginning. The new Rorschach gives up for a period of time in the story because he believes that we should let the world burn in hopes of bringing all the pain and suffering to an end. But the heroes of the main DC Universe, and the writers of “Doomsday Clock”, have the perfect counter-argument:
You need hope. People can’t live, can’t truly live, without having hope that they can make the world better. That they can change things.
“Doomsday Clock” takes a look at both “Watchmen” and the Dark Age it had inspired and reminds us that heroes like Alan Scott and Clark Kent are what truly make the superhero genre timeless. They are the light that brings people to them like moths. A dark deconstruction every once in a while is fine, even eagerly welcomed. But to have that dark thinking become the dominant force will simply bring more despair to the world. When Alan Moore wrote his story, his world wasn’t a bright place. Just do a little research about his life and you can quickly see why he writes the things he does. This is not a critique, I still love many of his stories and characters today. Now, you can make an argument that our current world situation isn’t too different from how it was back when Alan Moore released “Watchmen” and you would most likely be right. But we don’t need another “Watchmen”. We need stories like “Doomsday Clock” to inspire and bring meaning to the genre we love, so that way we can be inspired to bring the same hope to the real world.
“Watchmen” is cold, dark, and ultimately pessimistic. “Doomsday Clock” pays tribute to everything that made it’s predecessor great, but this is a story of warmth, light, and optimism. And that is why this story is more than worthy to be known as a sequel to “Watchmen”. It respects it by keeping true to what that world was about, but it also brings something new by helping the characters naturally progress towards something brighter so that they can help shape their world for the better.
Due to how epic “Watchmen” is, I don’t think even the strongest supporters of “Doomsday Clock” will say it is as good as Alan Moore’s story. Partly because it suffered multiple delays, causing some interest to wane and for it to disconnect from the main universe it is supposed to impact (which will be rectified based on what I have heard about Death Metal). But maybe in time popularity for “Doomsday Clock” will grow and people can make the argument.
There are a few small flaws that I just want to briefly mention. I would have like it explicitly stated that Mime actually had invisible weapons. That’s what I ended up assuming, but it would be nice to have it stated in story. Manhattan’s predictions for what he sees in the future of the DC Universe (Time Masters and Secret Crisis for example) can very likely end up not passing, which is mildly distracting in the back of my mind. Perhaps if those stories end up not passing, we can say that they ended up playing out in a different universe that is seperate, but created by, the metaverse. Like mentioned earlier, the multiple delays have complicated just how connected “Doomsday Clock” is the rest of the regular DCU. Hopefully by the time “Death Metal” ends, that will be explained and fixed.
In conclusion, “Doomsday Clock” is still a very important story. It is a welcomed and sequel to “Watchmen” that pays tribute to it’s predecessor yet very much has it’s own story and opinions to share that make it different. I am very happy that I have finally gotten around to reading this story and I can only see my opinion for this story strengthen over time.