“Rorschach’s Journal. October 12th, 1985”
That is the first line of the famous Watchmen limited series of 1986. It follows a group of heroes in an alternate 1980’s as they uncover a conspiracy after one of their own is murdered. The story, written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons, has been universally acclaimed since it was released. Accolades such as being put on Time‘s List of the 100 Best Novels and having BBC calling it, “The moment comic books grew up.”
Since its conclusion in 1987, it has been hinted that it had no ties to the DC Universe, despite DC publishing the book–that is until a year ago. On May 25, 2016, DC Universe Rebirth was first released, hinting that the Watchmen would crossover after 30 years. After the Batman/Flash story, The Button, it was revealed the next part of the story would be Doomsday Clock. This is the comic that DC Rebirth was building towards. The world of Watchmen and the world of the Justice League are about to collide.
This issue is the perfect way to start the series. You get interesting characters, questions that you want answered, and a plausible reason for these two worlds to collide. The moment you open the book, you get yanked into the story by the setting alone. Writer Geoff Johns masterfully adopted the style of Moore’s work and put its own twists to it.
Johns’ expert use of visual storytelling perhaps is the single most prominent aspect of the story. There is exposition of this world littered in the first pages, but within lays clever storytelling. We learn almost immediately of what happened in the five years after Watchmen ended. Not through word, but through pictures. Things such as newspaper headlines, riots, and reports on Ozymandias. It’s visual elements like this that that quickly help the reader re-engage with the world of Watchmen. Don’t expect to read through this issue once, however. I have read through the issue three times and I’m sure I missed a few references along the way.
Unfortunately, this visual storytelling has made me realize a problem. What about the people who haven’t read Watchmen? There are plenty of nods and references to the old series, which could leave some confused. Not everyone knows who Ozymandias is or what he has done. One could argue on why would anyone read a Watchmen sequel without reading the original. When the story is promoted as the next chapter in DC Rebirth’s overarching story, more readers will come expecting it.
There are a lot of talented artists in DC’s arsenal, but I can’t imagine anyone else but Gary Frank to cover this series. Frank, who has worked with Johns on several projects in the past, shows us why he’s one of the best. His dark yet realistic style, seen in Batman: Earth One, brings the gritty earth of Watchmen to life. The level of detail to every character makes them appear as if you’d see them walk off the page.
The color work also helps in complementing Frank’s art. The darker colors set the tone of the world, as well as making the characters stand out. The more vibrant colors of the book are only used as sources of light to help shadows stick out more.
I enthusiastically recommend this story, especially if you are a fan of the original Watchmen. Fans of only the DC Universe might be a bit disappointed, but the story has enough to get readers invested. The art helps the story by setting the tone and making the world haunting. If you have to pick up any book this week, pick up this one. The clock is ticking.