In Review: Doomsday Clock #4

There are a few moments that move the story forward, but the majority is built on character building.

The covers: A pair to pick up, which suits the two different realities that Rorschach seems to be living at once. The Regular cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson shows a plate of seven pancakes piled high with a fork in front of it. The syrup on the stack resembles that of Watchmen‘s face changing hero Rorschach. A cool idea for a cover and it works as the first panel for this issue. Frank and Anderson have also created the Variant cover which has Rorschach walking calmly away from a building that’s exploding in flames. The character can’t be clearly seen, given the light source is behind him, but those clothes are clue enough to know that this character is Rorschach. Overall grades: Both A

The story: This issue is a huge step up from the previous issue because it focuses on one character, Rorschach. The hero from another dimension was brought by Batman to Arkham Asylum last issue and definitely belongs there. Geoff Johns has this installment begin with him seeing a plate of pancakes, but it slowly gives way to reality: an empty plate in a prison food line that’s hit with a scoop of lime green slop. Behind him is Zebra-Man (Talk about your obscure villains!) who offers the young man protection if he becomes the villain’s property. The first flashback begins, with young Reggie Long witnessing the first nuclear test of the U.S.S.R. This parents are in the room, with his mother worried about the state of the world and his father trying to reassure her all will be well. In the present, he’s attacked by Zebra-Man and his goons, while Mr. Freeze watches from his own cell. Back in the past, his father is revealed to be the psychologist who evaluated Rorschach when he was in prison. Back in the present, a mosquito flies into a bug zapper outside Waylon Jones’s cell. Reggie looks at the dead insect as it hits the ground, the microscopic droplets on the custodian’s mop catch his eye. This issue goes back and forth between past and present, following Reggie’s birth to Rorschach after the horrific events of Watchmen‘s climax. He’s assigned his own psychologist, who has a great reveal, and he befriends a man who has a tie to the original Watchmen. He eventually makes his way to Adrian Veidt and there’s some violence and a conversation. I didn’t like how Ozymandias was portrayed. It seemed out of character. That said, I did enjoy the person who assists Reggie with his escape from Arkham. This character justifies why Reggie was so concerned with the past. More of that character, please! Also helping this issue was the lack of the Mime and the Marionette. Overall grade: B

The art: Gary Frank continues to use the nine panel page layouts that Dave Gibbons used on the groundbreaking series and combines the panels into larger ones when something major occurs. Pages 2 and 3 have three panels that take up the space of two smaller panels to show the setting and provide a transition between the past and the present. When Reggie suffers an attack on 7 all three panels give a bird’s eye view of his horror. My favorite image of the issue is the large panel on 11: it’s insane and beautiful. The last time panels are combined comes on the penultimate page to reveal the true identity of a character. The dialogue gives away what’s being shown if the visual clues aren’t enough. Other fun panels are the third and fifth on 10, the smiling character in the shadows in the sixth panel on 14, the progression of panels on 18 that show the change has now become complete, the middle three panels on 27, and the character reveal on 28 — I so want her to get a lot more focus in this series! I’m at a loss as to what the final four panels are supposed to represent, save the Rebirth event. If it’s supposed to be something else, I don’t get it. Frank’s mirroring of Watchmen’s layout is good, with his own creations inhabiting the panels. I’m liking the visual, I just wish the story was as strong. Overall grade: A-

The colors: The colors by Brad Anderson assist the art in transitions of time and location and punch up several emotional scenes. The top of Page 2 is a television image in black and white, instantly dating the image to the past. The bright lights outside the Longs’ apartment create a classic city at night feel. The lack of the television picture backlighting Reggie in the sixth panel tell the reader that there’s been a jump in time. The reds that take over at the bottom of 7 recall a scene from Moore and Gibbons’ classic. Page 9 is set outdoors late at night, but Anderson doesn’t make it and the next two pages swallowed in darkness, instead using different shades of gray to create the night. The oranges and yellows on 21 and 22 are well done, adding to the realism of the art. These are contrasted by 24 – 27 when whites and metallic blues appear. Another good job is coloring Rorschach’s narration balloons in yellow, just as they were in the original series. Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s text by Rob Leigh contains Rorschach’s narration in its own unique font, dialogue, Zebra-Man’s slightly different dialogue, screams, yells of frustration, the story’s title, newspaper text, and the text of the closing quote. Rorschach’s narration is the same as in the original series and continues to match this incarnation’s demented nature. Zebra-Man’s speech is slightly italicized, providing another visual difference from other characters. The yells and screams are large and punctuate the story. A decent job, though nothing new visually from the original series. Overall grade: B- 

The final two pages: Letters from the friend that Reggie makes in prison comprise the closing pair of pages. They’re interesting, but they’re building a character that I’m just not interested in. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A stronger installment than previous issues due to its focus on Rorschach. There are a few moments that move the story forward, but the majority is built on character building. That’s fine, but I’m more interested in how this series restructures the DC Universe, not in building familiar characters. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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