Comic Review: ‘Doomsday Clock’ #1

DC’s Rebirth collides with the world of Watchmen…

 

Spoiler-free review

Doomsday Clock #1

When universes collide: Gary Frank’s beautiful variant cover for DC’s ‘Doomsday Clock’ #1.

Written by:  Geoff Johns / pencils and inks by:  Gary Frank / colours by:  Brad Anderson

What’s it about?

In an alternate 1992, as the U.S. is on the verge of nuclear war, the vigilante ‘Rorschach’ sets about assembling a team to save the world…

In review

Here it is – the much mooted (perhaps feared) collision of the current DC Comics universe and the alternate world of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s undisputed and eternally celebrated series Watchmen.  First teased in last May’s DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and touched upon further in the brief Batman/Flash crossover “The Button” from earlier this year, Doomsday Clock #1 begins the culmination of one of the most daring projects DC Comics has ever attempted to tackle.

The first chapter of a twelve issue maxi-series, Doomsday Clock #1 is both a beautifully constructed homage to the original Watchmen and a worthy successor.  There could be no better creative team to bring this story to life, Geoff Johns – DC’s premier writer – and Gary Frank – one of the most exciting artists working in comics today – (both of whom have collaborated before on the critically acclaimed Superman stories “Secret Origin” and “Brainiac”) are a match made in heaven.  Whilst this first issue takes a slow-burn approach that doesn’t immediately thrust the narrative into the impending conflict between two universes, it’s a welcome one as Johns takes the time to immerse the reader in the gloomy dystopia of the world created by Moore and Gibbons and remind us of those elements that made that particular series such a masterwork, it’s simple, yet effective panel construction, focused dialogue and narration and political and social commentary faithfully replicated.  It’s seven years since the end of Watchmen as we follow Rorschach (who of course died…so how does he exist here? You’ll have to read to find out) as he seeks to assemble a new team to once again save a world that’s still under threat from crime, international conflict and a U.S. President driven by ego and his own interests (Johns’ substitution of President Redford for Trump being glaringly obvious).

The writing is great and the strong, cinematic visuals are the icing on the cake, Gary Frank’s realistic and detailed layouts enhanced by the rich and moody palette of Brad Anderson’s colours.  It’s a comic that looks and feels like the true Watchmen sequel this is, as for how things tie into the main DC universe, Doomsday Clock #1 provides a small but significant taste of what’s to come…we yearn to see the inevitable confrontation between Superman and Doctor Manhattan but good things come to those who wait and Geoff Johns clearly wants to take us on a journey and one that has the potential to become a modern classic in its own right.

The bottom line:  A gripping and compelling read, Doomsday Clock gets off to a strong start thanks to a phenomenal creative team.

Doomsday Clock #1 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Comic Review: ‘Batman’ #21

DC Comics’ greatest detectives open the casebook on the mysteries of the DCU’s Rebirth…

Spoiler-free review

Written by:  Tom King / pencils and inks by:  Jason Fabok

What’s it about?

“The Button” Part One : Batman enlists the Flash to aid in his investigation into the mysterious smiley button found in the wall of the Batcave…

In review

Almost a year on from DC’s relaunch initiative under the now iconic (and for the most part creatively successful) Rebirth banner, one of its most tantalising mysteries is about to be explored in “The Button”, a four part crossover playing out across Batman and The Flash.

For this opening chapter, writer Tom King takes a simple and steady approach to a slowly unfolding narrative that spends a chunk of its page count depicting a violent brawl between Batman and a returning villain long thought dead.  If this sounds like a criticism, it isn’t, as Tom King masterfully eases the reader in to a story that answers little about those lingering threads from Geoff Johns’ triumphant DC Universe Rebirth #1 but manages to remain non-the-less intriguing whilst setting the stage for what’s to come.  If there’s any concern at this point it’s that four issues may not be long enough for this particular arc, given the potential ramifications it may have for the overall DCU.

As regular DC Comics readers will know, DC Universe Rebirth #1 established a startling and enigmatic connection to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal masterwork Watchmen, the discovery of a certain blood-stained yellow smiley button embedded in the Batcave wall leaving the Dark Knight Detective with the promise of the most challenging investigation he’s likely ever to face.

Tom King (whose run on Batman is only getting stronger) makes good work out of a minimal narrative, throwing in a few shocks and surprises that help hold the reader’s interest through to a feverishly good cliffhanger.  King realises that the strengths of Batman #21 lie in its visuals – so thank the stars Jason Fabok is on hand to provide the art here.  Fabok has been sorely underutilised since Geoff Johns’ pre-Rebirth run on Justice League wrapped and it’s a real treat to see his meticulous, powerful and lavish layouts on show (Howard Porter will certainly need to up his game for The Flash issues), particularly during those pages in which Batman fights for survival against his opponent, whilst the Flash speeds his way through a fight of his own (King proving he has a good handle on the Scarlet Speedster in these moments as he dashes and quips his way through the action) before racing to the Batcave and into the heart of this mystery.

To say too much specific about Batman #21 would spoil the fun but it’s rewarding to see this story have ties to not only the DC Universe Rebirth special but also to DC’s earlier continuity twisting and New 52 birthing event, Flashpoint and of course, Watchmen, which King and Fabok pay homage to with some nifty panel construction that’s pleasingly reminiscent of that classic piece of work.  Although it may seem there’s little narrative progression in Batman #21, it’s via these connections that it actually offers far more than casual readers will appreciate but still provides enough visual thrills to keep any comics fan happy.

The bottom line:  Tom King delivers an intriguing and surprising opening to “The Button”, made all the more enjoyable by the exciting visuals of the stellar Jason Fabok.

Batman #21 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Batman #21

Jason Fabok’s incredbile art adds to the excitement of DC’s ‘Batman’ #21.

Comic Review: ‘DC Universe: Rebirth’ #1

A note on spoilers:  whilst this review avoids discussing specific plot details, there are inevitably some minor spoilers.

Written by:  Geoff Johns / pencilled by:  Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Phil Jemenez

What’s it about?

Something isn’t right…one man’s journey through time and space will set events in motion that will change the universe as he knows it forever…

In review

This is it, the moment that the DC Comics brain trust has been planning for and the readership nervously awaiting…the new dawn of the DC Comics universe.  Taking its lead from the fallout of Superman #52 and Justice League #50 (concluding the story arcs The Final Days of Superman and Darkseid War respectively), DC Universe: Rebirth #1 facilitates a new beginning for the DCU that seeks to reconcile elements of the rebooted ‘New 52’ continuity, instigated in 2011 by the Flash-centric event Flashpoint, with remnants of the ‘old’ universe and coalesce them into a fresh and cohesive whole.

As the title of this 80-page one-shot suggests, this is not a line-wide reset in the vein of the New 52 but is simply a refresh that restores a sense of optimism that many readers felt had become diminished by the darker and generally more downbeat storytelling of recent years.  Who better to entrust this great task with other than DC Comics’ star writer and chief creative force Geoff Johns?  Johns’ love for this universe and its players has already been evidenced via his efforts in the now iconic Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth mini-series, proving his ability to focus sharply on character relatability amongst epic backdrops (he even made an often-riddled DC hero cool with his short-but-sweet run on Aquaman for the New 52).

Told from the perspective of the original Kid-Flash/Flash successor Wally West, Johns deftly weaves together the strands of multiple aspects of the DCU and with some careful tweaking helps to reshape, or perhaps more accurately realign continuity in a manner that doesn’t dismiss the New 52 but reintroduces elements that have felt missing, including some key character relationships that were all but wiped out post-Flashpoint.

With the DCU befalling to numerous universe destroying events and resets over the last thirty years or so – from Crisis on Infinite Earths to Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint – it’s commendable that Johns has managed to skilfully balance past and present with both reverence for legacy and mindfulness of the future, the only issue being that it hampers accessibility to a certain extent.  Whilst it’s still possible for new readers to enjoy the book it’s ultimately enriched and enhanced by a deeper understanding of overall DC Comics history (and will likely hold more punch for the reveal of who we learn is actually responsible for ‘meddling’ with the universe).  It’s a celebration of that history, which also serves as a swansong – at least for now – for Johns as he spearheads the development/re-adjustment of DC’s film universe.

John’s script is emotional, nostalgic and epic in scope and DC Universe: Rebirth is brought to life by top artists Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Phil Jemenez (with the support from various inkers and colours by Brad Anderson and Hi_Fi).  Each has their own particular style yet work in unison to provide the book with relative visual consistency across its four chapters and epilogue and it certainly looks great where it needs to, rich and detailed throughout.

Through the course of the book’s chapters are a series of vignettes featuring characters such as Batman, the pre-Flashpoint Superman, the Atom and Blue Beetle that help set the stage for what is to come and more of which should be revealed in the various forthcoming character specific Rebirth one-shots.  Yet, in the end, it’s Wally’s story that both holds everything together and serves as the catalyst for what lies ahead.  Although his journey through the Speed Force is a tumultuous and emotional one, it’s its conclusion that conveys the overall message that DC’s Rebirth promises: hope.

The bottom line:  Together with a team of top artists, Geoff Johns presents a celebration of the past with hope for the future to usher in an exciting new dawn for the DC Comics universe with the emotionally charged and epically realised DC Universe: Rebirth.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is published by DC Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Cover art for 'DC Universe: Rebirth' #1 by stellar artist Gary Frank.

Cover art for ‘DC Universe: Rebirth’ #1 by stellar artist Gary Frank.