Now that I’ve had a bit more time to digest Doomsday Clock #1 I find myself in a strange place. It isn’t Watchmen 2. Not really. I didn’t want it to be necessarily, but a little part of me was hoping for one more hit of “wow I’m reading Watchmen!” It doesn’t deliver on that, but it still has a soul. It’s not a cash-in… At least not completely. And that puts me in a weird spot as an advocate for creator’s rights and as an advocate for comics being viewed as a legitimate artform.
Let’s get this out of the way: Geoff Johns’s writing is far too obtuse to grasp Moore’s rich tapestry of drama, deceit, and domino masks. His characters are a shallower and his sense of pacing prioritizes spectacle over mood. It just doesn’t stand up to direct comparison in that way. The situation with Doomsday Clock is more like a younger painter referencing an older painter’s work by appropriating subjects and compositions in a new painting. It doesn’t change what the old painting was or what it stood for, but it does change the context in which it exists. It is now part of a direct lineage of art which could easily continue on in some form, for better or worse. Michelangelo’s Pieta will always be the benchmark against which all other Pietas are measured. Young sculptors may see that Pieta and want to make their own take on it, but it will always be a reaction to – and often an appropriation of – Michelangelo’s work. Same goes with Watchmen.
Doomsday Clock is the second appropriation of Watchmen to use its characters and the third in the last decade by DC (not counting Rorschach’s appearance on a cover of Countdown Arena since he didn’t appear in the book). Instead of Morrison’s love-hating pastiche or Before Watchmen’s misguided sentimentality, Johns opts for an atemporal direct synthesis of Watchmen and the genre which it irrevocably changed. This decision comes with certain requirements. The first issue of Doomsday Clock establishes a connection the reader should have with the original. I believe it is impossible to comprehend it without having read Watchmen. Obviously this is all based on one issue of a 12-part series, but I believe Doomsday Clock is a valid entry in Watchmen’s lineage.
Of course all of that is put into stark relief when one considers the ethical concerns of a massive corporation screwing one creator out of his rights for decades and then using his characters without his consent. Though he refused DC’s new deal in 2010, Moore still has a right to be angry.
I don’t know if I can judge any one part of Multiversity better than any other. Morrison essentially presented me a sampler tray of my favorite superhero things in equal portions. Pax Americana is probably the best constructed issue of the series, though.