WatchmenWatchmen by Alan Moore
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Modern comics events seem to demand endless lead-ins and spin-offs, and sadly Doomsday Clock, from the blockbuster team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, is no exception to this trend. Watchmen, the extended prequel to Doomsday Clock, feels wholly unneccessary to 2017’s much-anticipated DC Rebirth (TM) event. For a start, it’s not even by Geoff Johns – how big a clue do you need that DC see ‘Watchmen’ as simply a cash-in? The storyline has been farmed out to a British writer-artist team who are given the task of introducing us to the universe which will “collide” with the DCU in this winter’s mega-event.

It’s an important job and one which might have been suited to a special issue or even an annual-length story, but no – DC had to drag things out to 12 long issues – for comparison purposes, the Death Of Hawkman (in which Hawkman dies) was only alotted 6 issues. Watchmen includes several issues focusing on characters who don’t even survive to take part in Doomsday Clock! And don’t get me started on the sequences set on yet ANOTHER part of the DC multiverse, where pirates still rule the waves – yes, it’s a cool concept for an alternate Earth, but an editor should definitely have stepped in and asked for a bit of clarity.

In general the editorial reins are rather lightly held on Watchmen – for all the criticism Mr DiDio has received for interference, it’s a certainty he wouldn’t have made the basic mistakes here. While Dr Manhattan is clearly Superman and Nite Owl is Batman, it’s very unclear who each of the various Justice Society analogues (the ‘Minutemen’) are meant to be. If this DCU veteran couldn’t follow it, what hope does a new reader have? Also at no point is the membership of the Watchmen clearly delineated, and the team never really come together to solve the threat – an attempt at a clever bait and switch which goes sadly wrong in the hands of this inexperienced creative team.

The threat itself is handled marginally better, though aside from a couple of cool spreads the stiff artwork can hardly stand comparison to previous DC events like Blackest Night and Forever Evil which set the highest standards for realism in superhero action. A little more variation in page layout wouldn’t have hurt!

The story is along the lines of Identity Crisis (a comic those curious about Watchmen should investigate for a REAL universe-shaking interrogation of the superhero form – it’s strictly for adults, though). A hero lies dead and his fellow crime-fighters have to investigate – but might one of their own be responsible? Quicken the pace and introduce some more action and you might have a tense storyline here, but instead the writer is too busy showing off all the backstory he’s worked out for this universe, and there’s a LOT of backstory. I only hope some of this stuff pays off in Doomsday Clock because otherwise it’s yet another rookie error by creator and editor – SHOW DON’T TELL GUYS. If I wanted pages of prose I would read a novelisation. All this background simply obscures the story beats: the creators could learn a lot from modern storytelling in my opinion. Apparently the writer has already vowed never to work with DC again, and frankly it feels like they’ve dodged a bullet. I can’t imagine they were queueing up to work with him after this.

So overall Watchmen is a dud, with no recognisable DCU heroes appearing, and fans of Doomsday Clock should probably save their money for some of the awesome variant covers I expect to be announced. Only a couple of things save Watchmen from being a complete turkey – HERE BE SPOILERS I guess! The squid monster at the end is very cool, though once again a pretentious storytelling decision to cut to AFTER the fight against it lets the comic down. And there is one character who stands out from the rest – a badass hero called Rorschach who is absolutely driven to hunt down evil with zero, and I mean zero, compromise. He gets some extremely cool scenes and if he shows up in Doomsday Clock – which looks unlikely but keep your fingers crossed – expect Johns and Frank to crush it. In the right hands this guy could be a serious breakout star.

But on the whole this is a rip-off and yet another slap in the face to fans. It’s so different in style and substance from what we expect from an epic DCU story in 2017 that it’s almost impossible to see how it’s going to connect to Doomsday Clock. In Johns We Trust – but this is his toughest job yet.

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