By Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh
Doomsday Clock #4 is the best parts of Watchmen. Johns, Frank, Anderson, and Leigh have condensed the meaty, metaphorical aspects of the series and cut the tiring fat by allowing the art to breathe more. More than that, Johns’ treatment of the new Rorschach is reverential to the original. The two characters are bound together similarly to the original Watchmen series and this new one; the newer one learns from the older and grows into something equally good, if not better. Frank’s layouts and overall style pull from the original as well. There are plenty of nine panel grids along with the occasional six panel with a larger seventh panel. Flipping through the pages is nostalgic, but actually taking them in is addictive.
In this issue, the Rorschachs’ relationship is revealed, giving an origin story to the newer one while maintaining the mystery of the original. The events of Watchmen and their impact play a big role here, as readers are pulled back into moments they might have forgotten. Johns’ writing style balances this narrative with textless pages as well as panels with almost as much text as art. It harkens back to the Moore’s deep writing in its thoughtfulness, but allows for breathing room. Where Moore’s Watchmen style is Thanksgiving dinner, especially in the much-needed nap afterwards, Johns’ Doomsday Clock style is a spaced out five course meal. It’s filled with just as many awesome moments, but is quieter.
The glue between the writing and the art is Leigh on lettering. He gives the two aspects of the comic the space they need while highlighting the most important parts. The path through a panel forces readers to pause and look at what’s happening rather than simply skimming over one or the other, much like Watchmen did for many readers.
Frank and Anderson together are a masterful team. Their style is not only definitively comic book, but contemplative. Johns is able to back off because they take control of some of the issue’s most memorable scenes. Rohrschach’s visceral emotions seethe off of the page, whether he’s fighting physically or mentally. Holding a man at knife point is dramatized to great effect over three panels as the shot approaches his face more and more. His companion’s arc is as powerful as it is because of the scenes when Frank’s weary figures meet Anderson’s emotional colors—but the coup de grace comes in the issue’s final panels.
Doomsday Clock is undoubtedly the worthy successor to Watchmen, and this issue is proof of that. The team’s united reverence for what the graphic novel stands for in the medium is abundantly clear in the story’s history and artwork. Each page turn or panel layout not only evokes familiar scenes, but uses the style effectively. This series is only on its fourth issue and it’s already just as powerful as the first. Some might even say it’s better.