By Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Brad Anderson
The minute hand moves ever closer in Doomsday Clock as the mini-series reaches its halfway point. In this issue, the origin of Mime and Marionette takes centers stage. Meanwhile, in the present, the Joker leads the duo to a secret meeting of DC rogues and, as one would expect, things start to heat up…
Watchmen used several of its issues to chronicle the backstories of its main characters and Clock is clearly emulating that technique with its narrative. It’s nice to see that Geoff Johns and the rest of the creative team aren’t just homaging in a superficial way. It all feels organic within the context of the story they’re trying to tell and bring an intricacy to, in this case, the antagonists. Most of the character development done in Watchmen was focused on the “heroes,” (excluding Adrian Veidt) so it’s a fascinating spin on that convention to shift focus of an entire issue to villains .
Johns continues his sharp storytelling with parallel cuts between past and presents scenes that inform each other and transition almost seamlessly. He has a passion and talent for breathing life and bringing complexity to characters some would just allow to fall to the wayside, and that elevates Doomsday Clock immensely. Mime and Marionnette, who appear to be part of a subplot (who knows, they may end up playing a larger role), are made to feel as if they are two of the main players in this story. Their tale, though made to seem from a time gone by, feels timely. Being socially/politically conscious is important to the legacy of Watchmen and Alan Moore’s writing, so it’s no surprise that Geoff Johns has incorporated this type to text into into this work, more so than most of his previous work.
What really sells the heavy backstory of these two is Gary Frank and Brad Anderson’s artwork. Frank continues to accel at delivering detailed, deeply impactful facial expressions and gestures that portray the intended mood/emotion for a scene and/or character. The first page is a clear and perfect example of how his technique can convey so much. The storytelling decision to use many close-ups in the panels is genius. It drives the affecting nature of the material home consistently and incredible well. How he is able to bring such depth and detail to small panels continues to baffle. Other artists are implementing the nine-panel grid structure and don’t quite reach the level of quality that Frank continually delivers to readers.
Brad Anderson is a fantastic partner in crime because he allows Gary Frank’s pencils and inks to shine through. It’s not simply a touch-up though. Anderson adds a true level of texture and sense of space to every page. His style of depicting lighting and showing it affects an image is a key example of this marvel throughout this issue particularly. It grounds the heavy content and heightens every scene. The profundity in Brad Anderson’s work is clear and deserves as much attention as Frank’s work on this book.
A wonderful surprise in this issue that showcases the talents of all the creators involved in the book is villain summit. It allows Geoff Johns to write for characters he loves and show the audience that he can nail the voice for basically any character in the DCU, even with just a quiet cameo or cutaway. The scene also provides Gary Frank and Brad Anderson the opportunity to realize so many iconic characters. Whether it be the Court of Owls, the Riddler or Captain Boomerang, it’s pure fan-service, which works well against all the drama.
Six issues in and Doomsday Clock continues to arguably be the best comic published by DC Comics. Each installment leaves readers wanting more and the wait between issues (every two months) is almost excruciating. When it finally arrives, though, it’s almost always worth the wait. There is so much effort, detail, thought and heart being put into this comic by basically industry all-stars that it shouldn’t come as a surprise how good this issue and the rest of the mini-series is, but it still finds a way to do just that.. and that makes all difference.