One of my favorite things in music is when a band that I like covers a song by another band that I like. A band doing another band’s song is usually pretty fun, but having knowledge of both the original and of the remake adds an extra layer of enjoyment for me. I can compare and contrast the two and pick up on the things that the covering band is doing to make the original song their own. That’s the key thing, too; it’s fine to cover a song and make it sound exactly the same as the original, but the really special covers are the ones that take an already great song and make them even greater. Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails comes to mind. Iron & Wine’s cover of “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service. The Flaming Lips released an entire album covering “Sgt. Peppers,” and have performed the entirety of “Dark Side of the Moon” in concert, both with their own unique spins.
Doomsday Clock #1 feels like Geoff Johns & Gary Frank doing a really good cover of an Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons comic. This isn’t the first time this has happened – the “Before Watchmen” miniseries were rife with it. Full disclosure: I only read the Minutemen and Silk Spectre minis from that event, and it was definitely more prevalent in the Minutemen series. That series was written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, and he took the framework that Moore & Gibbons provided and combined it with his own incredible storytelling abilities to produce a series that both paid homage to its source material and in some ways surpassed it. Being set decades before the original Watchmen miniseries also went a long way towards helping that series stand on its own.
From the outset, Doomsday Clock is very clearly a direct sequel to Watchmen. The events of the original, and Ozymandias’s ultimate plan as it played out in the final issue and a half of that series, loom large over everything in the first issue. Frank’s art is a perfect visual companion to Gibbons, and Johns does a masterful job setting the stage of what the Watchmen-verse has become since last we saw it in the opening pages before diving head-first into the story he’s set out to tell. Those opening pages deserve reading multiple times, as there’s a lot of information to absorb both from the text and the accompanying images. And then it’s off to the races with our old friend, Rorschach (but didn’t he die?).
It’s also there where Johns & Frank start putting their own spin on things, introducing new characters and elements to this universe in a way that makes it seem like they’ve always been there and we just haven’t met them before now. The world feels, as it did when Moore & Gibbons introduced it thirty years ago, like it’s been heavily lived in, and it’s a testament to the strength of Johns, Frank, and colorist Brad Anderson’s work that reading this comic feels like visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. A lot has changed in the years since you last saw each other, but ultimately they’re still the same person.
There’s plenty of time later to talk about specifics – about the plot, about the new characters, and about where the main DCU fits into all of this – once everyone has had time to read the issue. It’s worth experiencing without knowing specific spoilers, and it suffices to say that it has me excited about the clear potential of exploring the Watchmen universe further.