Tag Archives: Martha Kent

A Doomsday Clock #1 Review – I Have a Bad Feeling About This…

TITLE: Doomsday Clock #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Gary Frank
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $4.99
RELEAED: November 22, 2017

***WARNING: Full on spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Doomsday Clock #1 is a pretty good first chapter. Assuming you have an off switch for your conscience.

By now I really thought I’d be calloused to the idea of DC doing a sequel to Watchmen without the approval or involvement of author Alan Moore or artist Dave Gibbons. Not that they need it. They own the rights to the story and characters, and have been milking them ever since. Naturally, Moore has been sore about it for decades. Years ago the company even published several character-centric Before Watchmen prequel stories. So Doomsday Clock is hardly unprecedented. Throw in all the bits and pieces of Watchmen lore DC has sprinkled around since the Rebirth story began, and you’d think I’d be ready for this…

But Doomsday Clock #1 feels dirty just like Before Watchmen felt dirty. Realities of the publishing industry notwithstanding, this reeks of DC taking toys out of someone else’s sandbox. If you can ignore that side of things, I imagine Doomsday Clock simply becomes the latest Geoff Johns epic. But for many of us in the know, there’s a discomfort level to all this that isn’t going away.

Set several years after the events of Watchmen, we see that Adrian Veidt’s hoax to bring about world peace was only a short term success. Global tensions are at an all time high, as is the threat of nuclear war. Amidst all of this, Rorschach, or rather someone assuming the Rorschach identity, breaks two former supervillains out of prison to aid he and Veldt in setting the world right again. To do that, Doctor Manhattan must be found. But as we’ve seen, the former Jonathan Osterman has been busy making waves in the DC Universe. Worlds are about to collide.

When you come back somewhere after a long time away, you’re naturally curious to see what changed in your absence. Despite what you might call it’s lack of authenticity, parts of Doomsday Clock are intriguing from a world-building perspective. How exactly do things change after a giant alien squid is supposedly dropped on New York City? Not that much, apparently. The world we’re met with is very similar to the one we left. Distress over the airwaves, violence in the streets. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even our narrator is the same, more or less…

Indeed, there’s a new Rorschach in town. We don’t know much about who he is, other than he works with Veldt, and has brown skin (shown above). I initially rolled my eyes at the idea of Rorschach being a “legacy character.” It’s a tried and true tool in the world of superhero comics. Have a dead hero? Just make a new one with the same M.O. But Rorschach had such a unique and distinct voice that it’s almost cringeworthy to use that trick with him.

But did they even have a choice? Rorschach is such a gigantic and integral part of Watchmen. We saw so much of that world through his eyes. You almost can’t revisit it without him. Plus, Watchmen had legacy characters. Like Doomsday Clock itself, I can see why you’d want to create another Rorschach, but something about it feels really wrong. And no, it’s got nothing to do with his race. Having him be black is fine. It doesn’t add or subtract anything, outside of making for a clever reveal.

Watchmen was never big on humor, per se. You can find things to chuckle about, but very little (if anything) is played for straight up laughs. That’s not the case with Doomsday Clock. There are a handful of funny lines and one full-on gag, most of which revolve around the ultra-serious Rorschach reacting to things. While the humor works, this isn’t a world we’re used to laughing at. Watchmen was big on darkness and despair. We see a rape, the murder of a pregnant woman, dogs being murdered with a meat cleaver, etc. So while it’s funny to see a character called the Mime pull imaginary weapons out of a prison locker (shown below), the tone shift takes some getting used to.

Technologically, the comic book industry has come a long way since Watchmen. The story had a pulpy aesthetic to it that was ultimately part of its charm. Doomsday Clock doesn’t try to replicate that. But I give artist Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson a lot of credit for making this look and feel like a story set in the same universe. The colors have a lot more depth and richness. But there’s nevertheless something familiar about those city streets we open up on, or the dark and dank feel of the prison. Letterer Rob Leigh even nailed Rorschach’s handwriting for the caption boxes. (Even though this isn’t the same Rorschach anymore. So does that even make sense?) Comparatively, Doomsday Clock is almost like switching your television from standard to high definition, with the one drawback being the loss of the pulp look.

Tacked on at the end of all this is none other than Superman. We flash back via dream sequence to Ma and Pa Kent driving a young Clark to senior prom. We’re reminded just how lonesome and isolated Clark’s secret can make him as he watches the other kids dance. We then see the tragic accident that killed his adoptive parents.

Oddly enough, this strikes me as a scene about Doctor Manhattan. Doomsday Clock is meant to be about a conflict between hope and cynicism. With the DC Universe representing hope, and Watchmen cynicism. Superman is, of course, an ever present symbol of hope and optimism. A man raised by loving parents who instilled him with a set of values and ideals. In contrast, Jonathan Osterman lost his mother at a young age, and was forced by his father to pursue a career in nuclear physics. Later, Doctor Manhattan’s powers left him increasingly isolated. He eventually regarded human life itself as insignificant. These are to men on polar opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet under different circumstances, Clark Kent could have become Doctor Manhattan. With a better upbringing, Jon Osterman could have been a symbol of hope…

With all this talk of hope and cynicism, Doomsday Clock has the potential to be very poignant, given the era we’re living in. But good or bad, it’s destined to have an asterisk next to it because of the circumstances with Watchmen and its creators. Much can be said about what rights creators should or shouldn’t have, as well as Moore’s less than sunny disposition. But what I keep coming back to is this: If I’d put my time, my energy, and my heart into making this world and these characters, and a big company was in a position to make a lot of money off them, I’d want to be listened to. I’d like to think certain things outweigh the importance of money. Like respect. Dignity. Integrity.

Perhaps that’s just blind hope.

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A Superman: American Alien #1 Review – Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

Superman: American Alien #1 (2015)TITLE: Superman: American Alien #1
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLERS: Nick Dragotta, Matthew Clark. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: November 11, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Superman: American Alien is a unique opportunity for Max Landis. He’s a renowned Superman critic who gets to put his money where his mouth is.

Granted, Landis isn’t just a Superman critic. He’s also an accomplished writer in the movie industry. He co-wrote and did the screenplay for Chronicle, and also wrote the upcoming films Victor Frankenstein and Mr. Right. He also directed the music video for Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time.”

But to comic book fans, Landis is perhaps best known as the man behind the short film The Death and Return of Superman, as well as a number of extended YouTube editorials (Regarding Clark, Death and Return of Superman Pitch By Max Landis, etc). While I haven’t agreed with everything he’s said, it’s tough to deny how knowledgeable he is about the art of storytelling. To their credit, DC saw that, and they started talking with him about doing a Superman story of his own. And to his credit, Landis eventually took them up on the offer, essentially agreeing to put his money where his mouth is.

Superman: American Alien #1, Max Landis, Nick DragottaAmerican Alien consists of seven short stories from the life of Clark Kent. This issue shows us an eight-year-old Clark and his parents coming to grips with his power of flight. In a brief Q&A that can be seen in the back of this issue, Landis said he was going for “heartwarming” with this first installment.

Again, to his credit, he accomplished his goal. At the end of the issue, you’re smiling. At one point things get a little too silly for my taste, and at others Clark seems a little too wise for an eight-year-old. But by and large, the issue feels like something Pixar or Dreamworks might put out. That’s high praise, considering DC continues to struggle with making readers sympathetic to a character so powerful. They’re beating him down pretty hard right now, having exposed his identity and powered him down quite bit. But the right now the Superman books are largely lacking the emotional core you’d hope to find when Clark faces such dire circumstances.

In contrast, there’s a lot of emotion in American Alien #1. Granted, it’s not all as complex in terms of Clark himself, as he’s just a child. But in just one issue we see the terror, frustration, shame, and ultimately excitement that this new ability brings him. Things are a bit more subdued in terms of the Kents. But we can definitely see them questioning their decisions as they struggle to raise this very unique child.

Superman: American Alien #1, alien mirror, Nick DragottaHowever, there is one moment that nearly takes you out of the story. Clark has just had what we’ll call an “angry outburst,” and he’s driving home with his father. As they’re talking, Clark flat out says: “Dad…I’m so unhappy.” I question the notion of an eight-year-old being that conscious of his own overall happiness, much less being able to vocalize it so concisely. Even if the child in question is Superman. That’s not to say it’s impossible. I just found it odd coming from a child.

On the plus-size, Nick Dragotta and colorist Alex Guimaraes very much deliver an aura akin to Clark’s idealized Kansas childhood. That opening shot of Ma Kent hanging off her young son’s leg (shown above) makes for an awesome hook. There’s also an excellent shot of young Clark looking in a mirror, and then suddenly seeing himself as a Yoda-like space alien (also above). Dragotta’s art very much makes this feel like an eight-year-old’s story, much as I’m sure Tommy Lee Edwards will give next issue’s fight story a certain hormone-enduced rough-and-tumble feel.

At the end of the issue, we get a two-page spread that’s separate from the rest of the story. Drawn by Matthew Clark and titled “Castaways,” it’s simply a workbench covered in artifacts that belonged to the Kents. We see old photos, notes, newspaper clippings, etc. It sets the period well. If I’m not mistaken, we also see a clipped newspaper article about the car accident that killed them both. Certainly an ominous bit of foreshadowing.

Superman: American Alien #1, page 3, Nick DragottaMax Landis and his cohorts may very well be bringing us a much-needed fresh perspective on Superman with American Alien. But I would argue it’s easier to do that with Clark Kent before he puts the cape on. Perhaps if Landis ever gets the chance to write Clark Kent as the Man of Steel, we’ll see just how good he really is. And as far as Superman stories are concerned, I think he has the potential (Key word: Potential.) to be very, very good.

For more Superman, check out Lois and Clark #1, Superman #45, and Superman: The Men of Tomorrow.

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image 2 from kotaku.com. Image 3 from pastemagazine.com.

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