Putting out a direct sequel to one of the most celebrated comic books of all time without the direct involvement of the original creative team is a bad idea on paper. Furthermore, allowing that sequel to bridge the worlds between the characters from Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins' seminal work, Watchmen and the superheroes populating the DC Comics Universe is an even worse idea. But, despite how snake-bitten the concept of the twelve issue maxi-series Doomsday Clock sounds, its execution has worked surprisingly well, despite a few rocky issues and delays marring the series overall.
Doomsday Clock #8, by comic scribe virtuoso Geoff Johns (Blackest Night, Justice League) and the brilliant Gary Frank (Batman: Earth One, Supreme Power), exemplifies the series' strengths in graphic storytelling. Up until this point, the series felt rather disjointed. Each issue often focused on a slim number of characters, which works for a comic with such a sprawling ensemble cast consisting of old, new and resurrected faces from a narrative standpoint, but can be exhausting for readers to keep up with.
A lot of the intrigue that made Watchmen such a captivating book felt forced into the early issues of Doomsday Clock. The meditation on the lengths one would go in order to be heroic and how that heroism would be perceived, as well as the notion of inevitability of annihilation all worked their way through Watchmen organically. The classic 1987 series was a superhero story first and foremost; every thing else bubbled to the surface as you went along. In fact, you could easily ignore Watchman's deeper meanings and simply enjoy it as a dark superhero tale.
For most of its run, DoomsdayClock tried to do the opposite. Especially in early issues, the series wanted you to desperately get engaged in the mystery instead of getting to understand its characters. And while, yes, we are familiar with the majority of the faces on the page, it's been ages since we've last seen them, and there are plenty of new players who deserve exploration. When Doomsday Clock decides to be a superhero comic instead of a J.J. Abrams-ish mystery box, it starts to live up to its predecessor. It shows some real heart, and gives us stakes we can relate to.
Doomsday Clock #8 again focuses on a small group of characters, specifically Firestorm and Superman, but it plays like gangbusters in the larger narrative. This issue feels like a solid chapter in an epic superhero story, which is right in Johns and Frank's wheelhouse. Those two excel in grand, sweeping narratives about people in capes and tights like no one else. This is a return to form for the series. Oddly enough, the cast of Watchmen are mostly absent, or are left operating in the background as the puppet masters, which feels like where they really should be in the series, but that's okay. The mystique of the Watchmen cast is part of their charm. In Watchmen, we spent twelve issues learning what we could through flashbacks and character reflections, but we never spent decades following their exploits. DC Comic's initiative "Before Watchmen" tried to delve deeper into their mythos, but the results were scattershot at best (Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen was the real standout in that whole initiative).
Geoff Johns is doing what he does best in DoomsdayClock #8, focusing on heroism and the consequences which come with it. Getting into the head of classic characters and trying to apply their modus operandi to modern society is one of Johns' greatest strengths as a writer. When executed properly, examining a heavily exploited character through the eyes of the general public and how that character's actions would be seen can feel shiny and new. How heroism is perceived and how it actually enacts change in the world are often misconstrued, and Johns knows it. Legend often outweighs action. And the annals of history are eroded, or at the very least, twisted to meet the victor's agenda.
Gary Frank is again knocking it out of the park. Say what you will about the story itself, but the art work in Doomsday Clock is consistently solid. Frank leans into the classic nine panel grid (but never is a slave to it) and moves the story along without fail. His work bridges the classic style of yesteryear and the gritty flare of modern superhero comics, which makes it is very reminiscent of Dave Gibbons' work thirty years prior but to the nth degree. Brad Anderson's colors help give the book similar aesthetics to that of its predecessor in terms of bold colors from a limited palette, which helps ground the series.
Doomsday Clock #8 is a great end to a second act of a comic that too often feels rudderless. Johns and Frank are jibing together well in this issue and it hearkens back to the days of Batman: Earth One in terms of two creative geniuses riding the same wave. No matter how you feel about the Watchmen sequel, it's hard to argue with solid comic book storytelling, and that is exactly what you're getting in this issue.