SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #4, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
For all the differences in their respective approaches to fighting crime, Batman and Rorschach (both the old and new version) are far more similar than either man would care to admit. They’re each brilliant, uncompromising, stoic sleuths who aren’t opposed to capitalizing on the fear of their enemies. They’re each uncomfortable in their own civilian skin, and it’s only when they suit up at night that their true personas are on full display.
In most circumstances, this would elicit some form of mutual understanding, but one must also consider what else makes Batman and Rorschach tick.
Neither Batman nor Rorschach are traditionally stable individuals. Both men suffer from a crippling sense of paranoia that often guides their crusades in unsavory directions. The key difference, though, is that Batman’s suspicions have driven him to become an opportunist – Rorschach, a conspiracy theorist.
That being said, it came as little surprise that Rorschach viewed Batman’s tendency to collect trophies from his cases as a sign that he was a monster who was “Obsessed with reliving yesterday.” Likewise, few readers batted an eye when Batman, sensing that Rorschach’s mental instability could be a danger to himself and to others, tricked him into getting locked up in Arkham Asylum. However, in Doomsday Clock #4, we learn what, at this point, is practically a foregone conclusion: there’s more to Batman’s plan than meets the eye.
While attempting to acclimate to his new life behind bars, Rorschach is introduced to one of the facility’s psychiatrists, Dr. Matthew Mason – ironic, considering we also discovered in this issue that the new Rorschach’s alter ego is Reggie Long, son of the original Rorschach’s prison psychiatrist, Dr. Malcolm Long. Nevertheless, the pair’s first session goes about as well as you would expect; Dr. Mason tries to get Reggie (registered as a John Doe) to open up about who he is and what he knows, and Reggie refuses to give him anything.
As their session concludes, Dr. Mason tells Reggie he’ll see him tomorrow. However, it doesn’t appear that Reggie will even be there tomorrow, because after he returns to his cell, he’s greeted by Imra Ardeen, aka Saturn Girl, who insists they need to break out of Arkham Asylum immediately.
Meanwhile, in the Batcave, we finally learn the true motive to Batman’s madness. While observing the breakout at Arkham via surveillance footage, Batman tells Alfred that he “underestimated Mr. Doe.” We then see an elaborate mask resting on a standee – a mask Batman apparently used to pose as Dr. Mason.
At this point, it’s clear that Batman recognizes Rorschach might have been telling him the truth about Doctor Manhattan, but he also recognizes Rorschach is mentally unstable. By locking him up in Arkham and posing as his psychiatrist, the World’s Greatest Detective believed he could safely keep tabs on Rorschach and gather intel, but his and Saturn Girl’s escape appears to have thrown a wrench in that plan.
It’s also worth noting the significance of the alias Batman chose: Matthew Mason. Matthew and Mason O’Dare both worked for the Opal City Police Department and were close friends with Jack Knight, aka Starman. It’s been noted that the ongoing Saturn Girl plot thread, which began in DC Universe Rebirth #1, is akin to a cryptic Justice Society of America story featuring the Thom Kallor iteration of Starman, both of which – as well as Doomsday Clock – are written by Geoff Johns.
Is Matthew Mason just a clever Easter egg, or – as is often the case – does Batman know more than he’s letting on? Surely, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and company plan to answer this, and a whole lot more, as the Doomsday Clock continues to tick closer and closer to midnight.