WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for DC’s Doomsday Clock #1, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, in stores now.
There’s a good chance most comics fans are still digesting the events Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock #1. That’s to be expected. The series is a follow-up to one of the most revered comics of all times, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. Not only that, but Doomsday Clock ties into a totally separate comic book continuity; certain Watchmen characters will be making their way into the DC Comics Universe. Chief among them is Doctor Manhattan, who has already been tinkering with DC’s continuity, and Adrian Veidt, the hero-turned-villain Ozymandias. But another Watchmen character has turned up in the debut issue, this one having risen from the grave: Rorschach.
So far, no one really knows what to make of the new Rorschach — he’s got the mask and the unhinged internal monologue, but this is clearly a different guy. The last time we saw Rorschach, he had just been turned into a bloody mist by Doctor Manhattan for admitting he would reveal the truth about Ozymandias’ murderous master plan. The way the vigilante was dispatched left no room for debate. Rorschach was dead, murdered by one of his former allies. So, who is the new Rorschach? That’s the question on everyone’s lips, and the answer might lie between the pages of Doomsday Clock #1 and Watchmen, the latter of which suggests the new Rorschach is result of Doctor Manhattan’s meddling. What? You didn’t think he was just going to hightail it to the DC Comics Universe without tweaking a few things on the way out, did you?
The best evidence for Doctor Manhattan creating the new Rorschach are his own stated intentions at the end of Watchmen. Ozymandias’ plan goes off without a hitch and the world stands horrified in the face of a presumed alien invasion. Doctor Manhattan is none too pleased with Ozymandias’ actions, but he can’t exactly turn back time and undo the deaths of millions. He agrees to go along with Veidt’s plan, reasoning that if the hoax was revealed then the world would slip back into chaotic infighting. Thus, Rorschach’s execution. That doesn’t mean Doctor Manhattan is happy with the outcome, though. In fact, the whole ordeal disgusts him so much that he opts to leave for another galaxy entirely. Ozymandias argues that Doctor Manhattan had just found a new appreciation for human life, to which Doctor Manhattan agrees. “I think perhaps I’ll create some,” he says.
This statement can be interpreted in many ways, but a major clue about Doctor Manhattan’s intent comes just moments before, when he decides to lie to Ozymandias about killing Rorchach, stating: “You needn’t consider Rorschach. I strongly doubt he’ll reach civilization.” Of course he won’t, Doctor, you just vaporized him. Regardless, it’s not a lie, so much as it is an omission of truth and a reminder that the good doctor might possess unfathomable power, but his moral compass is still set firmly to “human.” It’s unlikely the omnipotent Doctor Manhattan cobbled together a hasty Rorschach homunculus in the Antarctic snow, but the lie affords him enough time to make a double before he departs, and there are quite a few reasons why he would want to.
The chief reason is liability. At the end of Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan’s goals briefly align with Ozymandias’. Both need to ensure that the alien invasion isn’t uncovered as a hoax, and the best way to do so is to ensure there’s no incriminating evidence left behind. So, if a doppelganger Rorschach is seen now and again laying down the hurt on some unsuspecting, irredeemable criminals, then no one starts to wonder why the masked vigilante suddenly went missing. Rumors, such as those perpetuated by the Marionette (“Rorschach killed Nite Owl and Silk Spectre before he offed himself. He went totally nuts. Is that what happened?”), serve to distance the vigilante’s death from Veidt’s plan and lessen the likelihood anyone goes looking for Doctor Manhattan’s old friends. And if anyone gets too pushy about trying to find any of the three, well, it’s simple enough to trot out the Rorschach double and keep the secret under wraps. In this way, the new Rorschach acts as both an alibi and a security policy for the departed doctor.
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