SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #2, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
It’s pretty safe to say that there are three big encounters fans have been looking forward to seeing in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s DC Universe and Watchmen-centric Doomsday Clock. The first, of course, is the inevitable conflict between Superman and Doctor Manhattan, which will presumably be at the heart of the event. Next is the meeting of the two most brilliant minds in the DC and Watchmen Universes, respectively: Lex Luthor and Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias.
However, perhaps the most anticipated byproduct of Doomsday Clock’s “when worlds collide” premise is the encounter between Rorschach and Batman – the event’s two resident detective/vigilantes.
It was in September, with the release of promotional art featuring the Caped Crusader reading a familiar-looking journal, that a Batman/Rorschach meet-up in Doomsday Clock was seemingly confirmed. Naturally, this soon led to speculation as to how the pair would react to one another, because, in many ways, they’re very much two sides of the same coin. Both are brilliant, highly skilled detectives with proficiency in hand-to-hand combat. Both have indomitable wills and live by incredibly strict moral codes. Both use fear as motivating factors in their respective wars on crime. And both even believe that their civilian identities are, in fact, their masks and that their superhero personas are the real them.
And yet, as similar as these two men are, the dichotomy between Batman and Rorschach is equally as apparent. When a young Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, it inspired him to wage a one-man war on crime; when a young Walter Kovacs learned that his mother was force-fed a bottle of Drano, he said, “Good.” When The Riddler killed countless Gothamites, including Kite Man’s son, in an attempt to make The Joker laugh, Batman attempted to stab him, but immediately recognized this as one of his greatest failures; when Watchmen's Rorschach learned that a man kidnapped a young girl and fed her to his dogs, he chained the man to a pipe, handed him a hacksaw and set his home on fire, feeling not one ounce of remorse for delivering such brutal “justice.”
With all this in mind, one would assume that Batman and Rorschach, upon meeting one another, would immediately find themselves at odds. Rorschach would believe that Batman was too soft on criminals, while Batman would believe that Rorschach was a criminal. But in Doomsday Clock #2, it’s truly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
“Only monster would keep trophies like this,” reads Rorschach’s inner-monologue as he observes the Batcave’s décor, including the iconic dinosaur, a giant pair of dice, Penguin’s umbrellas, and some newspaper clippings detailing several of Joker’s deadly crimes. “Tokens and prizes from victims. It’s how Kovacs caught so many animals. They couldn’t let past go. Obsessed with reliving yesterday.”
Coming from Rorschach, who murdered rapist Harvey Charles Furniss and dumped his body in front of a police station as soon as the Keene Act outlawed costumed vigilantes, these sentiments come off as a bit hypocritical. However, it’s important to remember that the man behind the inkblot mask is no longer Walter Kovacs.
As revealed in Doomsday Clock #1, Kovacs is still very much dead following his obliteration by Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. And while the identity of the person who took up Rorschach’s mantle remains a mystery, we do know that it’s a person of color, which has led some to speculate that perhaps it’s the son of the original Rorschach’s prison psychiatrist, Dr. Malcolm Long.
In any case, regardless of who’s behind the mask, Doomsday Clock #1 makes it abundantly clear that this new Rorschach is at least slightly as sadistic as his predecessor. As he’s heading towards Marionette’s prison cell, he recalls breaking his waitress’ abusive boyfriend’s hands and putting a fork through his tongue, adding that he forget to tell him why, but hoping that he got the message, anyway.
The fact that the new Rorschach is willing to resort to such violent tactics yet still considers Batman a monster for displaying a few souvenirs is certainly ironic, if not bizarre. That said, it will be interesting to see how the Caped Crusader responds to Rorschach eating his pancake breakfast, which is precisely where Doomsday Clock #2 leaves us.