[**Warning: There are some spoilers on this review. So, with that warning in mind, read on now, or later after reading the book. I’ll wait.]
And so to Earth. Earth 0 that is, with the rocky arrival of Ozymandias and the new Rorschach, with a clue dropped by Veidt that could well bring readers one step closer to realising who now resides under the ever-changing face of this new Rorschach. If only we knew who ‘Reggie’ was. A relation of Dr. Malcolm Long maybe?
The parallels between Watchmen and Earth 0 that Geoff Johns and Gary Franks incorporate into both the narrative and the visual structure of this issue are quite clear, with the selfsame public animosity towards super folk acting as a concern in the modern world of Batman and his ilk as it was back in Watchmen’s 70’s, resulting in the Keene Act and the abolition of vigilantes from public life on the latter Earth. Here, Batman is the problem, with the public out for a scalp, fueled by a conspiracy theory over the reason why so many meta-humans are to be found in North America. Although, reading from the additional prose materials added at the back (a fake news website that you can access via DC’s own website) this is not as unfounded a theory as it first appears, bringing both Metamorpho and Kirk ‘Man-Bat’ Langstrom into focus as evidence of a government cover-up. Curiouser and curiouser.
Further echoes of Watchmen include Bruce’s famous grandfather clock, behind which hides one of many accesses to the Batcave, stuck at, you guessed it, a few minutes to midnight as well as the psych evaluation of one Bruce Wayne that more than echoes the same exchange between Walter Kovacs and Dr Long. What is interesting is the suggestion–as many a fan would believe–that Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne, is not all that stable of mind after all. But, an Oscar winning performance over a slip up seven years previously, has seen Bruce keep his seat on the board of his own company and stay out of Arkham.
It would seen only the poor are truly insane while the rich are merely eccentric. But, there’s also room for the odd nod to the pre-Crisis past of DC Comics too, with an advertisement for Nathaniel Dusk, possibly suggesting that Dr. Manhattan was indeed the creator behind the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths universe as many have been surmising.
Meanwhile, Ozymandias and Rorschach split up, with Ozzy off to meet with the most intelligent man on Earth. If you’ve seen the promo art for this series, you’ll know who that is. Let’s just say that Earth 0’s smartest man is as arrogant as you would expect and, quite rightly, mocking of Veidt’s own intelligence given his own plan to unite his Earth many, many years ago did not last. When said out loud though, the creation of an artificial alien dropped onto Manhattan to create the suggestion of an alien invasion does sound kinda dumb. I’m amazed it lasted even the seven years it was revealed to have lasted in the first issue of Doomsday Clock.
As for Rorschach’s surmising that Batman is a monster (after all, ‘Only monsters would keep trophies like these‘ he guesses as he wanders around the horde of souvenirs Batman keeps in his sanctum), it’s certainly a novel, and not too redundant, theory. But then, look who’s making it? While we don’t yet know how is under the mask, we have to assume he shares Ozzy’s Objectivist worldview for him to even think of adopting his mantle.
It’s still a book with lots of unanswered question, as is right for only the second issue of this 12 issue year-long series, but it does have the worlds of Watchmen and DC come crashing together with some surprising revelations and the meeting of minds. All moodily illustrated by Gary Franks who gives both worlds detail and darkness in appropriate amounts. With the sustained 9 panel grid and a front cover that does work as the opening to the book (unlike the first issue’s cover image), with its echoes of the smiley face that in turn showed up throughout the original series, this is beginning to feel a lot like a Watchmen sequel.
After all, any sequel would surely want to know what Dr Manhattan did next, right? Looks like we’re finding out and at a pace that suggests this is going to pull no punches in the months to come. I can’t see this being a series with any fillers, or unnecessary padding out. Although I’d be amazed if this managed to meet its deadline given the level of detail Franks is giving us.
As for Marionette’s throwaway line at the start of this sophomore issue: ‘Nostalgia… They don’t make this anymore‘? Very meta, don’t you think? Is this Johns commenting on the Watchmen property and the idol-like status it has been elevated to since it original publication and the fallout from THAT deal with the co-creators maybe? Is it time to let go and embrace the new? If so, then count me in.