Fine. I didn’t want it to be this way, but since Doomsday Clock is so insistent on mimicking the original Watchmen story, then it’s forcing my hand to draw comparisons.
Reggie Long – the second Rorschach – is forced to adjust to his new surroundings after having been institutionalized by Batman. Within Arkham Asylum’s cold walls, surrounded by Gotham’s most insane criminals, he reflects on his own troubled past and the events which led him to don Rorschach’s mask. As a survivor of Ozymandias’s plan to save the world, his mind was left shattered and he spent time in an asylum on his Earth. Yet a chance meeting with former Minutemen member Byron Lewis helped Reggie to piece together the fragments of his own life… in turn, creating a new persona.
As events unravelled on his world and Ozymandias’s role in the New York incident came under increasing scrutiny, Reggie gained a new purpose. But what lead him to his current situation, and can he escape Arkham to find the missing Doctor Manhattan?
Imitation, as the saying goes these days, is the sincerest form of flattery. However, the full quote is “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” It’s sadly fitting that this quote can be applied to the second Rorschach character, the nature of his “origin” story, and this issue in general. Whether it’s intentional or not depends on how seriously the reader is taking Geoff Johns’s work here, and on whether Johns is trying to recreate Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s style on the original Watchmen while taking it forward… or whether he’s simply insulting it.
While Doomsday Clock #4 is a perfectly serviceable origin story in its own right, it’s also bland, predictable and mostly boring. There’s little tension and almost every supposed revelation and reveal falls flat. Since Rorschach II hasn’t proven to be an interesting character so far, there’s little reason to care about his ordeals. While other elements of the story do work, especially the bittersweet tale of Byron Lewis, on the whole the issue it seems much like the second Rorschach himself: a cheap knock-off.
Also, it’s too unfocused for its own good. The scene transitions are abrupt and ragged, but then maybe that’s the point since poor Reggie’s mind is so fractured. If so then it’s a risky but poor writing decision, and if not then that makes it even worse. It’s possible that there’s some clumsy meta-textual joke on duality that’s saying this issue is meant to be an intentionally mediocre version of the original Rorschach’s origin… but it’s unlikely.
The only real saving grace is Gary Frank’s impressive artwork but, unfortunately, Doomsday Clock #4 is average at best. At a stage where readers should be left wanting more, it has the opposite effect and makes you question why you’re bothering with it at all. It’s been nearly two years since Doctor Manhattan was first teased in Rebirth but, at this stage, it’s hard to even care anymore if he ever shows up. An issue like this doesn’t help matters, nor does it inspire confidence in how this storyline is going.
Doomsday Clock #4 isn’t greatness. It’s mediocrity imitating greatness.