The original Rorschach famously died in the closing chapter of the original Watchmen, but he was still able to strike a blow against evil even in death. That blow led to the chaotic state of world affairs seen in the early chapters of Doomsday Clock.
These issues also revealed the existence of a new Rorschach. And we knew that it was truly a new Rorschach since, in order to persuade the villains Marionette and Mime that he was not the original Rorschach, he took off his glove to reveal black skin.
We learned precious little about the new Rorschach in the issues that followed beyond a few simple factoids. He really liked pancakes. He had lost loved ones in the “alien invasion” at the end of Watchmen. He had been close enough to Ground Zero to be caught in the psychic shockwave that drove thousands of people crazy. And he has a deep hatred of Adrian “Ozymandias” Veidt, yet has put that aside for the sake of saving their world.
Now, the identity of the new Rorschach, as well as his secret origins, are ready to be revealed!
The identity of the new Rorschach is not the most startling revelation at the heart of Doomsday Clock #4. Indeed, the earlier issues provided enough clues that obsessive detectives had guessed his identity a while ago and the preview pages of this issue give the secret away at the beginning. The real surprise is the revelation of just how the new Rorschach was trained to become a vigilante and just who it was that did the training. Suffice it to say that it offers another connection to the original Watchmen comics that few saw coming.
This sort of devout research into the lore of classic comics is par for the course when Geoff Johns is writing, as DC Comics aficionados well know. Whatever else may be said about Johns’ writing, the man does his homework and has a gift for weaving the scraps of information left behind by earlier writers into a stronger garment. Ignoring the appropriateness of crafting a sequel to Watchmen in the first place (a debate I do not anticipate quieting down anytime soon.), Johns is delivering some top-notch work here and this story – clearly intended as a spiritual counterpart to Watchmen #6 – is a brilliant bit of character analysis and exposition.
Issues with the story itself aside, the artwork is fantastic. Gary Frank’s work on this series to date has been some of the best he’s ever delivered. The level of detail Frank fits into each panel without the finished artwork becoming cluttered is truly phenomenal. Brad Anderson also deserves praise for his color art, as does Rob Leigh for constructing the letter boxes in such a way that they convey the character of each speaker, while allowing Frank’s artwork to remain largely unobscured.
While the controversy over this series and its reasons for existing may rage on, it cannot be denied that Doomsday Clock #4 is a solid piece of high-quality work. Taken from the context of its origins, it is what it sets out to be – a riveting origin story for a fascinating character, that can miraculously be enjoyed free of the context of any other work.