Doomsday Clock #6
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Doomsday Clock once again turns inward and gets bogged down in the darkness of the Watchmen Earth in its sixth installment. Having joined maniacal forces with the Joker, Marionette reflects back on her violent and tragic origins, but it’s the worldbuilding happening around the edges of Geoff Johns’ story that proves more interesting. Artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson aren’t given too terribly much to do this issue, but they make the few sparks Doomsday Clock #6 has burn really bright thanks to their adherence to Watchmen’s hallowed nine-panel grid. Though readers know that this issue’s place is meticulously planned for the narrative as a whole, the slow grimness of Doomsday Clock #6 leaves a lot to be desired as a single issue of monthly comics.
While Doomsday Clock has been pretty dark as a whole, but it has never really felt like it was forced until this issue. Fresh off of last issue’s cliffhanger which found the Mime and Marionette forming an unholy trinity with the Joker, Johns takes one step forward, while taking two steps back. The one step forward is far and away the scenes with the Joker and the subtle worldbuilding Johns has really excelled at during this series. As our trio of terror barges in on a meeting with the 'League of Villainy,' Johns starts to flesh out the metahuman geo-political landscape that is starting to smolder off-panel. This sequence is further strengthened by the issue’s backmatter, a dossier from the Department of Metahuman Affairs, that gives us the “real story” on the origins and true intentions of some of the cameos peppered throughout the meeting of super-villains and anti-heroes.
Johns’ Joker also really shines here. Wickedly dry and weirdly sincere as he befriends the Mime and Marionette, the Clown Prince of Crime steals the show during the big meeting, toeing the line between the wry tone and theatrical darkness of the series. Gary Frank and Brad Anderson are also a big part of this scene stealing. Landing somewhere between Grant Morrison’s 'Thin White Duke of Death' and the classic Jim Aparo design, Frank and Anderson lean into the Joker’s rubber-faced villainy and true glee toward violence with a few visual gags that really pep up the issue, such as when he “accidentally” shoots one of his henchmen multiple times.
But unfortunately, the steps back are the origins of Marionette and Mime. Though on-brand for the miniseries, the origins of the two former scene stealers add a real “try hard” kind of vibe to the issue and saddle them with a pretty by-the-numbers genesis into costumed criminals. I have been pretty on board with the level of darkness displayed by the series thus far - it is based on Watchmen, after all - but this delve into the pair’s past stops the momentum of the series to a halt while also adding yet another dour shade of comic “realism” and heartache to the proceedings. With the oppressiveness only increasing as the action keeps shifting between the past and present, I am sure this issue will fare better as part of the whole, but Doomsday Clock #6 falls flat as a single issue.
Though given some sizzle thanks to its killer worldbuilding and a truly fun Joker, Doomsday Clock #6 feels like this series’ first major swing and a miss. While Geoff Johns’ story doesn’t quite connect here, artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson deliver some strong work, despite the more intimate and low-key nature of the issue. After five strong issues, it’s perhaps not a surprise to see Doomsday Clock’s luck finally run out — and since we’re at the halfway point of the series, let’s hope this is as bad as it gets.