Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock, the ambitious attempt to create a crossover between the world of Watchmen and an ever-so-slightly off-kilter DC Universe, answers a big question in its fourth issue: Just who the hell is this new Rohrschach, anyway? And it’s a fascinating issue, in part because it addresses a loose thread the original series never quite tied off: Just who the hell is Mothman, anyway?
In the original story, Byron Lewis is basically little more than a tragic pun: The bug man winds up in the bughouse. But he’s central to the origin of the new Rohrschach, whose identity we won’t ruin here since it’s such a good reveal, in part because he’s not “buggy.” He’s broken, in some very fundamental ways, and the careful thread woven through this story — which, bar the setting, is a classic Golden Age superhero origin — is that Lewis trains up a new superhero, teaches him how to fight, teaches him how to be a superhero, but crucially can’t teach him how to be anything other than a man who wears the mask. Perhaps nobody can fix the young man he trains, but Lewis arguably makes things a lot worse even as he’s trying to help.
Johns and Frank are interrogating the idea of kid sidekicks and what “passing on the mantle” means in a universe full of people who lack the necessary fortitude to wear a mask without it, as Moore so eloquently put it, eating their brains. This happens all the time in the DCU, but this story wonders what that means, and what it might do to an already fragile psyche. In the end, both Lewis and his protege are tragic figures, but only one of them is likely to find a measure of peace.
The Beef #2, Image Comics
Tyler Shainline and Shaky Kane’s mix of Marvel Silver Age superheroic pathos and political activism offers up a hilarious mix in this second issue, where the Beef learns his powers are driven by, well, beef, and also that he’s naive about far more than just what he’s stuffing in his face. It’s undeniably, and often deliberately, cheesy, but Shainline and Kane nail the tone and style of ’60s comics so well, you’d think you were reading underground comix by Kirby and Lee if you didn’t know better.
Bloodborne #2, Titan Comics
Ales Kot and Piotr Kowalski pull off the really hard job of nailing the tone of the video game they’re adapting, which is all gauzy mystery and refined grotesquerie, while pulling out a story they want to tell. It helps, to some degree, that Bloodborne is such a specific world in the first place, and yet the story is left so far open to interpretation, that there’s plenty of room for a good storyteller. But it does also help that Kot and Kowalski, the latter especially drawing lovingly rendered gross monsters while paying quite a bit of tribute to the Warren Comics house style, are clearly enjoying telling a Lovecraftian horror tale with its own sensibility.
Daredevil #600, Marvel
This issue pays off the “Mayor Fisk” plot arc, which Charles Soule and Ron Garney finish off in fine style and with an appropriate twist. But the real main event, at least for fans, is the backup feature written by Christos Gage, who explores, across the years, the friendship of Foggy Nelson and Matt Murdock. Considering how Matt’s treated Foggy over the years, it’s sometimes a sad read, but a good reminder of how even implausible superheroes can have very real friendships.
Abbott #3, BOOM! Studios
Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela show off both their horror chops and their love of classic detective stories as Abbott gets pulled off the case by her editor and sent to do a puff piece about a college professor. Which, of course, winds up tied directly to the case she isn’t supposed to be covering anymore. Kivela in particular shows off some clever, thrilling layout work, making this book a standout in a market fairly crowded with horror titles.