Doomsday Clock #4 narrows the narrative to focus in on the mysterious second Rorschach, Reggie, and how the vigilante’s mantle was remade and taken up again after the events of Watchmen.
In its early pages it reintroduces us to that distressing sense of dread that permeated the pages of Doomsday Clock’s first issue as we see a family watching a mushroom cloud erupt on a nightly news broadcast. At the same time we’re introduced to a young boy tasked with living in that dread, with growing up in the shadow of that mushroom cloud. We meet Reggie as a boy whose strategy is to keep his head down and power through, who doesn’t fight because it never occurs to him to fight.
Reggie, as a boy and later as a young man, is a passive being, one who doesn’t engage with the world around him, one who can hardly be made to impose his will on anything, even when he is clearly in the right. He is not an invader, a conqueror, an aggressor. He’s a good kid. Perhaps a harmless kid. Perhaps not. He may not be an aggressor, but Reggie is not a protestor, an objector or a defender either. The world is imposed upon him, leaders, laws and institutions are imposed upon him and Reggie continues to keep his head down. He may mutter, he may grumble, but he never engages with the forces of antagonism, instead content to be quietly antagonized.
This passivity, extrapolated outward, paints the picture of a populous that allows itself to be brought to the brink we see in Doomsday Clock #1.
In becoming Rorschach, in being taught how to fight, Reggie becomes an active participant in the world around him. Through Reggie’s transformation into Rorschach II we get insight into the original Rorschach and that character’s place as an agent of action in Watchmen. Rorschach, then as now, was a questioner, a participant. On its face, the entire first issue of Watchmen is an introduction to a cast of characters committed to remaining passive in the face of mysteries and questions, Rorschach the only among them willing to grab hold of the dangling thread.
And yet, with mosquitoes and Mothman alike, we see in this issue what that pursuit can lead to and we’re given the impression Reggie himself knows what fate may befall those unwilling to ignore questions and mysteries.
We know Ozymandias. We know Bruce Wayne. We know Lex Luthor. Now we have an idea of who Rorschach II is and what he’s bringing to the table as the mysteries of Doomsday Clock thicken at the close of its first third.