A world on literal fire. Looming war in the Middle East. How about an unstoppable epidemic to add to the civilisation-ending mix? That’s the premise of comic book miniseries The Clock, a promising new sci-fi thriller from writer Matt Hawkins (Postal, Think Tank, Cyber Force) and artist Colleen Doran (The Sandman, Amazing Fantastic Incredible Stan Lee, Finality).
With its first issue out today, The Clock is a four-part tale centred on the emergence of a mysterious viral cancer that triggers the disease in anyone with cancer markers, is incredibly aggressive and untreatable, and kills within months. Cancer researcher Jack is in a race against time to identify the root cause as not only will the world’s population be halved within a year, but his own family is affected.
The first issue of The Clock comes across as a sober marriage of Outbreak and The Last Ship, with a dash of OG Dan Brown. There’s globe-trotting adventure and action, as the book opens in a Nigerian refugee camp, but for the most part the story maintains its tight, grounded focus on one man and his long-time obsession with curing cancer. This relatability is enhanced by the muted, real-world colour palette of Bryan Valenza.
While necessity drives Jack, he’s also clearly burdened with guilt as his work has consistently taken him away from his loved ones for long periods. Look closer and there’s quite a bit of emotional meat on the bones of The Clock. It’s conveyed without straining, largely thanks to Doran’s expressive but clean and reality-styled art.
Writer Hawkins deserves praise too for the naturalistic manner he conveys information. Techno-thrillers can be very clunky in terms of exposition but in The Clock Issue 1, interesting facts about population growth, cancer and other medical concepts are smoothly integrated into scene-appropriate dialogue. “Heavier” explanations are confined to the text-only Science Class pages at the end of the comic.
The Science Class section is also where Hawkins talks about weaponised cancer, a term used to promote The Clock, but which doesn’t feature in Issue 1. It’s clear, though, that Jack will uncover a conspiracy in the next three comics, and Hawkins promises that research-backed clarifications will appear in Issue 3.
The only downside of The Clock is its apparent lack of diversity. At least in the first issue, the comic looks like it will be a traditional Western depiction of heroism, with privileged white male Americans saving the day. Jack and his research clearly benefit from the powerful political connections that come from having an ambassador father, although it must be said the men are aware of, and comment on, their advantages in life from pretty much the first page.
With Issue 1 setting up The Clock’s intriguing doomsday premise, it will be interesting to see how events play out over the next three books – especially with the world waking up to the scale of the impending catastrophe.
The Clock Issue 1 is out today (8 January) from Top Cow and Image. It’s available in comic shops and on various digital platforms, including comiXology, Apple Books, Google Play and the Image Comics app. Find a preview here.
Last Updated: January 8, 2020