The Clock

In light of the phenomenal Covid-19 pandemic, imagine what would happen if a catastrophe of this magnitude was engineered by a diabolical mastermind?  What if a widespread, unstoppable disease emerged from the brainchild of a sinister conspiracy?  Matt Hawkins and Colleen Doran tackle these questions in a thrilling tale that explores such possibilities in the doomsday graphic novel, The Clock.

The story begins in a Nigerian refugee encampment in a not so distant future, as professor and immunotherapist lead researcher Jack Davidson investigates a viral cancer that has infected and killed a wide swath of the human population in just three weeks. His own wife has died from it and his nine-year-old daughter Kimmie has recently been diagnosed with it. While heading back to the U.S., he crosses paths with a mysterious stranger who slips him a piece of paper with a single sentence scrawled on it: “Your wife was murdered.”  This note triggers a series of rapid-fire events akin to a Hitchcockian espionage thriller, and amidst this cataclysmic threat, he becomes implicated in a murder, turning him into a fugitive from the law. Like a relentless nightmare that shifts from bad to worse and rises to a feverish pitch, Jack must uncover the truth as those closest to him become targets for murder.

As the mystery deepens, The Clock unfolds at the pace of a runaway train speeding off its tracks. A global conspiracy surfaces with signs of weaponizing this pervasive cancer that could trigger the onslaught of World War III. Like the quintessential Hitchcockian character thrust into an extraordinarily maddening situation, Jack must fend for his life as he races against time to uncover the mystery behind a nefarious plot to destroy humanity. A taut thriller narrated in part through newspaper headlines, television news reports, websites, and social media feeds, the narrative momentum flows at a steady yet intense pace. Lengthy scientific explanations occupy some panels, though the jargon remains plausibly comprehensible. Doran’s artwork captures a wide range of facial expressions, nuanced in part by character interactions framed in medium close-up shots. Various shades of lighting set the mood and tone in each panel, mirroring the narrative action as each scene unfolds.

While the heart-racing plot ratchets up the tension and suspense, the conclusion fizzles out and falls flat in a rather anti-climactic way, leaving much to be desired and explained. The climax and falling action seem rushed from a storytelling perspective. Extra features include a cover gallery and penciled sketch panels by Colleen Doran. A bonus “Science Class” section highlights information on cancer statistics and a list of different types of cancer accompanied by resource links for further exploration into the scientific and ethical issues raised in The Clock. For libraries aiming to build their apocalyptic science fiction thrillers, there may be better developed stories out there, though loyal fans might still appreciate Doran’s artistic prowess in rendering the gamut of human emotions through her finely crafted illustrations.

The Clock, Vol. 1
By Matt Hawkins
Art by Colleen Doran
Image Comics/Top Cow, 2020
ISBN: 9781534316119

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Jerry

    | He/Him Information Strategist, San Francisco Public Library


    By day, Jerry Dear, APALA member and Information Strategist at the San Francisco Public Library tackles research questions in the Periodicals department. He also teaches in the Library Information Technology department at City College of San Francisco. By night, he serves the Asian American community and ventures into the vibrant literary arts and graphic novel scene. In whatever time remains, he indulges in comics, anime, manga, and Asian American literature and film.

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