Random Thoughts On DOOMSDAY CLOCK

DC’s December solicitations came out over the last few days and, with little fanfare, they included the write up for the final issue of DOOMSDAY CLOCK, the Geoff Johns and Gary Frank follow up to WATCHMEN which, by and large, has been greeted favourably.

As we probably all know by now, DOOMSDAY CLOCK launched in November 2017 and was meant to take a year to be released. Early promotional interviews revealed it was set a year into the future of the DCU so that, by the time it finished, the rest of the DCU would be at the same point as DOOMSDAY CLOCK‘s finale.

Scheduling problems mean that it’s now two years since the start of the series and, during that time, so many things have come in to play that I can’t help thinking that once finished, DOOMSDAY CLOCK will have next to no impact on the main DCU.

One of the threads running through the story is the Superman Theory – a conspiracy theory that says the American government is responsible for the creation (and thus controls) the superheroes. As a consequence, the public distrust them and superpowered beings are heading to Khandaq, the last refuge for them.

In recent issues, Superman has been blamed for the deaths of dozens of Russian soldiers and Firestorm appears to have exploded in the same confrontation. American citizens are rioting in multiple cities, demanding the fall of Superman and other heroes.

None of the above is being mentioned in any other DCU series – everyone’s either ignoring the deaths of multiple characters in the horrible HEROES IN CRISIS; running around trying to work out who Leviathan is; fighting with characters from the Dark Multiverse; or are too busy dealing with the ramifications of UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED Year of the Villain where Neron Lex Luthor is offering the bad guys new powers.

And speaking of Luthor, he plays a small but important part in DOOMSDAY CLOCK which gives lie to the original idea that the rest of the DCU would connect to it. Here’s how the character appears in DOOMSDAY CLOCK and current issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE:

As the Justice League storyline of Justice/Doom War is only just getting underway and is due to run well in to next year, there’s no way Lex is suddenly going to transform from the “apex predator” version of himself on the right to the standard Lex we all love to hate on the left.

DOOMSDAY CLOCK looked to be set to return the Justice Society of America to the DCU, a team that’s been missing since the New 52 was instigated in 2011; it was also bringing back the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Both teams have now been reintroduced in other titles – the JSA in JUSTICE LEAGUE and the Legion in their own, forthcoming title, making the reveal and tease of them in DOOMSDAY CLOCK now redundant.

I can’t help but wonder if some of the publishing problems the series has had is down to DC editorial saying to Johns and Frank – “You know those plans you had bring back the Legion and the JSA? Bendis and Snyder want to play with them, so can you alter your story?” – forcing them to re-jig some elements. It would sort of explain why Saturn Girl, teased as an important player in the story, is basically taken off the board in an almost throwaway moment:

There’s no way the DCU is going to reflect the DCU shown in the pages of DOOMSDAY CLOCK; there’s been no hint that any other title is going to tie in to this world – it’s basically being ignored.

Sad to say, as good as DOOMSDAY CLOCK is (and it is good) I can see it being consigned to a self-contained story, perhaps shunted off to one of the unknown Earths from Grant Morrison’s MULTIVERSITY, a way of saying “Wasn’t that a great story? Now, on with the rest of the DCU…”

While Geoff Johns was once the golden boy at DC, in the time he was away dealing with film and TV, Brian Michael Bendis has come in and taken over the Superman line; Scott Snyder is running the Justice League; and REBIRTH has been quietly moved to one side, and the DCU has become a lot darker since.

In an interview before the series began, Johns said:

[DOOMSDAY CLOCK] will have an impact on the entire DC Universe. It will affect everything moving forward and everything that has come before.

I really doubt that’s going to come to pass now.

Sunday Reviews

BLACK HAMMER ’45 #1

The Black Hammer Squadron was one of the fiercest group of fighters in World War II, a group of daring-doers who took on the biggest missions and overcame the enemy time and again until the fateful day when they have to go up against the Ghost Hunter, the dreaded ace from Germany. Tasked with saving a scientist and his family from a Nazi camp in Vienna and returning them to the States, the Squadron must contend with both the Ghost Hunter and the Russian’s Red Tide – huge, mechanical war robots, who have the same mission, only they plan to have the scientist work for Russia.

Jeff Lemire expands his Black Hammer universe again, this time with a take on the Blackhawks, setting up this mini-series nicely. My only complaint would be Matt Kindt’s art – never really been a fan of his style.

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #9

Following Firestorm’s detonation at the end of the last issue, the heroes trace the energy that caused the explosion to Mars and Dr Manhattan, believing him to be responsible. Manhattan’s vision of a final battle with Superman that is yet to come is enough to trigger the heroes into attacking him but he dispatches them all, seemingly killing them, but not before revealing to Firestorm that Professor Martin Stein is not only in league with the shadowy agency behind the creation of government sanctioned heroes, but that Stein deliberately created Firestorm in order to infiltrate the heroes at large.

There’s a lot going on in this issue aside from the summary above, with Batman, Lois Lane, and Wonder Woman all dealing with their own problems. There are nods back to the original WATCHMEN series as well, alongside a mostly silent four page spread of the heroes heading to Mars that works really well. The story is ramping up now, and the art by Gary Frank is simply gorgeous. Despite all of fandom’s misgivings about this story when it was first announced, I’m really enjoying it.

THE GREEN LANTERN #5

In order to prove his desire to join the Blackstars is sincere, Hal Jordan is taking to Belzebeth’s homeworld of Vorr, a planet of vampires, where he must run a gauntlet to find his Blackstar uniform and confirm he is worthy to join them.  Not surprisingly, he passes the test only to face a final one where he must kill the Blackstar’s prisoner – Adam Strange.

I’ve been enjoying Grant Morrison’s run on this title so far, but this was probably the weakest issue. There was never any real doubt that Jordan would a) complete the trial, and b) in a flashback be revealed to still be working undercover for the Guardians. Do we think he’s going to kill Adam Strange next issue? I very much doubt it. Morrison scatters some vaguely cool sounding phrases – “necro-sun“, “blood bells“, “deadnoon” – but they sound more like 90’s image anti-heroes than anything else. I’m hoping next issue picks up with some surprises. (Oh, and don’t think I missed the mention of the Over-Master, either.)

JUSTICE LEAGUE #19

The League recruit Mr Mxyzptlk to help them find their way to the Fifth Dimension where, they hope, they’ll find the key to fixing the Multiverse that is on the brink of collapse following the breach in the Source Wall. Mxy reveals, though, that they need to go to the Sixth Dimension, the home realm of the Monitor, Anti-Monitor, World Forger and their mother Perpetua – that’s where they’ll find what the need to stop Perpetua. A handy portal takes Superman to the Sixth Dimension, and he returns moments later a decade older saying he’s found what they need. Most of the League follow him and appear in a different realm where future versions of themselves live happily. Unknown to them, the real Superman has been trapped in a different place.

Once again, big ideas abound in this title but the execution is better than previous issues, as though Scott Snyder has finally wrestled the story into a direction he wants it to go.

OBERON #2

Bonnie wakes in the house of Oberon and is taken by him to Mother Mayie who, in turn, takes her to the Endless Labyrinth where her magical potential – if she has any – will be determined. While Bonnie is being tested, Oberon discovers that Titania knows he has the girl.

Another good issue, with Oberon’s narration adding a wonderful counterpoint to his actions on the page, and though the story seems a little thin this issue, there’s no doubt that it’s setting things in place for further down the line.

A WALK THROUGH HELL #8

Carnahan, the child killer thought dead in the real world, is happy to spill the beans about his early days and how he came to take the path he did before a revelation of who else is involved comes to light.

I’ve read and watched a lot of horror books and films over the years but this story keeps surprising me – just when you think you know where it’s going, something else happens instead. This really is worth picking up.

Dr Manhattan In The DCU

With Doomsday Clock in full swing, questions are being asked about where Dr Manhattan is hiding in the DCU. The possibility’s been raised that he might be masquerading as someone, perhaps a hero, but if so, then who?

Captain Atom is the obvious – perhaps too obvious – choice as he was the character Manhattan was based upon in the original Watchmen series.

Superman or Dr Fate are possibilities – one’s super strong, the other could be masquerading Manhattan’s reality altering abilities as magic.

Maybe he’s Zatanna – he could easily swap his gender if he wanted to hide in plain sight.

Or maybe . . . maybe he’s not a person at all . . . maybe he’s a thing . . . an object . . . carefully placed to listen in on superhero conversations . . .

Can we get a close up on that mug the Atom’s using?

Oh my God! He’s here, everybody – Dr Manhattan’s here!

Masquerading as a coffee mug!

I, for one, did not see that coming.

 

Scan from JLA #77, March 2003. And if Doomsday Clock references this mug, you read it here first, folks.

Doomsday Clock Pages

The first six pages of Doomsday Clock have been released, along with an interview with writer Geoff Johns.

And it looks like Ozymandias is in trouble, wanted for the murder of millions of people in the New York massacre.

Gary Frank’s art looks gorgeous, similar enough to Gibbons that it retains the Watchmen feel but still his own.

The interview’s interesting, although one line from Johns leapt out at me:

Johns said that Doomsday Clock isn’t necessarily a political book, but it is a book “about extremes.” He thinks people are being forced to pick strong sides, but Rorschach being an “apolitical” figure, refuses to pick a side.

Rorschach “apolitical”? The people to whom he mails his journal, whom he describes as the “only people [I] can trust” is the New Frontiersman, a right wing rag that’s about as far from apolitical as you can get.

If Johns has mis-read Rorschach, that’s not a good start.