Bottom Of The Pile: July 25th, 2018 – Doomsday Clock, Flash, Justice League Dark, Transformers: Unicron

by Sage Ashford

Doomsday Clock #6
Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
If you’re looking forward to King’s Heroes in Crisis, then this is noteworthy as the first mention of Sanctuary, the super therapy center that gets blown up at the start of King’s event in a couple months. What stood out to me with this issue more than anything is how distinctively…Silver Age everything is. The grime of the modern era is still present, but Riddler is literally just Frank Gorshin, Sonar is back in his old costume from the mid sixties, and Mister Freeze looks like a Mattel action figure from the 80’s. For a story that’s meant to take place a year ahead things are looking probably a little too much like they did prior to the Modern Age of comics, and I’m guessing that’s intentional.
Meanwhile, most of this issue serves as backstory for the Marionette and the Mime, and their stories seemingly fit just as much into the DC Universe as it would in the Watchmen universe–two kids who had their lives ruined by corrupt cops turning to a life of murder and theft. You have to congratulate Johns on his commitment to the world building here, even if you’re frustrated by the existence of a Watchmen/DC comic, though I’d find that a poor reason to be annoyed to begin with. The story was written on how DC sees the Watchmen characters several years ago when they gave us “Before Watchmen”, and at the very least this is more ambitious than a bunch of prequel comics could ever hope to be.
At the same time though, at the midway point of Doomsday Clock I see a weakness not in the book but in myself. Johns is clearly trying his best to tell a real story here, and yet…none of it matters to me. I could care less about the Marionette or the Mime as they’re basically no more messed up than your average Batman villain–this story was only ever interesting to me as the next chapter of the DC meta story. Which isn’t to say that’s the only thing I care about, but when the implication behind a comic is “we’re going to use this as a vehicle to bring back all these old DC characters you love”, then that becomes the expectation. And while it’s fascinating to see the DCU through a darker, more “serious” lens, I suspect Johns being caught between the initial marketing pitch and the story he’s actually telling is going to color a lot of what’s left to this book.

Flash #51
“Flash War Epilogue: The Life Story of Wally West”
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Another Sanctuary mention, as we finally come to the end of Flash War. This one sounds more permanent, like Santuary is a permanent asylum heroes go to when they just can’t deal with their jobs anymore. It’s still early days and we aren’t certain how King wants to tell his story, but I have to admit the way Sanctuary is referred to here makes me slightly less interested, and a little bit uncomfortable.
As much fun as it is to come up with some of comics’ more over the top stories, when you have to consider the in universe “real cost” to these characters, it starts to raise some questions. Much of the things superheroes deal with would require constant therapy sessions, not just something which happens when you snap, and the idea that Barry or Bruce or Clark have never been feels absurd, if only because as the centerpieces of the DC Universe they’ve seen some of the most insane things. Bruce spent the better part of Metal being chained down and forced to live terrible alternate versions of his life until his mind literally broke. Just beating the bad guy after that shouldn’t be the ultimate solution–at some point he should probably talk to someone before a Batarang ends up embedded in someone’s skull.
Of course, since Heroes in Crisis isn’t out yet, it’s entirely possible all the writers don’t have a clear grasp on what Sanctuary is. Right now I’m just hoping my boys Wally and Kyle don’t manage to get killed at the start of the story.

Justice League Dark 1
“The Last Age of Magic Chapter 1”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inks: Raul Fernandez
Colors: Brad Anderson
I’ve always been more of a fan of creative teams than characters. That’s crazy for a lot of older fans, but no matter how much you love a character nothing can stop them from being garbage in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing. Fortunately in the case of Tynion and Martinez Bueno that’s not an issue. This is easily one of the most beautiful comics of the week, with Martinez-Bueno’s ultra detailed style lending well to all the twisted magic insanity Tynion has going on in this issue.
Even though I was never big on the “Justice League Dark”, I’m all in on the idea of Wonder Woman leading a team full of people who actually don’t want to follow her. Generally Diana is thought of as the most likable member of the big three–Superman can seem patriarchal at first, Batman’s a dick, but Wonder Woman’s passionate and caring and people generally want to follow her. But as the world of magic frays at the edges in the aftermath of No Justice, it’s seeming more important than ever for the magic heroes of the DC Universe to want to work together…but they seem to want to rely on the old ways rather than welcoming in a newcomer.
At the same time, I’m loving how Tynion seems intent on seeing how Diana can meld into this world. Diana’s always been magical, but she’s always had the feel of a “different” kind of magic than the wild “Vertigo” magicks of John Constantine or Zatanna. It’s almost a given that her ties run deeper than anyone suspected, and hopefully by the end of this she’ll stand as much of a pillar of the magic realm as Batman does in street-level events.
While there’s no promise Tynion will spend as much time on this title as he did on ‘Tec, while he’s here I hope this book maintains the showcase aspect we saw here, where we got appearances from little seen characters like Zauriel. The best thing about titles like this is they offer a chance to develop characters you’d otherwise never see. Traci 13 and Detective Chimp are characters who might as well not exist normally, but here they get the chance to become central characters. There’s a tease that with the original Nightmaster gone Detective Chimp is next up for the role, and a moment I can’t wait to build up to.

Transformers: Unicron #2
“Stranger Eons”
Written by: John Barber
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Sebastian Cheng
Now here’s an unexpected, but welcome potential twist to the story. As the Cybertronians try to figure out exactly where Unicron came from in the hopes of figuring out a way to stop him, Bumblebee gets in touch with Omega Supreme and gets a glimpse of a much…earlier time.  Of the original expansionist era of Cybertron, when they went out and attempted to bring the “greatness” of their world to other lands.
It’s not quite clear yet, but the implication seems to be Unicron originated with one of the earliest planets attacked by Cybertron, and is an unholy mixture of Cybertronian technology and some dark, wild magic. With the last issue I was complaining there was a chance they were going to finally go “religious” with this story instead of sticking to the rational, secular explanations Transformers have had since the start of the IDW universe. Well if I’m reading this right they aren’t just staying the course, but outright claiming this version of Unicron is a direct response to the early Cybertronians’ imperialist tendencies. So much of this book has been about the Transformers of the present dealing with the choices made by their predecessors that this is exactly the kind of way this book deserves to go out, as they have to confront a near all-powerful version of all the sins of their past.
See you in seven.

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