The Long Read: Doomsday Clock #12 Sets Up DC Comics’ Future And Recons Superman’s Past (Again!)

by Olly MacNamee

(++WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #12 ++)

And so the curtain falls on Doomsday Clock. A series with grand intentions that seemed to have been derailed along the way, thanks to the delays that saw the book go from a monthly to a bi-monthly and attempt to hold DC Comics at a ransom as a result. But, time moves on and publishing plans for both the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice Society of America needed to be acted upon. With Geoff Johns star waning at DC Comics and bigger status writers like Brian Michael Bendis and Scott Synder clearly champing at the bit to take up these much loved heroes, something had to give. And, it would seem, the grand design behind Doomsday Clock was sacrificed. I bet Doctor Manhattan never saw that one coming. 
Who knows how much of Johns’s original story survived to the end, but I think the central meta-concept revolving around Superman remained the same. In a universe where Doctor Manhattan sees no hope and no future, thanks to his absolute belief that all things are preordained, Superman offers that hope. As he always has. Seems a rather longwinded way of expressing an opinion on Superman that’s unoriginal and, arguably, better established in Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel (2014). And, that’s a film not many people like. But, it didn’t take 12 issue to state this obvious truth. To repeat it here, and take 12 issues to do it seems decadent, to say the least. But, I suppose, it has also allowed Johns to play a bit more with the DCU. 

There is a lot made in this Watchmen-aping final issue about darkness and not being able to see, but at the heart of it all is Superman. Indeed, at the very centre of all this DC Comics, there is and will always be Superman. And it is Superman who ultimately affects Doctor Manhattan and changes him profoundly. 
Superman is the shining light who will continue to shine throughout time and history and the DCU will forever react to that. He is the antithesis of the darkness and treated as some sort of scared cow in this story. 
And, with all the various crises and reboots DC Comics has been through along the years, Superman is always there, and always will be. Again, not the newest of concepts, so why reiterate it in such an overblown manner? Once again, Superman saves the day, but when doesn’t he? And, how many times has it been Superman who’s flown in at the last minute and saved the DCU. I’ve lost count. Here, however, Johns embellishes this idea with the importance of Superman to existence itself. You mess with Superman’s timeline and it effects everything. Something that fascinates Manhattan enough to have created the Nu-52, which he admits to Superman. To my surprise, Manhattan also concludes that this Nu-52 universes is still out there somewhere. As is the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths reality (now called Earth-1985), which will please many older readers, but doesn’t do much to entice new readers. It all seem to pander to these readers whom, unlike Superman, are getting older.

It’s all very meta and open to interpretation, depending on your frame of mind. For me, if I wanted to be a cynical decoder of this final issue, I could argue that it’s a book that could easily be read as a literal recounting of DC Comics publishing history and just how important Superman is as an intellectual property to DC Comics. In this context, we can see the need to constantly re-invent Superman and to protect him as a money-making cash cow that he, and others, really are. The creation of two sons of Jewish immigrants who dreamt up a man who could leap a tall building in a single bound and come to the defence of the poor and unwashed of America had come a long way since his first appearance in 1938. And, it’s where Doctor Manhattan once again replaces him. song with other moments in time too. It seem Superman. has always been with us. 
In this new metaverse, all past histories now exist and all versions of Superman can be accessed by future writers once again. There’s even a look to the future and the half-promise of future crises and future Supermen. A sign that, even if we can’t look into our own futures like Doctor Manhattan, there will always be reboots and relaunches. Each generation will have their Superman and their beacon of hope. And, every generation will also have it’s own crisis too that will, no doubt, be the catalyst for such changes.
What we are left with can, at this moment in time, be confusing. Suddenly, we get a retconned Superboy, saving Ma and Pa Kent and once again rewriting Superman’s history. But then we have the inclusion fo Bendis’s Legion of Super-Heroes having done away with Johns’s own plans for the LSH. But, weren’t the LSH inspired in this new existence by Jon Kent the current Superboy? And, what about the return of Obsidian and Jade, who were a big part of Johns’s own JSA run? It all seems as though part of Johns’s plan was to return Supes to a version not too dissimilar to his and Franks own pre-Nu52. I enjoyed that rendition and always thought it was cut too short thanks to Dan Didio’s plans for a trunkless, hipper Superman that never quite sat well with me. 

But, without remaining too downbeat on a series I honestly believed in initially, I will alway defend Gary Franks amazing art. Gazing at the sheer level of action and huge cast of characters from all corners of the DCU, Franks’s artwork has been simply stunning to take in, issue after issue. And, he finished off this series in grand style. Especially with so much ground to cover. I miss his Christopher Reeves inspired Superman, so it was great to see him again in this book. 
Still, we do get a fitting conclusion to Adrian Veidt’s own megalomaniac journey; a kind of reversal of his own showdown with Rorschach in the original Watchmen series. We also get fitting endings to all of the major players, including the Comedian who is replaces at exactly the moment he’s thrown off the balcony and plunges to his death in Watchmen #1. Seems the jokes on him this time. Blake’s fate is not the only glimpse into the Watchmen universe, which is itself changes forever more too with a rather radical introduction into this world of a very familiar name, even if his parentage is somewhat dubious to say the least. It would seem that while Manhattan attempted to affect the DCU, the DCU has left its indelible mark on the Watchmen universe instead.
Needless to say, Johns has now sown the seeds for further returns to this franchise, should anyone wish to try. I honestly belief with all the misfires (remember Beyond Watchmen, right?) This franchise has had, Alan Moore has put a hex on these character in comics at least. It’ll take a brave person to try and have another swing at these, and it may not be fr a very long while.
Meanwhile, my own hopes have now been peaked by the signs of the original JSA and some of their sons and daughters who made up Infinity Inc. With all of DC Comics history to now play around with, within the context of a metaverse, maybe we’ll see a lot of the old gang returning to the DCU. A lot of old favourites, such as Power Girl, whom we get a glimpse of here too. There’s also the mention of DC Comics much cited 5G which Johns places as happening in 2026. That gives DC Comics a good lead tome to try and, once and for all, make sense of the DC Universe, because after the ending to Doomsday Clock #12, I’m not too sure that it’s any clearer than it was before this ride began.
In summary then, given this was such a long-ass review:
The Good: Gary Franks art and the return of the JSA
The Bad: The confusion that still revolves around the DCU  – past, present and especially the future – even after this series’ conclusion
The Ugly: Doomsday Clock will, I fear, be remembered as another failed attempt to incorporate Watchmen into DC Comics more integrally. I’d stick to TV adaptions if Iw ere you.
Doomsday Clock #12 is available now from DC Comics

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