Review – Doomsday Clock #12: Midnight

Comic Books DC This Week
Doomsday Clock #12 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Doomsday Clock #12 – Geoff Johns, Writer; Gary Frank, Artist; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Inconsequential

Ray: A lot can change in the lifespan of a delayed comic, as Doomsday Clock #12 has been. Since Doomsday Clock #1 almost two years ago, we’ve been gifted with another Watchmen sequel – the brilliant HBO drama that reinvents the world of the comic with a lot more diversity and a fascinating take on an alternate America. The two properties could have easily stepped all over each other, but they don’t. That’s because each is brilliant in its own way but couldn’t be more different. After reading Doomsday Clock #12, I’m not sure Doomsday Clock is a great Watchmen series, because those characters are ultimately supporting players in a bigger drama. What I am sure of is that it’s one of the greatest DC stories of the modern era, the perfect potential final act to the epic DC story Geoff Johns has been weaving for the better part of two decades.

This forty-five page finale is one of the busiest comics I can remember, navigating time, space, and potential pasts and futures with incredible deftness. It begins with Superman hunted and persecuted by heroes around the world, with a block of opposing heroes from Russia and China wanting to bring him in for the explosion in Moscow. Black Adam leads his own bloc trying to capture Superman and get to the truth, while America mobilizes to defend its hero. And in the middle of this stands Doctor Manhattan, ready to reveal his role in Superman’s past and set into motion the events he’s foreseen that may spell the end of the world. Even with a massive superhero battle looming, you can cut the tension in this scene with a knife. We’ve been waiting almost two years and it pays off – in the most unexpected way possible.

When this was announced, many people were worried it would just be “Superman punching Doctor Manhattan”, and it’s not that. It’s a story of two universes, completely opposed to each other like oil and water, that manage to make each other better. Malcolm Long, the young Rorschach, hits his despair event horizon and finds salvation in the help of Alfred Pennyworth (proving once again just how indispensable he is to Batman and the world). And Superman comes close to the edge but proves why Geoff Johns is one of the best writers in the character’s history. And then the story takes a shocking turn that involves some wild retcons of two universes, completely upending a lot of the damage done to the DCU in various reboots. How much of this will be reflected in the long-run, given that many comics have moved on? I don’t know, but there is a lot in this comic that reflects rumors about the future of DC.

Is this a perfect comic? No, but it’s pretty close. I could have done without the combination of Martin Stein being a villain AND the only reference to Israel’s super-team being that they’re led by a ruthless killer. Not great optics, but undoubtedly completely unintentional. The Watchmen characters get the perfect endings they’ve earned in one way or another. Jon finds peace, Malcolm finds purpose, Adrien sees justice, and a certain rapist is reminded of exactly how irrelevant he is. Mime and Marionette, the two completely original characters from that universe, may just have more ties to the DCU than we thought. And the story of Carver Colman comes to a beautiful conclusion. The wait was worth it for Gary Frank’s stunning art, but I think fans of this comic owe it to themselves to give the completed story a read. Without the bigger gaps between issues, I can only imagine how much stronger it will be. Johns and Frank have stuck the landing on what’s sure to be a DC classic.

Doomsday Clock #12
At the beginning. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Ray and I have disagreed on this series since the beginning, and Doomsday Clock #12 is no exception.

I’ve been insistent that revisiting Watchmen has to have a point, as the original did. Note: once again, I’m not a huge fan of the original. It has technical brilliance and fascinating ideas but the story itself leaves me cold.

But it’s undeniable that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen was about something. It was about the abuse of power. it was about the view that superheroes, in reality, would be broken people who only intermittently would do the right thing. It was about committing murder for the greater good and whether the decision to do so would make a difference, ultimately. (“In the end, I was right.” “Nothing ever ends.”)

Did Doomsday Clock as a series make a point? No, because it used the Watchmen universe at the most surface level, as just another DC Comics universe. Th series can be seen as a grand team-up, and Ray loves it for that. But it’s a team-up without anything to say about the human condition except that, apparently, all worlds need a Superman. Without that example of hope, it all falls apart.

I love Superman but to say without him that our worlds would turn dark and cold takes all agency away from the people themselves. I guess one could see Superman as the Dr. Manhattan who does get involved rather than running away. But this comic is about the love of superheroes above all else. It’s an ill-fit for the themes of the original Watchmen. I love superhero comics as a shining example of hope and aspiration. I don’t like them meshed with a real-life commentary on how they’d mess up a world.

I suppose it’s somewhat unfair to Johns and Frank that their story is finished only a week or so after HBO’s brilliant Watchmen. The HBO series took the themes of the original, the underpinnings of Moore and Gibbons’ story, and ran with them, doing a deep dive into the underpinnings of fascism, the American history of violent racism, the trauma that’s passed into the very DNA of survivors, and why wearing masks is ultimately a dead end for humanity. “You can’t heal under a mask. Wounds need air,” says one character at the end.

This show had something profound to say.

Doomsday Clock is a simple meta-commentary on superhero comics, not a profound commentary on the human condition.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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