Doomsday Clock #12
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
”The future and the past are free.”
And so, this is how it ends. Not with a bang, but with a few splash pages. That’s right - after months of delays and all sorts of stops and starts to the narrative momentum, Doomsday Clock #12 is more of a fizzle and less of a curtain call. Doctor Manhattan now faces the Man of Steel, as the world around them ignites into metahuman geopolitical warfare over Superman’s alleged crimes. While writer Geoff Johns has a solid emotional idea for the iconic showdown, the execution is a bit sloppy. I can appreciate a comic as cynical as this one going for the heartstrings one more time for the finale, echoing shades of the fantastic Carver Colman-focused entry from last fall, but not at the cost of every other plot thread, all of which are wrapped quickly and with little fuss in tossed-off dialogue or narration here in #12.
At the very least, Doomsday Clock #12 finds artists Gary Frank and Brad Anderson mostly free of the rigid visuals of the nine-panel grid. This time broken into more cinematic, looser panel grids, Frank and Anderson are allowed to stretch their not inconsiderable visual muscles, providing this finale some soaring, classically inspired visuals which beefs up the weak scripting a few times throughout. With the Watchmen TV show ending this week as well, I was really hoping we would be two for two when it came to good continuations of the series, but given how extensive the delays have been for this book, I’m not sure Doomsday Clock #12 was worth the wait.
To its credit, Doomsday Clock #12 has a novel, if a be convenient, denouement. For reasons that become at least vaguely clear, Ozymandias’ plan has been staring us in the face the whole time, and he even told us what it was all the way back in the opening issues. After Marionette and Mime’s presence didn’t convince Doctor Manhattan to save the world, Adrian decides to pull out the biggest gun of all, Superman. And by orchestrating a confrontation between them, as well as the assembled superteams of the world, Jon would be forced to face “the ultimate good” of the Man of Steel and see what true heroism is like.
“For the first time, I am inspired,” says Manhattan, witnessing the wholly good Superman fight and defend a world that has turned against him, still concerned with the innocents and largely unmoved by Jon’s reveal that he’s been the one responsible for the recent “editorial” changes of the DCU.
It is a powerful moment, and one Geoff Johns’ absolutely makes a meal out of, particularly with the dynamic between his heartfelt characterization of Superman and the coldly clinical Doctor Manhattan, who is finally moved to feeling and changing beyond his “lonely god” persona. So moved, in fact, he neatly side steps his being forbidden to help Superman by the timeline — by rebooting the “Metaverse” again, restoring the previous multiverse and icons like the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes, who return just in time to stand alongside Clark and restore order to the planet.
But unfortunately the mysteries surrounding the “Superman Theory” and the fates of the remaining Watchmen characters are given a fairly short shrift. While Manhattan, Superman, and the returned heroes make up the majority of the finale’s A-story, Johns provides us brief check-ins with the rest of the cast, but they never seem to amount to much. New Rorschach Reggie is given a pep talk by Batman and Alfred, but he is barely seen again until the issue’s epilogue. Mime and Marionette are given a happily ever after on the Watchmen-Earth, along with some head-scratching lampshading setting up their soon-to-be-born children. Even the driving “Superman Theory” mystery is tossed aside in some “news” narration, providing a limp payoff to one of the more interesting aspects of the series and its backmatter. It all just reads very rushed, possibly even heavily pared down due to the series’ lengthy delays, and all it ever really contributes is dragging the issue down.
All that said, Doomsday Clock #12 really does look tremendous. Perhaps even more so now that Gary Frank and Brad Anderson are unencumbered by the hallowed nine-panel grid. Once again packing the pages with cameos, Gary Frank and Brad Anderson stage a truly impressive showdown with Superman and Manhattan standing in the middle of the swirling, attacking combined forces of Russia, Kahndaq, Markovia, and more. Frank and Anderson have really been a steady force throughout Doomsday Clock, no matter the delays the artwork of this series has always been stellar and here they provide another solidly resonant set of pages. Though some of the establishing pages and flashbacks still set within the grids don’t pop as well as the later more cinematic turns, Doomsday Clock has always looked great thanks to Gary Frank and Brad Anderson.
The legacy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is undeniable. I wonder now, after today, what the legacy of Doomsday Clock will be. Will it be thought of as wasted potential? An occasionally great, but consistently frustrating cult curiosity? A storyline that reads better in the trade than it did coming out drip by drip? We will just have to see, but for now, I can safely say Doomsday Clock #12 is a heartfelt, but aggressively average finale.