The Doomsday Clock Strikes Eleven: Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan

Doomsday Clock #11

The world is unravelling. Gotham has erupted into gang warfare. Black Adam is gathering metahumans around the globe. Support for them and Superman is at an all time low. And it is all going exactly as he planned.

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His name is Ozymandias.. Lex Luthor encountered him not long ago, when the man claimed to be from another world. This stranger told Luthor that he staged an alien invasion, and united his Earth. Ultimately, however, Ozymandias’ plans were exposed, and his world fell to nuclear war. So he came to the Earth of Luthor and Superman, desperate to find the one being who could save his home. He was desperate to find Dr. Manhattan.

So, the Doomsday Clock, a miniseries which really feels like, at this point, it has been running forever, is finally nearing its end. With just one more issue to go, we have a much bigger picture of this thing now, so I figured it might be nice to get into it a bit before the big ending. We certainly know a lot more now about what has been going on throughout Rebirth, and how it connects to the original Watchmen story. In that tale, after Ozymandias’ plan is discovered, Dr. Manhattan elects to leave their world in search of more meaning.

Doomsday Clock reveals that Dr. Manhattan explores the cosmos, before discovering the universe of Superman and all the other heroes of the Prime universe common to DC Comics. Here, however, he learns a key piece of information that explains a lot, but hadn’t really been firmly established in the New 52. The Prime Universe is a key point in the entire multiverse. What happens to it echoes throughout the multiverse, which is always a reflection of the Prime Earth. That is a nice little meta-narrative since it fits with how the writers of DC operate the DC Universe to begin with.

Then we learn a little bit more about what is going on with Rebirth specifically. All the meddling – the changes in Superman, the stuff with the White Lanterns, the return of Wally West, a lot of that seems to be connected with Dr. Manhattan’s arrival, and attempts to experiment with time in the new world. It seems like a lot of the thrust and mystery of Rebirth really just boils down to that. Which is kind of disappointing, clearly. Maybe there is more to it, but with just one issue left I’m not so convinced. And that’s fine, I’ve definitely been enjoying Doomsday Clock more than I haven’t, but it does kind of feel silly.

DC seems to have stepped away from the whole Rebirth thing. It isn’t really featured as a banner on covers anymore, I have no idea what’s going on with Wally West after Heroes in Crisis, while the Year of the Villain seems to be moving everything in a totally new direction. I’m not necessarily against it, but as Doomsday Clock winds down so long after the fact, it feels like this Rebirth stuff is old news. If you had told me at the height of Rebirth that it would all really come down to Dr. Manhattan playing around with the DC universe without any specific goal in mind, well, I would have been a lot more annoying by it than I am now.

As it stands, this doesn’t bother me as much as it should. I’m not about to write off the Rebirth era as a failure. A lot of DC publications are working far too well right now for that to be the case. But it does seem like DC has moved away from the promises and hype of Rebirth a bit and if so, well, that’s okay. But it does strike me as a bit curious. If so, why did they bother with all of this stuff to begin with?

Rebirth promised a lot of great things. Brighter stories, with new characters, new teams both behind the scenes and on the page, and a bold new narrative with hints of including their famous property The Watchmen. A lot of people, myself included, were skeptical, but at first, these comics were pretty legendary. Dan Jurgens came back to Superman like a thunderstorm, creating a slew of unforgettable stories about the Man of Steel. Tom King promised and at first delivered a Batman series unlike anything ever done before. Series like The Flash and Detective Comics were given a new sense of energy and purpose. And the Watchmen stuff was given enough of a vague mystery and sinister overtones that it was intriguing more than eye-rolling.

A lot of that stuff is still intact… more or less, but if Doomsday Clock has taught me anything it’s that the Watchmen characters absolutely, 100%, do not belong in the DC universe. While I very much have enjoyed Doomsday Clock as a series, it has revealed just how out of place these Watchmen characters are against the characters more commonly associated with DC. It works in Doomsday Clock, where that’s kind of the point. I like how maddening Dr. Manhattan finds the world of Superman and the art style nicely evokes the original Watchmen series in a way that everything kind of comes together in a satisfactory way.

Doomsday Clock is pretty great in that regard. It tells it’s story fairly well, although I certainly have some issues. Geoff Johns always felt like an odd choice to follow up on Alan Moore, but Johns has done a pretty good job. Some sequences feel like they could easily have fit in with some of Moore’s writing. Other stuff feels tacky and vastly inferior. For example, I really don’t buy a lot of the whole thing with protesters against Superman and metahumans. It all just feels a little forced to me. I get the logic behind it, Superman is getting blamed for a bunch of stuff, but it still just has that flimsy sort of DCEU logic to it. I just don’t think this many people would care about something like this for that long. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be protests, but I’m definitely saying all of America wouldn’t suddenly be protesting Superman because Firestorm blew up Moscow. It reads as though we are looking for reasons to be political like the original Watchmen, but without any sort of similar coherent political rhetoric behind it. Doomsday Clock feels like an attempt to be serious, rather than an attempt to say something seriously, a very important distinction that makes the whole political angle seem completely flat and pointless to me.

Also, every time we get to Black Adam and his gang of metahumans, my mind checks out. None of it feels important to the main story and it is not interesting enough on its own to carry my attention. I can barely stop myself from skimming over these parts at this point in the series. I do have to say, I sound a lot more critical than I actually feel about the series as I whole. I’ve enjoyed myself more than I haven’t, and the long publication time of this thing, especially with all of the delays, has prevented me from truly getting sick of this thing. And I really love issue #10, which has Dr. Manhattan take a walking tour of the history of Superman before wiping the floor with just about every superhero that is. That was fun. The thirteen year old in me certainly enjoyed watching Dr. Manhattan master magic simply by observing Etrigan, Zatanna, and Constantine for a few seconds. It’s neat how the overall plot in many ways does follow up on what happened to the original Watchmen universe, and it’s a great little detail that Oxymandias’ original master plan did not at all work out. That, if you ask me, is great insight on the part of Geoff Johns and a nice pay-off to the final moments of The Watchmen. There are a lot of things worth enjoying here, sure, but there’s an awful lot wrong, too.

I did intend to recap more of the comic than the first little snippet at the beginning. We were supposed to cut back to it at some point, before all these criticisms started to come out as I starting writing more and more of the script. There are a lot more problems here, though I still, somehow, think I would recommend this series? I have no interest in ever seeing any of these Watchmen characters show up in the DC universe ever again, but this ride, for what it is, was unique experiment I didn’t hate. I think I still really like this comic, in spite of all the problems. Sure, a lot of this story is pointless, and there was no good reason to make it 12 years long or to drag out for well over a year. Sure, the larger mystery behind Rebirth doesn’t seem to be all that much given the crazy amount of build-up. Sure, this always was a cheap attempt at a cash in and the final product barely a step away from that. And sure, nobody in their right mind asked DC to do any of this in the first place. And sure, the plot is like one one-hundredth as intricate or as well thought out as the original Watchmen – Okay, I’m pretty sure I still like this series, but I think maybe it’s time I end this before I talk myself out of that opinion entirely. Let me know what you all think in the comments section below, and keep reading comics!

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