By Keith Samra
DC Rebirth – Countdown to Doomsday Clock
Once again, Doomsday is almost upon us, however this time, it doesn’t appear to be an ancient Kryptonian weapon of mass destruction, but rather someone potentially more dangerous. The being I speak of is Dr Manhattan from the 1986 maxi series “Watchmen”, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It has been hinted several times that Dr Manhattan has been manipulating the events and lives of the heroes and villains of the DCU. Whatever his true agenda may be still remains a mystery, but there have been several subtle hints of his meddling dropped all across the DCU, since the beginning of the Rebirth era. All of which have been leading to this upcoming series.
As many of you know, I write the “Elsewhere in the DCU” reviews here for the Homepage. This allowed me to look more in depth into the books, and find the instances that show evidence that something big has been going on in the background, and at the center of it all appears to be Dr Manhattan, and possibly Ozymandias as well.
Before I start with clues found in the books, let’s take it all back to the reason we are all here in the first place… Superman. Just over two years ago we learned that the Pre-New 52 Superman was indeed alive and well, and had been living in secret, along with his wife Lois and their son Jon, who was born during the Convergence crossover. This Superman remembered how things were before the events of Flashpoint, when Barry Allen raced back in time to save his mother, causing a different reality to take place in the present day. After trying to set things right, we were thrust into the New 52 era, where time began anew for our familiar heroes and villains. Superman witnessed all this, along with the existence of another Superman and Lois Lane, allowing him to live the quiet life with his new, young family.
All this culminated at the death of the New 52 Superman, causing the original Clark to once again take up the mantle of the Man of Steel. Which leads us into the start of our journey, and the first book on the road to Doomsday Clock…
This book wasn’t just the start of the Rebirth era, but also the first reappearance of the original Kid Flash, Wally West, whom had been missing for several years during the New 52. Wally appears to a number of people in a ghostly form surrounded by lightning as he is being phased out of existence by what appears to be the Speed Force, the source of all speedsters’ powers.
He first appears to Batman in the Bat-cave. He asks Batman for help, but sadly Batman doesn’t remember him at all, and once again he is sucked into the Speed Force. All Wally needs is for someone to remember and reach out to him, which will help him escape the encompassing grasp the Speed Force seems to have on him.
What follows is Wally remembering his history, and then narrating the fact that history of the DCU has been changed, and that 10 years have been stolen from it, heroes had been lost, and a darkness started to infect them, long before even the events of Flashpoint occurred. This could possibly mean that Dr Manhattan may have been responsible for the “Crisis of Infinite Earths”, or the undoing of that with “Infinite Crisis”.
Wally then appears to an old man in an elderly home. The old man is none other than Johnny Thunder, and Wally tells him to find his friends in the Justice Society, that they are not completely lost, and to use the Genie. Johnny Thunder’s response leads us to believe he may have had a hand in their disappearance, as he says he didn’t mean for any of it to happen. (Johnny Thunder appears again later in The Flash books, more on that to come).
Wally’s third appearance is to his wife, Linda Park. With a vain hope that she will remember him, he reaches out to her, but sadly she too has forgotten him just like everyone else, causing him to be sucked away into the Speed Force again.
Desperately trying to connect with his friends and loved ones, Wally appears to Dick Grayson and Victor Stone, he even tries with the villain Captain Boomerang, but none remember him. None can reach out and pull him from his captivity.
Lastly Wally appears to The Flash/Barry Allen. Knowing that his time is up, he knows that all he can say is goodbye to his friend, uncle and mentor. Wally has given up on trying to come back to the world, and comes to terms with his demise. As he starts to dissipate, he thanks Barry for all that he has done for him, and warns him that something is coming. It is at the very last second that Barry suddenly remembers him, and pulls him free of the Speed Force. With Wally finally back, he tells Barry to investigate what has happened, with his return, the heroes can finally learn of the things that have been happening behind the scenes, and possibly stop the coming crisis.
Aside from Wally we also cryptically see Saturn Girl from the Legion of Superheroes of the future. She is being held in remand by the police who think that she is mentally unhinged, as she refuses to tell them her name and identity, and says she needs to speak with Superman urgently. We are shown that the police take her Legion Flight Ring, which would prevent her from escaping.
We also see Ryan Choi, star pupil of Prof. Ray Palmer/The Atom. The Atom is in peril as he went to investigate a disruption in the nano-structure of the timeline. Shrinking himself down further than he has even gone, he discovers what he calls the Microverse.
The mysterious Pandora who appeared when the New 52 began, meets her doom, in similar fashion to the victims of Dr Manhattan in “Watchmen”. Before she dies she tell her murderer that the heroes of this world embody hope, and they will vanquish what he has done. It appears that she is talking directly to Dr Manhattan, and that she may have been a pawn in whatever game it is he is playing.
Mr Oz makes his first appearance to the Clark Kent/Superman of the old world. This is the first appearance of Mr Oz, and we recently learned that he was none other than Jor-El himself, plucked before the destruction of Krypton. We now know why he had a vested interest in Superman and his family.
This book is the starting point of it all, and lays the foundation of all that comes next. The book literally begins and ends with the inner workings of a watch, and Batman discovers a mysterious smiley face Button embedded in the bat-cave wall, after the appearance of Wally West.
This book (issues #1-6) reestablishes Wally West in the company of his friends from his days in the Teen Titans, now known simply as the Titans. It is revealed that the villain Abracadabra was responsible for Wally’s disappearance and everyone forgetting him. Near the end of the story, Lilith (aka Omen) reads Abracadabra’s mind and pulls the name “Manhattan” from it. Issue #7 guest stars Superman, where he and Wally have a race across country, giving them some time to talk. It’s revealed that they are the only two heroes that remember the world as it used to be before the events of Flashpoint and New 52.
This issue is the first in the story line “I am Suicide,” in which Batman gathers a Suicide Squad of his own, to go to Santa Prisca, the home of Bane, to rescue Gotham Gal. During one of the scenes as he walks through Arkham Asylum, Saturn Girl is seen in one of the holding cells. She sees Batman and draws a Legion of Superheroes insignia on her cell glass window. She was last seen in the “DC Universe Rebirth Special”. She was keeping her identity hidden, leading the authorities to have her committed. (This isn’t the last time we see her).
In this issue we learn that Emerald Empress, the villain from the future, is in this timeline trying to find Saturn Girl, whom we last saw in Arkham Asylum (Batman #9). Emerald Empress reveals to us that Superman is at the center of the mystery. After her and her Squads attack on Superman during a battle with the Justice League, she mocks him by saying, “If you only knew what the future holds, Superman… You’d let Max get what he wants!…You’re better off dead than ever knowing the truth!” It’s a revelation that Superman’s upcoming role in “Doomsday Clock” will be a major and quite possibly perilous one. Johnny Sorrow also mentions that “Time is missing”. It appears he and Emerald Empress also remember what came before, just as Superman and Wally do.
Detective Comics #940
This is the seventh part of the story line, “Rise of the Batmen”. In this issue we see Tim Drake/Red Robin meet his untimely death, by the plans set in motion by Kate Kane/Batwoman’s father. It appears in the end, that Red Robin is blasted to oblivion by some drones. However, the mysterious Mr Oz, who had popped up time and time again in the Superman books, abducts Red Robin at the last second, saving him from death, but keeping him prisoner in his lair.
Red Robin is not the only one that is held captive there. Others include the monster Doomsday (who was taken similarly as Tim was, in the pages of Action Comics, as Superman attempts to send him to the Phantom Zone), Mr Mxyzptlk (who may have been held captive since before Flashpoint even), and lastly a future version of Tim Drake (more on that to come).
Here we learn the true history of why there were two different Supermen and Lois Lane’s from Flashpoint and beyond. Mr Mxyzptlk was behind the recent events that had a different Clark Kent show up (Mxy in disguise with self caused amnesia), after he had escaped from Mr Oz’s prison. We also get a glimpse of Tim Drake again, as he taunts Mr Oz about the fact that someone escaped. This story helps realign the history of Superman into cohesion, making it that there was only one Superman all along, as the two versions of Superman merge back together, having been separated during Flashpoint and Convergence.
Notice of importance is that the Pre-Flashpoint Superboy, (Conner Kent, Superman’s Clone), gets omitted from history of altogether. It appears that he was never created during the “Reign of the Supermen” saga, after Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday. Other noticeable absences aside from Conner are his friends Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash), and Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl). Conner, Bart and Tim were the original Young Justice team, and later Cassie, Tim and Conner would become the Teen Trinity of the DCU. All these characters existed in the New 52, but since Rebirth, they have been inexplicably absent.
After many months, Tim Drake finally manages to escape from Mr Oz’s imprisonment, with the help of his older self from an alternate future, who’s taken up the mantle of Batman in an extreme fashion. It is here that the older Tim Drake reveals that he regrets pushing everyone away, especially his best friend Conner… This may be an indication that the other teen heroes along with the JSA may have been taken by Dr Manhattan, and maybe not be wiped from existence after all. Wally did tell Johnny Thunder that many are simply lost.
The Button (Batman #21-22, The Flash #21-22)
This 4-issue crossover arc is meant to be a prelude to “Doomsday Clock” according to DC editorial. The story starts with Saturn Girl in Arkham Asylum watching an ice hockey game with her fellow inmates, when she starts to go crazy saying, “Wait wait wait, this is the game. Where they kill him”… Growing more disturbed she goes on to say, “I can’t stop it, I can’t stop it… Stop it. Can’t you see? Nothing stops it… Superman won’t come. Our friends will die. The Legion will die… No one will stop it. No one will save us”.
Meanwhile Batman watches the exact same game in the Bat-cave as he thinks over a case, and he has the Button in his hand. After the Button has a reaction to Johnny Sorrow’s mask (it’s on Batman’s desk, after the events of “I Am Suicide”), Bruce gets a glimpse of his father Thomas as the Batman of Flashpoint. He calls Barry to discuss this, only for Reverse Flash to turn up instead. (Reverse Flash came back to life after being killed by the Flashpoint Batman in the conclusion of that event. It’s what allows Barry to set the timeline right again, only for the New 52 to then take its place. Where Barry gives Bruce a letter that his dad wrote him during Flashpoint). Reverse Flash destroys this letter, and beats Batman to a pulp, he then grabs the Button, which instantly takes him away somewhere, only to be returned almost immediately looking beat up, and barely alive. He says one sentence before he burns up and dies leaving only his uniform and skeleton behind “God… God… I saw God”. He burns away by a blue flame, reminiscent of Dr Manhattan’s power blasts. Just then The Flash arrives, and sees a barely conscious Bruce and a dead Reverse Flash.
We then see Johnny Thunder calling out for his Thunder Bolt, saying, “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” again leading us to believe he had a hand in the disappearance of the JSA and possibly others. It’s evident he may be a key element to possibly bringing them back.
Barry and Bruce decide to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Button, they have to travel back in time using the cosmic treadmill, to see what really happened to Reverse Flash. Along the way, they see reality as it was, before the Flashpoint, getting snippets of their past adventures in the Justice League as well as the events of “Identity Crisis”).
When they finally reach the point of their destination, they discover they have appeared during Flashpoint. (Before Barry set things to what he thought was right, just before the New 52 set in). Once there, Bruce comes face to face with The Batman of that time, Thomas Wayne. They exchange some quick words, before an army of Amazons come to attack. After they manage to defeat them, Bruce asks his father to return with him to the future. Thomas refuses, telling Bruce he doesn’t belong there, and advises Bruce to stop being Batman and live a normal life. As they leave a white cloud takes over reality, wiping it from existence (much like the effects seen in the “Crisis of Infinite Earths” series, when worlds die). As Bruce and Barry travel back through the time stream, they come across Reverse Flash, after the moment he discovered the Button.
Bruce sees that Reverse Flash is still holding the Button, and they try to stop Reverse Flash from reaching his destination. The three of them battle through the time stream, as Reverse Flash is pulled into to the end of the trail that he was traveling. It is here where he meets the being he called “God”, and is blasted back to the Bat-cave to the time just before the Flash arrives in the cave to find him dead.
A voice calls out to Barry in the time stream, and Bruce encourages him to travel toward it. The voice tells Barry his name is Jay, Barry has no clue as to who Jay may be. A figure bursts through, the original Flash, Jay Garrick of the JSA. He manages to get Bruce and Barry back to the Bat-cave. Jay tells Barry he needs to remember him like he did Wally. But before he can say more, a beam of blue and white energy pulls Jay away.
We then see the Button, where it was dropped by Reverse Flash. I glowing blue hand picks it up, it is evident now more than ever, that Dr Manhattan is behind all of this. We are left with a dialogue spoken by Dr Manhattan in the Watchmen series. “Why does my perception of time distress you? Everything is preordained. Even my responses… We’re all puppets Laurie… I’m just a puppet who can see the strings”.
We are left with an epilogue of the Button falling, as the panels close in closer to the red from the blood of the Comedian on the yellow smiley face. The camera pans back on the following page, only to reveal the “S” shield on Superman’s chest, with a quote from August Strindberg… “There are poisons that blind you, and poisons that open your eyes”.
So that should catch you up to the present day. Hopefully this article will help set you up for what comes next when “Doomsday Clock” begins.
A final thought before we finish is, and let me be clear, this is just a speculation only on my part, but in DC lore, there is a hand at the beginning of time, which was discovered by Krona.
In “Crisis of Infinite Earths” the revelation to us is that the hand that Krona sees is not that of God, but that of the Anti-Monitor, and it is his observation, that creates the multiverse. But by the end of “Crisis”, the Anti-Monitor is reaching through, and he is met with the hand of the Spectre. Changing the timeline, so the multiverse is never created in the first place.
With the New 52, all time is rewritten for the universe. Krona once again sees a hand at the beginning of creation, but this time, the hand is wearing a Green Lantern Ring. The Ring belongs to Volthoom, the First Lantern, who bonds with the Great Heart and obtains the power to rewrite time and history.
What if this is the case again, and this time the hand belongs to Dr Manhattan? He certainly has the power, and this time he can reshape the DCU from beginning to end.
Something to think about…