Mild Mannered Reviews – Doomsday Clock #12

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Doomsday Clock #12

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 18, 2019
Cover date: February 2020

“Discouraged of Man”

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Cover: Gary Frank
Variant Cover: Gary Frank

Reviewed by: Keith Samra

We open with Dr Manhattan being confronted by Superman, and his life flashing before his eyes.

Superman is confronted by meta-humans from all different nations, in an attempt to bring him in, for the so called crimes he’s been framed for in Russia. Black Adam and his followers also show up, and they all engage in battle against Superman.

Across Gotham, Reggie watches the events going on, on a TV screen in a window, when he is attacked from behind by the storeowner. Alfred comes to Reggie’s rescue, and presents him with the Rorschach mask. He is reluctant to take it, until Batman arrives, and convinces him to claim the mantle of Rorschach, and change it to what he wants it to be.

Superman battles off the meta’s as hard as he can, knowing full well that he can’t hold them all back, and protect the innocents caught in the middle of it all. He pleads with Dr Manhattan for help, in keeping them safe. Manhattan reveals that he is the reason behind all this, and that he was also responsible of the death of his parents.

It is at this moment that Dr Manhattan has waited for, as he sees Superman charge toward him in anger, and its at that moment that he finds Superman protecting him against an attack from behind. At this moment, Dr Manhattan realises what it means to be a true hero, and makes the decision to right his wrong doings to this Earth. He uses his vast power, and stops the battle, and then travels back and undoes all his tampering’s

In doing so, Manhattan returns the Legion and JSA back into reality, and they aid Superman in fighting off the meta-humans of the many nations.

Dr Manhattan then gathers the denizens of his home world, and returns home, leaving behind the Mime and Marionette, who are expecting their second child.

Back home, Manhattan rids the world of all nuclear weapons, and guides a young boy, who is the son of mime and Marionette through his personal history. This time he changes aspects of his life, and prevents the accident that transforms him into Dr Manhattan. In doing so, he transfers his power to the young boy, whom he has named Clark.

4Story – 4: This issue marks the culmination of a story, three and a half years in set up. There is so much to unpack in this issue, I’ll try my hardest not to miss anything important.

We first encountered the idea of the Watchmen universe colliding with the regular DCU back in July of 2016, when the Rebirth era began with the Rebirth Special. This series as a whole can be looked at for Superman, as what The Dark Knight Returns was to Batman. Taking the character back to his core roots as the symbol of hope, and the lynchpin of the DC Universe, of whom without, everything would just fall into chaos.

I’m so happy that Johns put into words, the importance of this entire industry’s first and most important character, and whom without, the landscape would be totally different, and most likely wouldn’t even exist as what we know it to be today. Superman is the character whose back everything was built upon, including Marvel Comics and many other forms of entertainment. That’s what I took away from it at least. Superman’s example and symbolism of Hope is what “humanized” Dr Manhattan, causing him to go back and undo his tampering, returning the JSA and the Legion to the DCU proper. Geoff Johns promised an epic tale that would have many ramifications for years to come, sadly that was before the massive delays, and this title going from a monthly, to a bi-monthly or even longer release schedule. Also along the way, it became evident that parts of the story changed, due to whatever the goings on behind the scenes were, and the many side projects that may have distracted Johns in the process (and artist Gary Frank keeping up also).

One of the biggest surprises of this issue was somewhat spoiled for me by Brian Michael Bendis on his most recent appearance of the “Word Balloon” podcast. In saying that, the interviewer should not have left that portion in the recording, as the answer was a dead giveaway to this particular plotline.

I speak of the return of Jonathan ” Pa” Kent (and Martha, for the current continuity). Dr Manhattan revealed that he was responsible for the death of the Kent’s, the night they dropped Clark off to his prom/formal dance.

Johns had tied this back into his Superman: Secret Origin series, and also undid what he wrote in the Brainiac storyline previously before that. And even though it was spoilt for me, it was a joyous moment, as to me, the character of Pa Kent serves the mythos better alive, than he does dead. So I would really like to say, thank you Geoff for bringing him back.

Though it’s a shame that the Kent’s have returned back to the land of the living, in the Bendis era of Superman, Clark has just revealed his identity to the world, and their grandson Jon is now aged up and in the future.

The JSA and the Legion have returned once again as part of the universe as a whole, even though they have previously popped up in the pages of Snyder’s Justice League and Bendis’ Superman. This is what I mentioned in the behind the scenes goings on, as I’m sure that Johns wanted to return these two properties to the DCU before others were allowed to play with them, however this is my guess, and not written in stone.

It’s exciting to see the impact they will have on the DCU going forward, and what stories and events will spin out with their return.

The reason why I didn’t give this issue a 5/5 rating was mainly because of the few dangling character plotlines, some of whom weren’t even featured in the issue at all. Firestorm, Wonder Woman and Black Adam, played somewhat major roles, but didn’t have their arcs followed through, or resolved.

Black Adam, I admit a little bias here, as he is a personal favourite of mine, and my own wants may cloud my judgement, but I was a little disappointed for not seeing more of him, and his plan as a world leader, and enforcer. He tried to recruit Pohzar, but that was about it for him. Coupled with last issues very brief and off panel showdown with Superman, I feel Johns cheated the character of a moment to shine.

Firestorm played a very crucial role, but we didn’t even get to see him at all in the issue, and one of the biggest atrocities was the fact that Johns has made Dr Martin Stein a super villain, as being a pivotal character in the “Superman Theory”, one who created Firestorm for the sole purpose of an experiment. This undoes decades of stories, and taints the character, but this is to be expected from a Geoff Johns story.

We did get some awesome Lex Luthor moments, and this issue revealed that all he is after is the accolades, as he wanted Lois to write the story, and give him the credit he deserves.

The Comedian served very little purpose also, as he was plucked from the instance before his death, and was let loose in the DCU, only to be returned back to his death by Lex Luthor, after having very minimal impact. The Mime and Marionette were also minor players, which had a whole issue dedicated to them, only to really just be the parents of a child they never met or raised, save the promise that Dr Manhattan gives them, that they will see him again, and he will need an anchor as he did.

Batman was another character that seemed to be a key player, except that he pretty much fell flat during the third act of the series. The torture and injuries he endured during the middle of the series seemed to be for naught, as all he did was inspire Reggie to become Rorschach once again. This could have been done from a number of characters, even Alfred to be honest. And just like Batman, Wonder Woman was also underused and forgotten at the end as well. We were teased with the fact that she would be involved in the massive battle during the climax, yet she was nowhere to be seen at the end, save a mention from the television reports. This is what I meant, when I said that the story feels like it changed during its time of release.

One character that got a major arc of his own was Dr Manhattan. The first issue of this series was released just over 2 years ago in November of 2017, where we learned that Dr Manhattan had been tampering with this world and its history, causing such events as Flashpoint and New 52 to happen. This of course happened after he left his own Earth, and discovered the DCU. Having Manhattan be the antagonist, whose machinations altered the course of the DCU timeline, was a magnificent idea, especially if using the character would be the means to return the DCU to what it was meant to be. Let’s face it, the New 52 was not successful in the way they wanted it to be, and it muddied the waters of continuity immensely. Trying to right the ship with Rebirth was definitely a wise and welcome choice, but there were still a lot of missing elements for the DCU to be complete once again, and Johns made excellent use of the character of Dr Manhattan in particular, to make that happen. As we know, Johns writes characters very well, but has the need to make them his own, by making them fit into the world that he wants them to inhabit. And in this case, Dr Manhattan got a “happy ending”, through the inspiration he found in Superman.

Having being inspired by Superman’s core goodness and him returning and setting things right, made the tail end of this issue feel like it was part of or one of the Crisis events of the DCU. I really loved the way Manhattan stood there watching, as the metahumans from different countries fought Superman, and amongst it all, Superman still protected the innocent, and pleaded with Manhattan to “help these people”. When Manhattan told him that he was the one responsible for the death of the Kent’s, we see the angered Superman go at him in all his rage. I really loved that Manhattan closes his eyes, and accepts his fate, only for Superman to protect him against an attacking Pohzar from behind. This is the best scene in the whole book, and latter part of the entire series. Manhattan after that cleans up his own world, by ridding it of all nuclear weapons, and also transferring his immense power to a boy named Clark. One who is the son of the Mime and Marionette.

Johns also managed to establish, or rather pre-empt the fact that all the DC characters will always be updated as the years go on. I loved the fact that he used Superman to illustrate this point, as Manhattan narrates that Superman will always escape a doomed Krypton, and be found by a kindly loving couple. Every version of him fits into a multi-verse or rather meta-verse earth. And even the New 52 version has an Earth of its own, Earth 52.

So if you look at it, all the origin tales we have gotten in the last three decades regarding Superman fit a Earth and time of their own. I had a very nice pleasing feeling about knowing that they all do matter.

The series as a whole can’t be argued with, in its epic nature, sadly I feel that it may not have lived up to the hype of what it intended as. Geoff Johns did what he does best, unfolded continuity into his own liking to serve the story he is telling. Basically he did what he has done for well over a decade now, starting with Green Lantern Rebirth, Flash Rebirth, and then the company wide Rebirth initiative in 2016. He gave Dr Manhattan a happy ending, and gave the Watchmen Earth world peace, something that he really didn’t need to , as it was a very self-contained story, and Alan Moore’s ending left a lot to the imagination of the reader afterward.

My opinion is, that Watchmen did not need a sequel (or prequels for that matter), but Johns being the high calibre talent that he is, he spun a grand tale from what he chose to do with it. And he used it to “fix” what he needed or wanted to in the DCU. I guess it’s the same as the Star Wars argument by many fans. First came the prequels that hardcore fans hated as it didn’t line up with what they loved about the originals, and then the sequel trilogy that fans either love for the nostalgia and forwarding of the story, or hate for its tainting of the original. Best I can say, if you liked it, I’m happy for you, if you hated it, you actually don’t have to read it again.

I have yet to read this as a whole as a graphic novel, as I’m sure it was meant to be read as, but save for having Pa Kent and the JSA and the LoSH, I feel this series just didn’t quite hit the mark it was meant to, this could have been attributed by the vast amounts of time in between issues, which did make my interest in the series wane a bit.

My final thought I guess is, it was superbly written, from the overall story to the many key characters, yet at the same time, I’m not sure it needed to be done. I’m left with a feeling of uncertainty in how I feel about it. I love that characters are back, I’m lost to the confusion of having a Watchmen sequel. What I will say is, that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be conflicted. I’m sure that an opinion will form in time, much like the plot threads in the story.

5Art – 5: The art in this issue and throughout the series has been beyond fantastic. Gary Frank help make this series what it is, with his renditions of all the characters featured. Original Watchmen to the modern DCU, Frank managed to capture the essence of each character, as well as keep the tone set by Dave Gibbons from the original. Like Johns writing, there is no one else that could have done this series justice, other than Gary Frank.

Franks Superman has evolved since his stint on the character almost over a decade ago. The massive Christopher Reeve homage has now transformed into a hybrid of a classic Superman from silver/bronze age, with a dash of Reeves still in there for good measure. Frank still draws the iconic Superman suit with elegance and respect, and he just pops off the page (colors help too).

There is still a fair amount of the nine panel page layout throughout the issue, but Frank is able to play with the layout on may pages, and tell a more effective story, still keeping the cinematic scope, within the almost storyboard aspect of them. I love that he used the splash pages so sparingly, this way they were far more effective. Absolutely love the double splash of the Legion and the JSA coming to Superman’s assistance. That had a George Perez vibe to it. The double splash featuring the international heroes and villains battling one another was also an awesome sight. So much detail for characters that are considered D-F listers.

I also want to commend Frank on the modesty shown in his renditions of Dr Manhattan, using various angles and different shots, avoiding his private areas. I realise that that is a troupe of the character as written and illustrated in the original series, but Frank was good enough to keep it as modest as possible.

One thing that I was a little disappointed in, was Batman’s costume change, more specifically the fact that he went back to the giant black bat symbol, from the one with the yellow oval behind it. Again, I’m showing a little bias here, because of my love of that look and era/costume of Batman. I just wish that we had a chance to keep it, and it be adopted back as Batman’s look going forward, sadly not the case. However in speaking of Batman, I noticed that Frank managed to sneak in the Knights End Jean-Paul Valley Batman on page 2, amongst the meta-humans led by Geo-Force.

Frank’s Black Adam is another character that looks great, except I hate the fact that the modern version of him has a cape. Black Adam always looked so much better without it.

Brad Anderson’s colors have been a true delight throughout the whole series, they have had a vivid yet subdued quality to them. They perfectly mesh with the coloring from the original series, yet update them enough for this one. The long panel on page 14 looks as though it could have been lifted from the original series, both the colors and the art are fantastic at blending them both together.

5Cover Art – 5: This cover though minimal, speaks volumes of what the conclusion of this story would bring. At least that’s what we were lead to believe. The close up of the “S” with a touch of blood, makes you want to open the book and read what could cause such a sight.

5Variant Cover Art – 5: The clock strikes 12 with an almost frightened Dr Manhattan standing just below it. On the one side, he faces an unknown abyss, on the other side, Superman stands above his defeated body, A very effective cover, with incredible coloring also.

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December 18, 2019 4:54 pm

I got what I wanted!! The Kents!!!

December 19, 2019 10:17 pm
Reply to  HouseOfPotter

But do we really have them now that DC is dismantling Rebirth?

December 18, 2019 5:06 pm

I’ll be honest. For the most part, I was content, but I have to agree that a lot of the characters got the short end of the stick. And, if I’m honest, no one more than Dr. Manhattan. If you’ve been following the story since Rebirth, you always heard about the mysterious figure pulling the strings behind Mr. Oz. We never really got an acknowledgement of that. Or how about the fact that Dr. Manhattan zapped Pandora out of existence way back in DC Rebirth. That kind of goes without explanation. Especially when you stop to see that the Dr.… Read more »

December 18, 2019 7:46 pm
Reply to  jmarcus

He has a way of making him look like he is looking right at you. At least for me thats how it seems

December 18, 2019 7:35 pm

Now that the final issue is out, I can finally start reading this series. I tend to wait till every issue is out before I start to read a story. That way I don’t have to wait for a while to read the next chapter.

December 18, 2019 7:40 pm

This! This is how you do a Superman Arc. Bendis should take notes.

December 19, 2019 2:10 am

I’m not going to say that this has been a perfect story or even an effective ending. It’s definitely had its problems, far from a masterpiece. But I love this series for the simple fact that it (rightfully) sets Superman as the center of the DC Universe. The entire book is Geoff Johns unabashed love letter to all the things great about Superman

December 19, 2019 9:24 am

Good review. Thank you for pointing out the spoiler in the “Word Balloon” podcast. That was so unnecessary and ruined that bit for me as well. I will NEVER listen to that podcast again.

December 19, 2019 8:46 pm

Having Pa Kent alive adds such a better dynamic to Superman stories. I really wish they had kept both John Schneider’s and Kevin Costner’s versions alive as I thought Schneider’s was excellent and thought Costner had a lot of potential to be a great Johnathan. As for the overall story. I do like how the handled Superman at the end, but it’s easy to get distracted regarding Superman’s actual inclusion in a story and having him be more of a plot point. I prefer to have him be more of a central character in stories rather than have him be… Read more »

December 20, 2019 6:50 pm

One quibble with the facts in your review. Dr. Manhattan did NOT get a happy ending. He says specifically that he is only “daydreaming” about what might have happened if he had never had the accident that turned him into Dr. Manhattan.

Kal L
December 21, 2019 3:01 pm
Reply to  Superbearcub

I think what he meant was that now Dr Manhattan has hope, and is able to dream of such things. about as happy as it will get for him.

Kal L
December 21, 2019 3:09 pm

Wow what a review! I remember the excitement for this book over 2 years ago, and Keith had written up this as a prelude: It’s weird that some of this didnt pan out, but thats fan theories. Happy to have the Kent’s back for sure, but what is Bendis going to do with them, is my question. Bendis for sure ruined the Kent’s surprise in the Word Balloon podcast, which was a little unfair. the Carver Coleman subplot was good, Johns should have just come out and said that he was a pivotal figure in Hollywood as an openly… Read more »

December 21, 2019 6:31 pm

So on the one hand it acknowledges the idea that every version of Superman and the DCU has it’s own Earth even New 52. Yet it also says that some variant of COIE and rebooting Earth 1 will go on forever. But why do you need to reboot Earth 1 if you have the Multiverse to begin with besides just to keep a COIE type event around?

December 26, 2019 10:04 am

There is only one thing Dr. Manhattan couldn’t bring back: Superman Homepage’s Comic Books News section to the top of the page. A web about A COMIC BOOK CHARACTER where its comic books section is placed at the lowest end right above the ??miscellaneous section??