Mild Mannered Reviews – Doomsday Clock #8

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Doomsday Clock #8

Scheduled to arrive in stores: December 5, 2018

Cover date: January 2019

“Save Humanity”

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

Reviewed by: Keith Samra

Click to enlarge

Doomsday Clock #8We begin with Ozymandias in a dark room, which looks like the Oval Office at the White House.

We then cut to Metropolis in morning, at the Daily Planet, where Lois is telling Clark that someone has been going through her desk, when Perry White comes in asking about the story regarding the “Superman Theory”. Lois assures Perry that he will have it soon, as she then discovers a package that was sent to her. Jimmy brings her Kool-Aid instead of freshly squeezed orange juice, to which she is rather upset about.

On TV it is reported that Firestorm is in Moscow fighting Pohzar, and that other meta-humans are involved. Firestorm manages to hold his own, when negative Woman phases through him, causing his powers to short out. As he is swamped by an angry crowd, which he falls down into, he panics, and in a big flash of light everyone around him is turned to glass. Firestorm flies off, and everyone at the Daily Planet watches this in shock. Clark makes a quick getaway, and is as usual unseen, but who is seen flying off is Superman, and those that catch a glimpse of him rejoice in the fact that “Superman’s going to clear this all up”.

Superman arrives at the nation of Kandaq, where he is met with other meta-humans like the Creeper and Giganta. Superman is escorted to the nation’s ruler, Black Adam, who welcomes him, and shows him around his kingdom. Black Adam confirms that he has heard the rumors that Firestorm came to hide out in Kandaq, like many of the meta-human populace, but assures him that he is not there. As Superman flies off, he tells him, “Firestorm will always be welcome in Kandaq, and be safe from the world’s governments and their puppets”.

We cut back to the Daily Planet, it is now later in the evening, Lois is talking to Superman, as he explains that he’s looked for Firestorm all over, and hasn’t had much luck. Lois suggests that maybe Firestorm didn’t flee too far, and may still be close by in Russia.

Lois’ attention is then diverted to the package she received earlier that morning, and she opens it to find a flash-drive. She plugs it into her computer, and it plays a video of an old newscast, which introduces the Justice Society of America. Lois is surprised at this, as she has no clue who these heroes of yesteryear are.

In Russia, Superman hears Ronnie Raymond’s voice, and knows that he has found Firestorm. He walks into the building where he is hiding, and discovers the young hero attempting to bring one of the glass people back to life. Superman greets him, only to find that Firestorm is scared that Superman may want to fight him to bring him in, after reassuring him, Firestorm explains that his powers have never worked on transmuting anything organic before, and that he has no idea what happened, but wants to desperately change the glass boy in front of him, back to flesh and blood. Superman reassures him, that if he did it once, he can surely do it again, and Firestorm gives it his all to change the boy back. As the dust settles, Superman sees that Firestorm was successful, as the once glass statue is bought back to life. The child calls out to Superman, and runs into his arms and Firestorm takes a sigh of relief.

Later in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin, holds a press conference regarding the tragedy the day before, when Superman arrives. He is welcomed to the nation by the President, and is given an opportunity to address the nation and the media. Superman tells the world that what Firestorm did was an accident, and that it can be undone. Meanwhile Batman is hearing this as he travels in the Batwing, he opens a channel to Superman’s coms, and tells him to stop talking, and not to “pick a side” regarding the meta-human problem. Superman tells the media that Firestorm is not a villain that the media is making him out to be, when he is stopped by President Putin, who tells Superman that Pozhar has proof that Firestorm is an American agent, and what he did is considered to be an attack on the people of Russia. It appears that simply by trying to explain the situation, the media has taken it as Superman siding with Firestorm, and the meta-human populace, exactly what Batman tried to prevent.

Superman tries to explain that Firestorm can actually reverse the effects of what happened, when Firestorm arrives on the scene, with the transmuted child in his arms.

President Putin is shocked, and asks Superman “what trickery is this”, but before he can answer, the military soldier opens fire on Firestorm.

Superman rushes to the aid of the child, trying to protect him from the gunfire, and Firestorm watches as some stray bullets hit the glass statues that were once people. Firestorm lashes out at the soldiers’ weapons, and the Russian meta-humans are ordered to put an end to the so called attack by Pozhar, who himself goes after Firestorm. President Putin is rushed away, and the army move in with their tanks, and in doing so, they begin to run over and crush the glass statues. Superman sees this and topples the tank, and all this is being shown live across the world. Lois sits in shock in her and Clark’s apartment as she watches on TV whilst Batman doubles his efforts to get to Moscow as fast as he can.

Firestorm manages to fight off Pozhar, and tries to calm everyone down, yelling that he can fix the situation by transmuting the people back, but becomes distraught at the sight of the broken statues. His powers look as if they are ready to detonate, as they react to Ronnie’s emotions. Superman makes his way to Firestorm to calm him down, and help him not lose control, while Batman yells through the coms that the power readings are spiking. Firestorm tells Superman that he is ok, and indicates that he is not losing control. Batman screams that the power readings are spiking, and that it’s not Firestorm, just then there is an explosion, all news feeds are cut. Batman is thrown of course, and Superman and Firestorm are caught right in the middle of it.

“Yes… It begins”… Ozymandias.

To be continued…

5Story – 5: Though I may not love the political theme behind this issue, there is no denying that it is very well written on Geoff Johns’ part, and that this series is one of the best examples of Johns’ extraordinary talent as a writer in this industry. This issue was a couple of weeks late, and it is said that it was because it features Vladimir Putin, in a rather extensive role. Whatever the case, I feel it as worth the wait.

I’m not going to get political in this review, and compare it to real world events and the sort, because it’s just not that sort of a party to be frank. Though the themes of this issue are very much based in a real world context, I want to avoid unnecessary political debates, and rather focus on a very well layered story that is full of mystery and intrigue. And I urge you to pay close attention to the art also. There are many clues hidden in there.

Firstly let’s all rejoice in the fact that this issue is very Superman centric, which I absolutely loved. Though I love Batman as well, I was getting a little tired of him taking centre stage in this story thus far, seeing as how this series was marketed as a major Superman centric event.

We get to see Clark, Lois, Perry and Jimmy at the Daily Planet, which reminded me that the Daily Planet is capital location in the DCU. Much like the Batcave or the JL headquarters, the Daily Planet has been a staple of the DCU across many different mediums, and it was a wonderful setting to really kick-start this chapter.

The only negatives that bothered me about it was the fact that Johns default for Superman and much of his supporting cast is Superman: The Movie.

From Clark’s dorky portrayal to Lois’ insistence on freshly squeezed orange juice, the Superman: The Movie references are becoming a little tiresome and rather dated to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love Superman: The Movie, and consider it to be the best comic book film of all time (as well as it being my personal number one, most favorite film). However after four decades, relying heavily on that portrayal of Superman and his world has become very clichéd. Even the fruit vendor just on the street level of the Daily Planet, grabbing someone that hadn’t paid is an almost lift form the movie.

In fact Johns portrayal of Superman is bordering on that of the likes of Jeph Loeb and Mark Waid, both whom just want to tell Silver-Age Superman stories and not progress the character forward.

That being said, Superman in this issue was so very well written in his characteristics, that casual and non-fans alike would see the importance of him in the DCU.

The best example of this is when Superman takes to addressing the world in Moscow, how he tries to plead Firestorm’s case to the media, and his instant reaction to saving the boy that Firestorm bought back with him. His anger as he watched the Russian soldiers destroy some of the “glass people,” knowing full well that they could all have been transmuted back to flesh and blood. This is what Superman is all about. Another perfect example is that he is the most beloved Superhero in the world, and when the young boy gets changed by Firestorm back to flesh and blood, he runs and embraces Superman, like a child would to his parents.

The scene in Kandaq was also a favorite of mine, not because it featured Black Adam, but because Johns portrayed Superman as having both respect for the ruler of the nation, and for the awesome power that he wields. Yet he never backed down from him, when Black Adam calls him a “glorified fire-fighter in a cape”. It’s not just the respect that Superman shows, but the respect that he is given by leaders of the world, from Black Adam to Vladimir Putin.

So even though I have issues with the “era” that Johns likes to keep Superman frozen in, I do love the way he writes the Man of Steel, and manages to capture his very core essence.

In the last issue we discussed how Dr Manhattan had influenced the DCU, by never letting Alan Scott become the Golden-Age Green Lantern and by making the world forget about the Justice Society of America. I loved how in this issue we see Lois given the information of “what never was”. I loved the way Johns set this up, as we see the first steps in the eventual return of the JSA, I’m excited to see how this will play out.

Lastly I want to touch on Firestorm and the role that he has played not just this issue, but the entire series so far. Much like Superman, Firestorm has made multiple appearances in this series, but only a few scenes at a time, and this issue we see how his actions have put him in a situation that the media and foreign governments have condemned him for. I have been a fan of Firestorm for many years now, ever since I got the Kenner Super Powers action figure, and then seeing him on the Super Friends animated show on reruns a few years after that. Firestorm much like Spider-Man and the Hulk, has always been reset to his own “default level” of being football star and hot head Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein, even though the character has evolved a significant amount, in this current continuity. The last time we had seen Firestorm he was made up of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch.

However putting that aside, we learn that through Ronnie’s brash attitude, Firestorm has gotten himself in a bit of trouble in Russia, and seemingly transmuted many people into glass. I loved the way that Johns had kept the intensity of this angle throughout the issue, as we all know, Firestorm’s powers don’t work on anything organic. Johns managed to keep classic Firestorm essence in the banter between Ronnie and Prof. Stein, while running off half-cocked into battle. But the real magic was when Firestorm struggled with what had transpired with the crowd, and how through much agony and some encouragement by Superman he was able to undo a wrong which he thought he had committed. Of course we know that that wasn’t the case, as Batman tried to tell Superman, and with the explosion at the conclusion of the issue, indicating that it was Dr Manhattan, instead of Firestorm, as the blast was after all blue. It very much looks like Dr Manhattan is trying to set up Superman and Firestorm for an attack on Russian soil, with the help of Ozymandias.

The pacing has been slow, and also the bi-monthly solicitations have hurt the project a little, but Johns has managed to keep the interest high in this series, and continues to do some of the best writing of his career so far. We only have four issues to go, and it seems that we have switched into high gear.

5Art – 5: This is the first issue that Gary Frank has drawn, that doesn’t involve the cast of Watchmen (aside from the two pages that feature a shadowy Ozymandias), and even though his style is the exact same as it has been throughout the series, we see a shift in the tone, which just goes to show that the heroes of the DCU, especially Superman bring a lot more light into a darkened world. I really, really loved the art in this issue. This has been the highlight for me so far in this series. Truly exceptional work and I can’t wait to buy this series in trade form, so that I can read it again, without breaking between chapters.

There is so much detail in this issue that you really need to pay close attention to the panels. The key detail is that at the start of the issue, we see that Ozymandias is in what looks like the presidential office in the White House. And then at the conclusion of the book, he sits in an undisclosed location, surrounded by monitors, as he watches the horror that transpires in Russia, but the biggest clue is behind him, as we see a rifle and soldiers uniform. This led me to believe that he was the Russian soldier that opened fire on Firestorm during the end, beginning the all-out assault on him and Superman. Even the coloring gives out a major clue, but more on that later.

I have always enjoyed Frank’s rendition of Superman, though it is very Christopher Reeve-esque, his Superman has always looked regal and majestic. And with the interactions Superman has with many other characters throughout the issue, we see him stand tall and equal among them, as he always should. The best thing about Frank’s Superman was his use of emotion through his face. The smile is spot on, and shows just how much of a warm character Superman is in this world. This is seen throughout, with his interactions as Clark with Lois, then as Superman with Firestorm and the boy he brings back to life. The frown shows the concern Superman would have when he meets with Black Adam, and the others in Kandaq. And finally the concern, frustration and anger in the final act, as he takes on the army and the Russian affiliated heroes.

Later with Superman’s arrival in Moscow, as he first floats above all that are gathered, it leaves you with a little bit of reminiscence of Henry Cavill’s Superman from the DCEU. And is also a fantastic worm’s eye view of Superman.

Having done some professional illustration work myself, I can say that what Frank achieved with Superman in this issue is no small feat, and if he needs an extra few weeks to complete an issue and keep the quality of the art the same, then I say let the man draw!

Gary Frank managed to capture the likeness of Vladimir Putin excellently, and though many would argue that it’s easy to do so, if you trace existing pictures. But whenever this has been done in the past, it can be remarkably obvious, and can take you out of the story a little.

My absolute favorite part of this issue was Firestorm’s struggle as he tries and succeeds in transmuting the young boy back to life from glass. The amount of detail in Firestorm’s face really shows the anguish and struggle that he goes through regarding the events surrounding him. It is only made more powerful, when Superman arrives, and the look of joy and delight when Firestorm manages succeed. If I could have any original art for this issue, it would be these two pages.

The very few panels that feature Batman are quite intense, as you can feel the urgency he has to get to Moscow himself, and also with Lois as she watches the events transpire at home on T.V.

The art is getting just as exciting as the story is, as we head into the final quarter of this series. I just can’t wait to see how things will play out, and how Frank will render them. I am eagerly awaiting the showdown between Superman and Dr Manhattan, as well as learning and seeing how much has Manhattan really changed to the DCU.

As usual I can’t close without mentioning Brad Anderson’s colors, They give the series so much life and depth that it really wouldn’t be the same without them. I know that DC has been doing the whole “noir” gimmick with many of its graphic novels, releasing them in their black and white form, but I can’t imagine the art popping the way it does, without Anderson’s contributions to the palette. Just look at the explosion on the last page. The blast is blue, which clearly indicates that it wasn’t Firestorm that detonated… It was someone else’s doing, I’m sure you can take a guess who.

4Cover Art – 4: This cover would be recognizable and intriguing to those of the original Watchmen series that would recognize Ozymandias cat. If it didn’t have the Doomsday Clock typeface, and not knowing what this series was about, I doubt that I’d give it a second look on the comic shelf. However, it is very well drawn by Gary Frank.

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December 5, 2018 6:48 pm

“So even though I have issues with the “era” that Johns likes to keep Superman frozen in, I do love the way he writes the Man of Steel, and manages to capture his very core essence.” I’m not sure how you square that, at the era is also part of the essence. I do understand the fatigue some feel with the homage to “Superman the Movie”, but much as homages to the cover of Action Comics #1 will never cease, neither should we expect differently for Superman the Film. However, it could be mitigated by a good Superman film, on… Read more »

Kal L
Kal L
December 6, 2018 3:33 am
Reply to  liheibao

I took it to mean that Samra likes the way Johns writes the portrayal of Superman, as an important figure, but is tired of the Movie references.
I like the Superman Movie call backs, but like Samra am sick of the Crystal-Tech!

December 6, 2018 5:21 am
Reply to  Kal L

Understood, but the influence is just too great for anyone to feel a way about it. . .atleast until someone does something dynamic and constructive to add to it.

December 6, 2018 11:29 am

What about the variant cover?

December 6, 2018 5:26 pm

“In fact Johns portrayal of Superman is bordering on that of the likes of Jeph Loeb and Mark Waid, both whom just want to tell Silver-Age Superman stories and not progress the character forward.”

Is that really fair? Certainly guys like Mark Waid are not ashamed of the Silver Age but I don’t think they write the character as if Mort Weisinger was still in charge either.

December 7, 2018 11:33 pm

Yeah I liked the way Superman was handled, but groaned when I saw how Clark and the daily planet staff was just plunged back into the Donner version. Seeing as this is a follow up to the comic Watchmen and not the movie, the Superman elements should have drawn from his 80 year history in comics. I love the original Superman and I saw it again in theaters this past Monday, but let’s move on and not stay handcuffed to it. As beloved as it is, it shouldn’t be the definitive version of the character. This affinity for the movie… Read more »

Kal L
Kal L
December 8, 2018 11:19 pm
Reply to  sundevil82

Totally agree, the insistance that Clark is a dork negates the progression and the efforts of the fine and well loved writers of the late 80’s and 90’s.
Reverting Clark and the DP to the status of Superman: the movie, took away from the characters progression and enjoyment since the late 80’s-2000’s.

December 11, 2018 7:24 pm
Reply to  Kal L

Both “dorky” Clark and regular-joe style Clark are valid. IMO both approaches have their pros and cons.

Kal L
Kal L
December 8, 2018 11:22 pm

The biggest thing that I walked away from with this issue, is how easily and craftily Superman was manipulated into becoming the bad guy.

And I totally missed the fact that Ozymandias had the soldiers uniform in the last scene. Great review, and great eye for detail Mr Samra!

December 22, 2018 4:54 pm

I loved the “Status Quo” presented in this issue, of a Superman who is loved and trusted by all, even in a world that hates and fears Superheroes. The problem is, it’s a FAKE status quo, which Johns is only implementing here because there is no impact if everyone is already scared of, or made at, Superman. Which sadly has been the REAL status quo in the books (and movies) for the last decade or more…

That said, I really did enjoy the depiction of Supes in this single issue.