Doomsday Clock #9
Scheduled to arrive in stores: March 6, 2019
Cover date: May 2019
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Gary Frank and Brad Anderson
Cover: Gary Frank
Variant Cover: Gary Frank
Reviewed by: Keith Samra
We begin with Dr Manhattan on Mars, holding a Legion of Superheroes ring, and watching it cease to exist, due to the actions of his own doing, stretching back to his moving Alan Scott’s power battery out of his reach when he needed it most.
We then witness most of Earth’s Superheroes travel to Mars, to confront Dr Manhattan. Each ship contains different teams and families, as there is a sombre feeling in the atmosphere.
On Earth, in the Hall of Justice, Superman lies unconscious in a hospital bed, as he recovers from the events of the explosion in Moscow. Lois arrives, and breaks down at the sight of her husband in such a condition.
In the White House, the President is forced by his advisors, to condemn Superman for his actions, in trying to stop the Russian super soldiers from killing Firestorm and innocent bystanders.
Batman also recovering, wakes from his unconscious state, and tells Alfred that all the heroes are going after the wrong person in Dr Manhattan, and the real threat is Ozymandias. He attempts to send a message to them, but knows that by the time the heroes get the message, it may be too late.
There is a state of unrest in the world, and we catch a glimpse of Reggie, sitting in the streets, with a sign around his neck saying “You see what you want to see”.
Lex arrives at the Hall of Justice, and confronts Lois who is with Superman. He reveals to Lois that he is the one that sent her the flash drive, with the images and video of the forgotten heroes in the Justice Society.
On Mars, the Martian Manhunter attempts to communicate with Dr Manhattan, as a way of peaceful resolution, but Guy Gardner attacks Manhattan, and a battle ensues.
After a lengthy battle with most of the heroes, Manhattan manages to come out the victor, and then reveals to Ronnie Raymond, that his becoming the hero Firestorm was no accident, but rather a clever set up by Prof. Stein, in order for him to infiltrate the superhero community, and learn more about them. Ronnie is shocked and feels betrayed after learning this.
Meanwhile on Earth, Wonder Woman addresses the United Nations, only to be interrupted by Black Adam and Giganta.
“I heard your friends were all on vacation. What am I doing?… I’m making a move.” – Black Adam.
To be continued…
Story – 5: Let’s start by addressing the crucial matter regarding this issue. Yes, it is late, but was it worth the wait?… I think so… You see I have long advocated the fact of keeping one team (writing and art) on a mini, maxi or limited series. It helps to maintain not only continuity, but synergy for the project by the original creators.
And no, I will not be deducting points for the lateness of this issue. That’s just not how I like to write up my reviews.
Firstly I speculated wrong in last month’s review, and it appears that Ozymandias and he alone is the one who is perpetuating the ruse regarding Firestorm being a mass murderer, and Superman as an alias to that crime.
Also it would be apt to say that this chapter of the story is drenched in a political ambience. Johns has used real world politics to shape the story into something compelling and almost terrifying when you apply it to a real world way of thinking.
Superman has spent this entire issue out of action, and for what the story required he needed to be taken off the table. Which also was a wonderful example of, when Superman isn’t around, there is a certain level of danger present to the world.
I loved that Superman was taken to the Hall of Justice for recovery, though it seemed a little like de ja vu, as Bendis set the same scene in the recent man of Steel mini-series he wrote.
Having Lois come to his side was a touching moment, something Johns has a good handle on. The panel where she points the gun at Luthor and says “don’t take a step closer to Superman” is what you’d expect from her, as she aims the gun straight at Lex.
This leads me straight into Lex Luthor’s appearance. With such impeccable timing, who else could gain access to the Hall of Justice, where Superman lies unconscious, and with Lois at his side? It appears that Superman’s arc nemesis was the one responsible for sending Lois the files on the lost heroes in the Justice Society, and most importantly, Lex still holds a candle for Lois. This is one thread that I can’t wait to see unravel in the upcoming issues.
Along with Superman and Firestorm, Dr Manhattan was also set up as being involved in the Moscow incident from last issue. But as the world see’s Firestorm as the villain, and Superman as an accessory, the hero community appear to think that Dr Manhattan is behind the catastrophe. And what seemed like a very Bronze-Age monumental charge to the battle, we saw all the heroes head to Mars, in order to confront Manhattan, regarding his role in Moscow.
In the opening pages we are treated to a monologue by Manhattan, where he observes history in the future, he holds the Legion Ring of a fallen Legionnaire (Ferro Lad if memory serves me right), who sacrifices himself to save the sun. Manhattan then watches the ring fade from history, as he recounts the fact that he moved Alan Scott’s power battery 6 inches out of his reach, thus wiping him from history. This is some of the best writing of Johns career, the way he is able to intertwine history and events of the DCU and its characters is astonishing.
I can’t wait to see how this angle plays out, and how and what it has to do with his final vision, of Superman coming at him in all his rage.
The one aspect that I didn’t rather like or agree with, is Firestorm’s origin retconning or rather updated to suit Geoff Johns narrative. It appears that the “accident” that caused Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein to fuse into one being, becoming Firestorm was a lie all along, and that Martin Stein had groomed Ronnie overtime, so that he and Ronnie could fuse in the “explosion,” so that he may enter the Superhero community as one of them, to conduct his social experiment. This may seem like a really cool idea, thinking outside of the box and all that, but is classic “Johns tampering” to make a situation fit his story. He has done this in the past many a time, with different characters, essentially destroying continuity and reforming it to his liking. Is it wrong for him to do so?… Maybe no, as it gives a fresh perspective to a classic character, and could become a compelling trait or story element. But then also we have yet another character, which Johns had plans for in the past, and wasn’t allowed to go through with them, due to either editor interference, or publisher objection.
Johns has been best known for giving villains a redeeming quality or a tragic enough back story, which puts them on the wrong path. This is what I dubbed “Magneto-isms,” but it never truly ended there. Johns did this with many heroes also, from the likes of Superman, Superboy (Conner), Impulse, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Aquaman to name a few. Now just because I didn’t like this particular aspect, doesn’t make it wrong, nor do I think that it wasn’t written well, as Johns really went into great detail to achieve this result. And as I mentioned earlier, this issue has some of his best work to date, so I can’t in good conscience mark it down, just because I don’t agree with something.
President Donald Trump, or President Trump’s hand made an appearance in this issue as well. Johns made it so that he was featured in the book, but never named or shown. This was another aspect that I wasn’t too fond of either. Now a little bit of history, I am not an American, nor do I live in America. I really cannot and will not allow myself to take a side in the American political conflict, as it is not my place to be involved in. But as a reviewer and a fan, I felt that omitting President Trump this way, really cheated history, and played into a current trend. Years from now, when people pick this book up as the sequel to Watchmen, they be cheated out of scenes that could have been. My view is if you don’t want to give President Trump any sort of recognition, then you shouldn’t have included him in the least. I come from a purely historical point of view with this statement, and am not picking a side. This is just a small critique as I try to use foresight for the future of this story. This is a story of its time, and omitting the American President from it, while featuring the Russian president an issue earlier, seems like a cop out. At least we got his twitter mention from it, at the least.
Lastly and one of my most favorite parts of this issue, Black Adam’s power play! The issue draws to an end, with Wonder Woman addressing the United Nations, only to be interrupted by Black Adam, who is seizing the opportunity, as Earths heroes are all off planet dealing with Dr Manhattan.
Black Adam has always been a favorite character of mine, and despite my criticism or as I put it, “Magneto-ism,” his work on Black really help catapult the character to the forefront of comicdom as a force to be reckoned with. So as I mentioned, that the play with Firestorm has been set up, and it is one where they really can’t drop the ball on, because if done right, then we could see a Black Adam like result. But if mishandled, then it just becomes another Toyman, Brainiac or World of New Krypton, something serviced for a story, and long since forgotten.
I really have enjoyed this series thus far, and am anxious to see how it unfolds in the last quarter of its run.
Art – 5: Just like I stated about Geoff Johns, this issue marked some of the best work of Gary Frank’s career to date. What many seem to forget, or for the younger fans that may not know, Frank is a decades long industry veteran, and is one of the select few elites, whose art has gotten better as his career has gone on over the years.
Looking over the art in this issue, it is really evident of the almost symbiotic relationship Johns and Frank have in their collaboration.
From the first page to the last, Frank filled each panel with so much detail, that a second reading is required just to take it all in. From the various ships departing Earth, to the teams piloting them, there is a great ensemble of Earths heroes, and so beautifully rendered, that it could rival the great George Perez.
The four panels of Lois rushing to Superman lying in a hospital bed at the hall of justice, captured their spousal relationship so perfectly, it felt like it belonged in a Superman comic. Later in the issue, the anger and hate that Lois has for Lex, is so evident in her face, you would forget that someone actually drew this, and it’s not an actress playing a scene. Frank definitely has a certain look for his Lois and Superman, and it seems universally recognizable. Even in an unconscious state, Superman’s face is still recognizable with great ease, even with the faintest hint of the spit curl.
The action in this issue was definitely on Mars, where the Heroes confront Manhattan, and the art does its job so well, you don’t need words to follow it. Flipping through, you see Guy Gardner lead the attack, and the cockiness on his face is spot on to his character traits. From that to all the other heroes who attack next, there is ferocity in all their faces and body language, as they take on one if not the most powerful beings that they have ever gone up against. All of this culminates in the mostly unemotional visage of Manhattan, as he renders Gardner’s ring into nothing but its raw element of will. And later as we learn that what we know of magic, is nothing but the remnants of creation itself. This is visual storytelling at its best, and it is all done through the art in this issue.
I mentioned Dr Manhattan above, and I just want to add, that though he is in the nude, Frank manages not to draw too much attention to that fact, and draws our eyes more toward the action and situation surrounding him.
One of the coolest moments in the issue is when Captain Atom takes on Dr Manhattan, in an attempt to defeat him. What makes it so good, is the historical element that Dr Manhattan was originally meant to be Captain Marvel, in Alan Moore’s original pitch for the Watchmen story. Watching these two battle was a great way to pay homage to that.
For all that were frustrated at the lateness of this issue, if it means that we get stellar art and storytelling, then the wait was certainly worth it I feel.
Frank in this situation is in the same boat as what Brandon Routh was in, back in 2006 with Superman Returns. He is an artist that is following a legend, emulating the feel that came before, and putting his own unique, and signatory spin on things.
Last and not in the very least, Brad Anderson’s colors were a little more vibrant this issue, and I feel that that all has to do with the fact there are so many DCU characters in this chapter, that they brighten up the world around them. I may surely be wrong about this, but that is the feeling I took away with me when I read this issue.
Cover Art – 5: This cover is very compelling for sure, with a sole Legion ring floating in space, and though it only touches on a small part of this issue, it is a crucial plot element to the series. Well done team.
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