THIS WEEK: The final issue of Doomsday Clock hits the shelves and rocks the multiverse. Also, one last look at Tom King’s Batman run. What did both of these now-completed books accomplish?
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Doomsday Clock #12
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
We’re finally here. The ambitious closing chapter from the creative team of Doomsday Clock. It’s a story that’s taken two years to unravel and has been subject to delays and rewrites and shifting editorial sands. [Side note: the rewriting of the timeline of an in-progress comic book whose purpose is to rewrite the timeline of an in-progress universe is just TOO meta for me to even contemplate]. The end result is damn near guaranteed to hurt your brain, but it will do it in the best possible way. Ultimately whatever path it took to get here was completely worth it, as Doomsday Clock is nothing short of an atomic bomb dropped onto comic book history.
Upon reading this madhouse of an issue, one of my colleagues pondered how one could even start to reverse engineer the original elevator pitch for this series. Challenge accepted! Here are some important things that I think Doomsday Clock ultimately accomplished.
We now know that the last major crisis event was caused by Doctor Manhattan. His curiosity spurred him to move a magical object a few inches outside of a desperate Alan Scott’s grasp, which set off a chain reaction of consequences. Because of Alan’s death, the Justice Society never formed. Because the Justice Society didn’t exist, a young Clark Kent wasn’t encouraged to start an early career as Superboy. With no Superboy, there was no one to inspire the Legion of Super-Heroes. And so on. One small change sends ripple effects throughout the timeline and the “New-52” versions of the characters are born out of Manhattan’s experiment. As Jon observes and thinks better of his interference, he moves the lantern back within Alan’s reach and the DC universe corrects itself.
You know, I just got it. THIS is the Rebirth we’ve been hearing so much about. That branding never sat quite right when it was introduced in 2016, since the DC Rebirth initiative wasn’t presented as a proper reboot. But it turns out it was just a slow burn. Wally West’s reappearance was merely the first rumblings of the impending correction (or was it the two versions of Superman?). With the full reinstatement of the JSA and the Legion, everything that made the New-52 universe unique is now undone, shunted off to a parallel world somewhere, no longer part of the main thread. It didn’t happen in a big bang, but more of a gradual bake that spanned three-plus years. Now that the cake is out of the oven, we’re tasting the final product for the first time here.
DC has been in the business of continuity repair for years, and they’ve pulled off some pretty impressive maneuvers. The name of the game has been to weave together all the disparate parts of a character’s history and introduce some overlaying plot device to make it all work together. Hal Jordan can still be a hero because his Parallax persona was actually an alien parasite influencing his actions. The older heroes of the JSA are sent to limbo and then magically de-aged to explain why they fought in World War II but are still active. Hawkman really had all those adventures in ancient Egypt and on the planet Thanagar because he can reincarnate through space and time. Multiverses are spawned and un-spawned and merged together and shaken up in whatever way makes sense for the time. In each instance, the history of the DC universe is carefully preserved in as true a form as possible so that nothing precious is lost. Nothing ever ends.
But that’s absolutely not the strategy here, and Doomsday Clock marks a clear shift in direction for the publisher. As revealed to us via Doctor Manhattan, every meta-textual Crisis event now preserves the previous status quo by spawning off another Earth. A subtle but brilliant change. We’ve always believed that 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths took all of the important elements of Earth-1 and Earth-2 and swirled them together in such a fundamental way that they had now always been one. But in today’s issue, Jon observes that the pre-crisis characters are frozen in amber somewhere out there (a place appropriately labeled Earth-1985), nostalgic toys waiting to be picked back up and played with rather than discarded on the cutting room floor or (worse) being shoehorned into the progressing story to ward off fan complaints. It’s no longer about making it all work together, it’s about appreciating the different iterations for what they were. The new mantra: Everything ends.
Forget Hypertime and Multiversity and the Orrery of Worlds. Now we’ve got the metaverse. This new mechanic is beautiful in its simplicity and places Superman at center stage. The concept of the metaverse dictates that when storylines get stale or contradictory (as they do), the entire thing gets rebooted from the beginning. No more merging earths or editing timelines — we just start all the way over with a rocket ship hurtling away from an exploding planet and see where it goes this time. The year is now whatever 25 years ago was, a sliding scale to forever solve the problem of aging. The story is retold and updated for current times, while the previous state is saved off in a file somewhere (in the form of your old comic books) and we don’t worry too much if the universe unfolds in just the same way. “It’s not MY Superman,” some fans will gripe. And through the mechanism of this new metaverse, DC replies, “No, it’s not.” Everything ends. Time to let go and enjoy something new.
Is this the only way to view the changes introduced in Doomsday Clock? Hell no. But as with Rorschach’s mask, we see what we want to see.
I’ve written about the political commentary that’s baked into Doomsday Clock and why it’s a message we all desperately need to hear. This week’s final issue drives home the point in a satisfying (and downright uplifting) way by both condemning and redeeming Rorschach. The Rorschach of the original Watchmen series was never going to save the world with his rigid black-and-white attitude. He was right and he knew he was right, and he’d take the world to hell to prove it. The young man who dons the inkblot mask in this issue realizes that it’s okay to live in the grays and nuances of life and decides to show his world a better way than intolerance. It’s a similar story with Doctor Manhattan, as he is paralyzed by a decision between two unsavory options. At any moment now, either his opponents kill him or he destroys their world. Superman encourages Jon to embrace hope and look for another option.
Alan Scott also offers some germane advice, during the aftermath of the superhero standoff. In an environment rampant in rumors and conspiracy theories about the superheroes’ weaponization and the governments’ involvement, the elder statesman urges patience and open mindedness as they review the evidence. We as readers don’t actually know which of these rumors is true or false. Naturally we hope these fictional citizens listen to the Green Lantern, choosing to remain calm and assess the truth of the situation carefully before staking out a position.
Alan Scott for president, who’s with me?
If they don’t have a five-year plan, DC Comics is sure pretending to. Raise your hand if you were surprised to see a named Crisis event (Time Masters) solicited for Wednesday, July 2nd 2025. Keep your hand in the air if you swallowed your gum when they announced a Marvel crossover for five years after that. Yeah, me too. It’s not clear how serious these teases are, but Doctor Manhattan gives us peeks at different iterations of the metaverse that cover the next thousand years. Talk about a corporate roadmap.
This is the last batch of comics before Christmas, so it’s only appropriate that the creative team left behind lots of toys for others. Not only did they bring back the JSA and the Legion, they threw in Ma and Pa Kent. I spat my gum back up when Mime and Marionette got left in Gotham. The Watchmen universe is richer as well, with Rorschach II, a girl named Nostalgia, and Jon’s new protege. And God help us, Adrian Veidt has given Lex Luthor some ideas. How many new story threads can spin out of one book?
Between a hit television show and this comic, it’s a great time to be a Watchmen fan.
While I was once resistant to the idea of revisiting such a self-contained masterpiece, this is the most excited I’ve been for a book in a long time. What better vehicle to repair the universe than Jon Osterman, the man who looked at Janey’s broken watch in 1959 and declared “I can fix it”? Who doesn’t feel a kinship with Rorschach as he wrestles with his demons of being right or being wrong?
I now realize that Watchmen is a story that is meant to be retold and updated, as are all artworks that point the way out of darkness. Like Doctor Manhattan or the metaverse or each of us, it’s a constant dance of reinvention. Its message is one that bears repeating. Everything ends. And that’s okay.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mikel Janín & Hugo Petrus
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
In another concluding issue this almost-holiday week, Tom King takes his final bow at the helm of Batman. Can we take a moment to step back and look at what he’s done?
King has certainly made his mark on comics in the past few years, mostly in the form of the 12-issue maxiseries. Books like Sheriff of Babylon, The Vision, Mister Miracle. And he always nails it, he’s got it down. You can tell he’s a guy that gets pacing and character beats and mood shifts for a work of that format. Even more, a feeling of real emotional vulnerability shines through each of them (due credit to the amazing artists & creatives involved, obviously).
One can only imagine how different of an experience it is to write a twice-monthly book for 85 issues, plus one-shots and annuals. But here we are, and King’s even planning to keep the story going under another title. That’s a lot of Batman, man. It’s frankly amazing he has anything left to say.
The impression I’ve gotten from the past few years of Batman is that King was taking his time. He settled into the character for the long haul, leaning more heavily into the Bruce Wayne part of his life than some previous writers have done. He allowed the relationships to go a little bit deeper on-panel than the typical superhero fare. He gave Bruce Wayne problems and didn’t allow him to solve them. He made the Dark Knight sit in the mess and stew. He gave him permission to fall in love with Selina.
Batman’s an easy character to write, for about a scene. He grunts and hides in the shadows and suddenly pops out to kick some ass. He grits his teeth and says something snarky/dark as he swings off the rooftop. Plenty of writers can pull off that scene. What’s more difficult is when he returns home. When he’s in a fight with his girlfriend or watching his son become a man. It’s not easy to write a character who has lost his parents to tragedy. Being able to convey the painful, messy thing that is a committed romantic relationship is a rare skill. For all its high action (and it has an awful lot), this series has been as touching as it was fun.
This final issue of Tom King’s Batman is mostly wrap-up and denouement, and it is welcomed. With the long war against Bane finally resolved, Bruce Wayne has a chance to close the circle on some important relationships to which we’ve grown attached. He decides what to do about Gotham Girl and he has a second chance with Selina on the rooftop. He says goodbye to his father and to Alfred. And then he takes a moment to just sit and have a beer. He’s earned it.
- Did you notice it’s a double-sized haul for comics this week? Since we just got everything for next week as well, we’ll have some extra coverage soon on The Beat. To be continued!
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