One of my favourite moments in the original Watchmen series was when Adrian Veidt seems to be exposing his grand plan to save the world to Nite Owl and Rorschach, only for Alan Moore to sucker punch us with the twist: the plan had already been activated and carried out. The good people of Manhattan were already dead. Seeing Veidt mirror this same scene, and in Doomsday Clock’s penultimate issue too, just as he did in Watchmen’s eleventh issue, with none of the clever bait and switch we got from Alan Moore, tells you all you need to know about the downward trajectory of this story that I’ve seen occur over the second half of this series. Where Moore played skillfully with the reader’s expectations of the genre, it would seem writer Geoff Johns has fallen into the tried and tired cliche that Moore exposed.
At this point, with both the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes making their DCU debut in other books, the momentum and promise of this series has all but evaporated. What we’re left with is a story that merely revolves around the final showdown between Superman and Dr. Manhattan with Lex Luthor crassly linked through cutaways and dialogue that overlaps, or is repeated across panels, with Ozymandias’s own story to remind us that Veidt is one bad dude. Juts in case we didn’t know. Whereas his cool detachment in Watchmen hid his true intentions and thereby created a truly revelatory ending, Johns is more than happy to simply portray him as yet another megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur and a plan. This is not the Veidt I have known. In fact, this isn’t the Geoff Johns I know either.
As we rush toward the end of this Watchmen sequel, Johns and Gary Franks ramp up the pace with a book full of quick cutaway – riots on the streets, Black Adam and friends, that kind of thing – interspersed with a large amount of exposition that can, at times, cramp the always exquisite art because of it’s insistence on emulating Watchmen’s 9 panel grid.
It also emulates the penultimate issue of Watchmen in this way too. Not only do we have Adrian’s admittance to his part of all of this, but this is seen in parallel with Luthor’s own stake in the unfolding drama as he regals his obsession with a strange photo that has been found at certain dates throughout the 20th and 21st century – dates related to key events in DC Comics own history – which indicates that Dr. Manhattan has been tampering with this world and it’s timelines for quite some time. All stuff that’s been covered by this boom before, really. Just not from Luthor’s perspective.
Overall, the artwork is still a draw for me, but what I really wished would work, being one of the few proponents of this series when it first landed, was the plot. Maybe there’s been too much reliance on the aping of the original, not-to-be-beaten series, and of course the delays haven’t helped as the erst of the DCU has not only caught up, but now lapped, this book and it’s original intentions. What’s left isn’t a series that will be remembered for its re-introduction of Moore and Gibbons’s characters, the LSH or even the JSA, but rather a book that limped over the finishing line in last place. When I reminder how big a splash the whole Rebirth one-shot made, this feels like a poor follow through and, ultimately, a bad idea when you consider the stories of the DCU and its reshaping that’s occurring over in Justice League.
Doomsday Clock #11 is available now from DC Comics
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