Doomsday Clock #12 Review: Superman Is Forever and Dr. Manhattan Is Not
A series that was supposed to only take a year, Doomsday Clock ended up lasting twice that long. Billed as the official D.C. sequel to Watchmen, it sought to unify those two disparate universes for the first time. This week the final issue in the series, Doomsday Clock #12 finally went out and delivered the showdown between Dr. Manhattan and Superman. Yet, this series now has to contend with the HBO Watchmen series and is far more of a definitive sequel to the original Alan Moore comic. There are some similar themes in both the comic and the show, specifically regarding the characters of Dr. Manhattan and Adrian Veidt. Manhattan tries to figure out his place in the universe and remains trapped by his fatalism. Veidt, on the other hand, must deal with the aftermath of his grand scheme.
Yet, what Doomsday Clock #12 and the whole series also had to do was reconcile the standalone universe of the Watchmen with the proper DC universe. In that respect, it was interesting, a standout scene being Ozymandias meeting Lex Luthor. Yet, the clash between Dr. Manhattan and Superman was never going to be the punch-em-up that the editors suggested it would be. Both Manhattan’s power set and Superman’s character would never allow for that. So, while the whole series had its highs and its lows, the actual Superman and Dr. Manhattan confrontation we got was a delight.
How Doomsday Clock #12 Gets Superman Right, But Struggles With Dr. Manhattan
Image via DC
The key defining characteristic of Dr. Manhattan in all of his incarnations in the pages of comics, on television, and on the big screen is that he’s a fatalist. Because he experiences time out-of-sequence, he believes that he is incapable of changing anything about them. For all his power, Dr. Manhattan is a powerless to change what happens to him or others. Superman, on the other hand, refuses to let failure hamper him. (So much so that in the original Superman movie, he turns back time to fix things.) Yet, Superman’s greatest power is not his invulnerability, his heat vision, or his super-strength. It’s his humanity. The yellow sun of Earth gives him his gifts, but he gets his power from his parents, Lois Lane, and the other mere mortals who inspire him.
There is, of course, a huge punch-em-up battle in this book. The story about how metahumans are the product of illegal American experiments results in a massive battle royal. Yet, if anything, that particular comic book convention hampers the ultimate message of this story. Like the recently-released Frank Miller comic, Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child, the main conflict is a metaphysical one. And without spoiling the story, the ultimate result is that Superman is forever. The Dr. Manhattan of Doomsday Clock finally starts to meddle with time. Yet, no matter what he does, Superman rises. In the climax of the book, Dr. Manhattan explains the DC multiverse. He references the various incarnations of the Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover and even teases some that may come decades down the line.
Ultimately, when faced with a seemingly binary choice, Superman offers Dr. Manhattan a third option and, for the first time in the character’s life, inspires him.
Nobody Puts Batman In a Corner, Except Dr. Manhattan and Superman
Image via DC
Batman has played a big role in the Doomsday Clock series as well, but in #12 he is really just a side character. Face-to-face with a new Rorschach, he’s there to unravel the mystery of what the hell is going on. Yet, his role in this final issue is somewhat diminished. Honestly, even Lex Luthor plays more of a role in the final act than Batman does. Nonetheless, the character moment between him and the new Rorschach is a fun one and a rare instance in which the Dark Knight admits he was wrong. And where Superman inspired his counterpart in the Watchmen universe, Batman inspires his. (Though to be fair, Nite Owl and the original Rorschach represent the two sides of the Caped Crusader and the Dark Knight.) His message to the new Rorschach about the power of symbols is also a commentary on choice and how much that plays into the act of becoming a real hero.
Sadly, most of the dangling plot threads unrelated to Dr. Manhattan and Superman get short shrift in this series. It’s unclear what, if any, lasting effect Doomsday Clock #12 and the rest of the series will have on the larger DC universe. However, the one thing that seems clear from the end of this fun crossover is that the Watchmen characters are best left alone in their own realm. Frankly, if DC does decide to do more Watchmen stories, they’d be better served sticking to things like the Before Watchmen series of books than this.
How DC Comics Can Best Use the Watchmen Characters Going Forward
Image via DC
If you are an Alan Moore purist, you probably hope they respect the author’s wishes and leave his creations alone. Yet, when one creates classic comic characters, they don’t really belong to the author or the money-hungry interdimensional squid corporation who owns their rights. Rather, these characters belong to their fans. The Watchmen series on HBO is an example of how these characters and this universe can be used to tell stories worthy of the name. They are best served when focusing on darkness, pain, and the traumatic side of a world with masked heroes. The DC universe proper, while always the darker of the two major comic houses, are best used to exemplify their best qualities. With Doomsday Clock behind us, only Superman’s character comes out of this experience richer for having been a part of it.
But what did you think? Tell us your thoughts on Doomsday Clock #12 and the series as a whole. Give us your theories, reviews, or even what sort of crossover you’d write if given the chance in the comments below.
Featured image via DC
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.