As often happens when it appears that a crisis is underway, the heroes of the DC Comics universe team-up to take on the next threat. The Martian Manhunter leads them to Mars where they encounter Dr. Manhattan who seems to be confused about how events occur. Will the heroes defeat this threat which they believe is responsible for putting both Superman and Batman out of commission?
This is a long review and I will also add comments about where I think Geoff Johns is going with this story and dialectic roles of Ozymandias and Johnny Thunder. I believe these two are analogues of the same missing character, Peter Cannon Thunderbolt. More on that below!
Gary Frank appears to be a slow artist and this issue looked a bit rushed and less polished than usual, but it does not matter. This story was written for all fans of big super hero epics of long. Stories where every major hero team up are frequent. The various Crises comics and the classic Crisis in the Infinite Earth elevated this type of stories. Readers just drool at the thought of a major fight. Geoff Johns is a pro with a ton of experience, and he knows how to draw on this shared culture of comic readers and how to make them care. He is a master at manipulation, and I cannot complain.
But because this is Doomsday Clock, The Watchmen’s sequel, how each hero appears, who they hang out with, what they do, what they say matters and is part of a larger narrative about the DC Universe and comics in general. Hawkgirl and Hawkman travel with the Atom, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda. These are the aliens who assume human lives or the humans who assume alien lives. Their powers stem from outside of Earth. The Atom is Hawkman’s friend.
In the next ship, the Green Lanterns travel with characters that were once Teen Titans in the same team. In this continuity, Cyborg, Donna Troy, and Starfire are not as close and strangers with nothing but professional ties. Each stand apart from one another. John Stewart and Hal Jordan lead the way but Kyle Rayner is missing.
In the next panel, classic members of the Justice League are together with the Martian Manhunter piloting the ship. He will lead the heroes to their defeat back on his home, Mars, which was also Dr. Manhattan’s playground in The Watchmen. A bit like with the panel with Hawkgirl and Mr. Miracle, where the Atom felt a bit out of place, here, the Flash is alone next to the Martian Manhunter. Of course, Black Canary and Green Arrow who were once married stand together. They have a strange attraction for one another but do not remember this past life. The story is the same with Mera and Aquaman who were also married once and even had a child together. Powerful monarchs, they stand with one another. Apart for them but in a thematic union with the Martian Manhuter is Firehawk, the least experienced member of the team but the most lethal to the most powerful cast of this ensemble, the Manhunter from Mars. These two are the final couple.
A panel is dedicated to the men and women of metal. Supergirl, Steel, the Metal Men and a character with six arms that I do not know. But his presence probably matters. The next panel is for the mystics or what has been called Justice League Dark recently. The magicians of the DC Comics universe. The two men with blue leggings are probably Blue Devil and Dr. Fate. If it’s not Dr. Fate, it must be the Silver Scarab. Why was John Constantine included? Well, he is here along with Swampthing because he was a favourite toy of writer Alan Moore. Zatanna and Deadman complete the ensemble. Their ship is different and less mechanical than mystical.
The Doom Patrol travels alone and includes Flex Mentallo in its lineup. Because Superman’s associates headed the first panel of the previous page, in this one Batman’s teams lead. Batman’s Gotham City associates, like Nightwing, Batgir,l Batwoman, and Red Hood, share space with Batman’s other team, the Outsiders. Here all of the classic team of Outsiders is present. This includes Black Lightning, Metamorpho, Looker, and Katanna.
The next panel with Captain Marvel and his family is important because it ties in with another Watchmen-like story that was proposed by Alan Moore about the deconstruction of the DC Comics universe. The project was never made but remnants of it were used by Mark Waid in Kingdom Come which introduced Maggog or someone who looks much like him in the ship. Captain Marvel and Stargirl who had a relationship in the old Justice Society comic are speaking with one another. These characters have close links with the Justice Society that has ceased to exist in this world. There is a great void created by Dr. Manhattan himself. Here Johns is singing praise to many comics that he loved and shaped the DC Comics universe. This is an orgy.
The final panel of characters flying to the Mars is important. Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Phantom Lady, and the Question are the Charlton characters. Before the Crisis of the Infinite Earth, they existed in a different universe. Alan Moore wanted to use them for The Watchmen but the idea was turned down. Instead, he created clones of these characters. Captain Atom and Dr. Manhattan are figuratively the same characters. They have similar powers and origins. Dr. Manhattan reached his full potential. Captain Atom was always limited. They meet in this comic. This is epic and adds to the super hero orgy. Fans will eat this up.
Firestorm is also an alternate for Captain Atom created by Gerry Conway and Al Migrom. Their story is muddled here. What you thought that you knew is not what you knew. Ozymandias, the villain of the story said that he wanted to save this world like he did with his. He brought all of these people here. They will fight. Wonder Woman, the voice of reason was dispatched to handle the public relations side of things. Like Batman and Superman, she is not with her Justice League colleagues.
More characters appear throughout the story like Vixen, Etrigan, and Red Tornado. Some of them, like Elongated Man, should probably not be here. Even Peacemaker sporting his odd helmet can be seen in one of the group shot. He’s a Charlton character and a very important analogue to the Comedian. Finally, there is the hint at the death of Ferro Lad and how his disappearance from history was caused by Dr. Manhattan stopping Alan Scott the original Green Lantern from becoming a hero.
And ow for the piece de resistance. Reading this issue, it dawned on me that the extensive use of dimwitted Johnny Thunder is meant to be seen as a dialectic relationship with Ozymandias. Johnny Thunder’s origin is that of a seventh son of a seventh son endowed with a magical thunderbolt imp that gives him the powers of Aladdin. But Johnny Thunder is an idiot and cannot use the full potential of his power because of the limits of his mind. Ozymandias is based on Peter Cannon, a character that DC Comics bought with the Charlton Comics characters, featured in his own series in the 1990s and then sold back to his creator, Pete Morisi. Peter Cannon and Ozymandias are the smarter men of their world. Johnny Thunder is not the least smart but a good counterpart to the smarter Ozymandias.
If Johns connects Johnny Thunder and Ozymandias the way I have described as natural foils then he really is a great writer!
Enough ranting. Go buy this comic It’s great! Oh and Ferro Lad is the new Happy Face with a blood stain.