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‘Doomsday Clock #5’ (review – spoilers within)

Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Gary Frank
Published by DC Comics

 

Now we’re getting somewhere.

After last issue’s tightly focused Rorschach flashback, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank widen the scope once again, and this time, things are happening.

Key characters are finally interacting, the source of strife in the DCU is coming into focus, and Clark Kent finally suits up.

In reading and reviewing Doomsday Clock, much of my thought process has been devoted to expectation–formed by pre-release marketing and of course, the original Watchmen–versus reality, the story we’ve gotten so far.

Compared to both, Doomsday Clock got off to a disappointing start.

Against Watchmen, Johns is always going to appear lesser, and a story that was promoted as particularly centered on Superman has been anything but.

Five issues in, however, it’s become easier to appreciate the series on its own merits.

To give credit where it’s due, Doomsday Clock has improved with each issue. Issue #4 was a standout story that stood on its own while fitting into and advancing the overall narrative. This installment finally sets wheels in motion, quickly picking up momentum. Even the text backup is more compelling, finally going into detail on the Superman Theory, which posits that the United States, inspired by Superman, engineered the creation of most of its superheroes in order to build a metahuman army.

The aforementioned meeting between Veidt and Batman is the major plot thread, as the two debate each other’s methods and the respective states of their world. As far as Batman is concerned, Veidt is a liar and killer; conversely, Veidt sees Batman and his ilk as failures whose world faces a similar fate. All of this happens against a backdrop of anti-metahuman sentiment and growing unrest. In Gotham, especially, citizens are protesting the Batman, believing the old theory that his presence has caused the threats he purports to fight.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane visits Lex Luthor as he recovers from his encounter with Adrian and the Comedian, believing he is behind the Superman Theory.

As Superman eavesdrops on their conversation, Luthor not only denies her claim but offers to help her investigate the true source of the theory. He drops a particular bombshell, that whoever started it was once a Justice Leaguer.

As the DCU falls apart, represented by tensions between Russian and American heroes, Johns and Frank keep all of the parts moving, eventually dovetailing at the end. Batman and Adrian’s debate turns into a fight aboard the Owlship that drops Batman into the midst of a Gotham protest, where he is beaten by the mob. The sequence is intercut with a simultaneous assault on Johnny Thunder by a gang of punks–both scenes call back to Hollis Mason’s murder in Watchmen.

Batman’s plot intersects with the Mime and Marionette, who find the Joker at the protest scene, while Johnny Thunder’s attackers are driven off by Rorschach and Saturn Girl. Thunder’s big reveal: he’s found Alan Scott’s lantern.

So yeah, lots of stuff! I still think this is going to read better collected, especially without the two-month wait between issues. Johns is finally getting to the good stuff, and Gary Frank is at the top of his game.

For the first time, I can say I’m looking forward to the next issue.

 

 

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