The penultimate issue of Doomsday Clock has been a long time coming. The first issue came out all the way back in November 2017, and nearly two years later, here we are with issue #11. While the release schedule has been erratic, the book has been epic. Can Geoff Johns and Gary Frank get us back into the mood for what is bound to be a much talked about finale? Let’s break it down!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The critically acclaimed series by the renowned team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank marches toward its conclusion. In this penultimate issue, the truth behind “Rebirth” is revealed as Batman searches for the one person he believes can help him save the world…Rorschach!
Why does this matter?
The official summary above is not accurate, but that doesn’t mean this issue doesn’t come with a heck of a lot of answers. First and foremost, Ozymandias explains what he’s been up to from the start! Answers abound!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
In many ways, this issue lays out all that has happened before it and why everything is coming very close to a literal doomsday in the DC universe. It very much reads like an explanation for the title, and connects well to the idea of a doomsday clock ticking down to the end of everything. It does such a good job explaining why Ozymandias has been messing around (with two plans it seems) that you could even start with this issue and skip all that came before it. Shocking, I know. It wouldn’t be all that fun though, would it? By the end of the issue, it’s very clear what this has all been about, although there isn’t enough here to really help the reader out on postulating where it is going at all.
This issue does well to loop Lex Luthor into everything. It’s a bit of a last-minute connection, but it suits the character and helps connect to Superman’s role in all this, too. Some excellently rendered back matter elements enhance the Lex Luthor experience. What he uncovered is quite interesting, from time-travel to universe-hopping perspectives, and it adds to the big sci-fi ideas at work in this rather massive high-concept comic.
A panel from #11. pic.twitter.com/ElyUan1ZXP
— Gary Frank (@1moreGaryFrank) July 18, 2019
The art by Gary Frank continues to be stellar. A single panel in a 9-panel page can do more than some might do with a full-page, which forces you to linger on his work constantly while you read. The superhero lineup panel is proof of that, and when you consider this panel could easily serve as a double page layout but instead is grouped with three more panels on the page, it shows just how much he’s putting into this book.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
This issue reads like Johns is making a last-ditch effort to fix the series. It feels overstuffed with explanation, captions, and reminders about what is going on. These captions, when split between the news, Ozymandias, and unseen voices you later have to figure out, are maddeningly confusing for the first half of the book. One might hope they meld together and become one complex narrative, but it’s chaotic and much of what is said is more annoying than interesting.
Then you have Lex Luthor, who seems to have been forced into the narrative late in the game, likely so he can appear in the finale and have it make sense. There’s an interesting reveal on his part, but there isn’t enough here to have it matter or make much sense. Rorschach also feels stuffed in at the last minute, but not because he organically belongs, but simply because we’ve devoted so many pages to him prior he might as well be there when things wrap up. The narrative feels lost and it has lost its direction.
That’s the biggest failing of this issue. It seems to be so focused on setting the stage for the finale that it has lost sight of the joy and fun of comics. The last-minute juke from what has come before is also frustrating, since it makes it nearly impossible to know what may happen next. Superman vs. Dr. Manhattan sounds simple enough, but at this point, there isn’t enough to go on to begin to understand what this interaction can mean, let alone care about it.
Is it good?
This is a sometimes confusing and forced penultimate issue. The identity of the book seems lost as it spirals down into the inevitable confrontation we were all expecting from the start. I think we’re all just hoping for some great Superman and Dr. Manhattan interactions at this point so we can call it a day on this misbegotten, overstuffed epic that has lost its way. I’m giving this book a 4.5 out of 10, mostly because it’s overwritten, unnecessary if you’ve read this far, and skippable by casual readers.
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