DOOMSDAY CLOCK #8 / Writer: Geoff Johns / Illustrator: Gary Frank / Colorist: Brad Anderson / Letterer: Rob Leigh / Publisher: DC / December 5, 2018
What good are intentions compared to results? Should we strive for our best, or settle for an imitation? Perry White’s take:
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades!”
See also: the availability of apples in America vs Kahndaq – better not steal anything on Luthor Avenue! Rifle through the United States President’s desk in the Oval Office and it’s headline news, but break into Lois Lane’s desk at the Daily Planet and she’s merely inconvenienced. Mess with Ronnie “Firestorm” Raymond and he’ll start a fight – but will anyone bother to ask what made him angry in the first place? Or is healing the fallout more important than solving the original conflict?
The Gary Frank / Brad Anderson cover of Doomsday Clock #8 shows Adrian Veidt’s hands holding Clark “Superman” Kent and Jonathan “Dr. Manhattan” Osterman’s puppet strings, and this issue is full of manipulation and optics management. Firestorm isn’t merely an American aggressor, but Russia claims he’s a product of America’s metahuman plot. Superman, who tries to give everyone benefit of the doubt, is labeled a firefighter in a cape by Black Adam. Whether he’s in Metropolis, Kahndaq, or Moscow, Superman’s face is portrayed at each location an isolated panel that shows a frustrated figure trying to hold a wary civilization together. These portrait illustrations evoke a Christopher Reeves Superman come back to shake his head at what the world’s become, but no less committed to harboring trust between flaring tempers.
Let’s get to the heart of the issue’s plot: the Moscow massacre. Without recounting the entire incident, there’s a lot to consider regarding power and those who wield it, and whether they are justified. There’s elements of the classic Trolley Problem here: if a soldier is about to shoot someone perceived as an imminent threat, should Superman block the bullets, even if one could ricochet into an innocent bystander? And if that were to happen, who would ultimately be at fault? How much consideration and debate can one person take when there’s a tank bearing down on a child? Veidt sits back to enjoy the show while Batman races into the scene too late to do anything but provide warnings. Images of Metropolis newspapers in the back show how the event is overwhelmingly depicted against Superman and his intentions. Why bother reading a thousand words if there’s a photo to sum up the news for everyone?
There are also matters of identity to parse. Batman and Lois call Clark by his name, but many metahuman characters call him Superman and revere his iconic status. Which one does the world need more of, and which one will Manhattan inevitably address? The Russian metahumans address each other by name. Superman is the only person who calls Firestorm Ronnie. As Jimmy Olsen demonstrates, you can’t swap orange juice for Kool-Aid. I suspect Clark and Jonathan will have more to debate than different shades of blue.
Kudos to Geoff Johns for managing to stuff so many double meanings into this issue, which could almost operate independent of the preceding seven issues of Doomsday Clock by virtue of being a capsule story in and of itself (minus the first and last pages). Frank’s art, along with Brad Anderson’s colors and Rob Leigh’s lettering, carries plenty of hefty meaning, too. Watch Black Adam use the “Superman pose” as Clark flies away. Notice how Superman is only stylized as a silhouette, as more than a man, when receiving an embrace from a rescued child. Check out Superman’s face reflected in the glass face of one of Firestorm’s victims. (Firestorm practices changing matter on a floor covered in encircled dots, or Manhattan’s token symbol, by the way.) Leigh’s lettering distinguishes between the smaller lines spoken and heard in private and the shouts of anger and impatience. Or, to bring it all back to Perry White:
“Why do I have to yell to get someone’s attention around here?”
Verdict: 5 out of 5.