Doomsday Clock started off in brilliant fashion. The first three issues of this big event were brilliant. Then Geoff Johns delivered an unexpected clunker of an issue with Doomsday Clock #4. The issue was boring and poorly paced. Doomsday Clock #4 did little to build off the momentum of the first three issues or perform much plot progression at all. Hopefully, Johns can regain his form with Doomsday Clock #5. Let’s hit this review and find out!
Words: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Ozymandias in a hospital room. He is unconscious. There are two police officers are on guard duty outside of the hospital room. The cops talk about how even if a person does not have superpowers that if they operate as a superhero then they are a federal problem.
They complain that this is why Gotham is so bad these days. They say that Batman is the problem. That Lex Luthor says that Batman and the Bat-signal attract crazy criminals to Gotham. That Gotham should have turned off the Bat signal a long time ago. The cops are thankful that they live in Metropolis and that Superman is the only thing they can believe in anymore.
Ozymandias wakes up. The two cops hear the heart monitor flat-lining. The cops enter the hospital room. Ozymandias then comes out of the shadows and says that he wants the male cop’s uniform.
We cut to a TV in the hospital playing a news report about Hawk and Dove being detained in Petersburg, Russia. The two superheroes were stopping a terrorist attack by Chechen separatists. The Rocket Red Brigade made the arrest. The news report says that Red Star condemned Hawk and Dove’s actions. Red Star also announced that he was stepping out of retirement in order to serve his country.
We see Ozymandias in the male cop’s clothes and walking with a gun in the back of the female cop. Ozymandias asks where Bubastis is being kept. They head to the parking garage where a Metropolis Animal Services van is parked. Inside of it is Bubastis in a cage. The cops around the van talk about how the strange cat is a caracal. Ozymandias approaches the van. Ozymandias takes everyone out and then drives the van out of the parking garage.
We hop over to the Daily Planet. Lois is angry that Perry White changed the title of her article to “Metahuman Assassin Attacks Lex Luthor.” Lois says that she never used the term metahuman. Perry says that the title helps get clicks. That this is a business. Perry says that the world’s faith in superheroes is falling apart. That if Lois wants to change that then for her to go out there and prove everyone wrong.
Lois then storms out of Perry’s office and goes to Clark’s desk. We see a news report on TV. We see Pozhar giving a news conference. Pozhar says that he is the Russian counterpart to the US’s Firestorm. The difference is that Pozhar was created by the fallout from Chernobyl. In contrast, Firestorm was created by the US Government.
Lois tells Clark that someone is behind the Supermen Theory. Lois says she has an idea who that person is, too. Pozhar says that in the wake of Hawk and Dove’s careless actions Russia is closing its borders to all foreigners metahuman and otherwise.
We cut to Rorschach 2.0 and the psychic blonde girl breaking into a thrift store. The girl is flipping through clothing on a rack and says that she can’t wear real leather. That it is illegal where she comes from. She then finds an outfit that is made from leather so she can wear it.
Rorschach 2.0 takes the Rorschach mask out of the bag it was placed in when he was checked into Arkham. Rorschach 2.0 says that he does not know the girl’s name. The girl says that he can call her Saturn Girl. (Yeah, baby!! LLL!!) The girl reveals that she is psychic and can read Rorschach 2.0’s mind.
We see Saturn Girl removing her Legion Flight ring out of the bag that it was placed into when she was checked into Arkham. Rorschach 2.0 says that they need to go find Dr. Manhattan. Saturn Girl says that she has an idea to find Dr. Manhattan. Saturn Girl says that they are going to need a great big light.
We shift to the sanatorium where Johnny Thunder is located. There is a news report on the TV. Putin is flanked by the People’s Heroes. A collection of Russian metahumans capable of destroying any of America’s manufactured metahumans. Putin says that his team will work alongside Prince Markov and his team of Outsiders. That Russia and Markovia continue to forge a strong alliance. Putin says he will never allow any possibility of any country gaining military superiority over Russia.
We see two if the orderlies at the sanatorium. The orderlies unlock the door to Johnny Thunder’s room. We see that Johnny has used his bedsheets to make an escape out of the window of his room. One of the orderlies says that Johnny is 102 years old and that he could not have gotten far. We see a newspaper on a desk in Johnny’s room. The newspaper has an article entitled, “Green Fire Consumes All-American Steel.”
We cut to Johnny Thunder at the train station. He asks for a ticket to Pittsburgh. However, Johnny cannot afford the train ticket. One of the unruly people in line behind Johnny yells at him to go take the bus if he cannot afford the train. We then see Johnny get on a bus. Johnny stares out of the window with a sad look on his face.
We shift to Ozymandias pulling his van up to the Owl ship. Ozymandias enters the Owl ship. Batman is inside. Batman calls Ozymandias “Adrian Vedt.” Batman says that he has read all about Adrian. Batman is holding Rorschach’s journal.
We zip over to the bar where Marionette and Mime killed all of Joker’s thugs. The Comedian is investigating the scene. Two police then enter the bar and draw their guns on the Comedian. The Comedian says that he is not here for the cops so they do not see him. Comedian says that he is looking for the nut-jobs who killed these thugs. Comedian says that one of two things is now going to happen. One, the cops try to arrest him or shoot him and the Comedian will have to slit their throats. Two, the cops do not see him. The cops lower their guns. The Comedian tells the cops to have a nice evening and he leaves the bar.
We cut to Marionette and Mime at another hideout for some of Joker’s thugs. They have killed all of the thugs except for one. Marionette asks the thug to tell them where the Joker is hiding. The thug says that they are supposed to be meeting tonight at “the light.” Marionette asks what light? The thug points to the sky and says, “That one.” We see the Bat-signal in the sky.
We zip back to the Owl-ship. Batman asks what Ozymandias wants in Batman’s world. Ozymandias says that he doe snot want any trouble. A news report talks about thousands of protestors marching toward the Gotham City Police Department. They are demanding the immediate arrest of Batman. Another news report talks about Markovia closing its borders. Another news report mentions a breakout in Arkham Asylum. Another news report mentions that the police have hit a dead end with Jasper Wellington. Ozymandias says that all Batman’s world has are problems.
The police then show up outside of the Owl-ship. Ozymandias quickly takes off and the heroes fly away. The police call for air support. We then see police helicopters giving chase to the Owl-ship.
We cut to an electronic storefront. We see a TV news report with Firestorm stating that he was not created by a secret U.S. Government program. That he got them in an accident like tons of his friends did. Firestorm says that the Supermen Theory is total bullshit.
We then see Killer Frost on the news report. Killer Frost says that Firestorm is a part of the secret U.S. Government program. Killer Frost says that Metamorpho, Man-Bat, Clayface, and herself are all also part of that secret program. Killer Frost says that people cannot trust any metahumans.
We then see a news report with a video of a terrorist from King Kobra about to behead an American journalist named Jack Ryder. Kobra abducted Ryder from Northern Kahndaq.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning appears and the terrorist is pulled off-screen. We then see the terrorist’s head fall in front of the video and the decapitated body fly through the air. Jack comments that he hopes the camera recorded that. Jack says, “Serves you right, motherf.”
We then see a protestor throwing a brick through the electronic store window and hitting the TV. We see thousands of protestors in the streets of Gotham. The Owl-ship flies overhead the protestors. Batman recounts the events of Watchmen and says that Ozymandias’ nefarious plans end now.
Ozymandias says that Batman thinks that Ozymandias is responsible for the chaos in this world and in Gotham. Ozymandias points out that the protests below are for the Batman. Ozymandias says that superheroes have put this world through hell.
We shift to Lex Luthor recovering after his surgery. He is watching a news report on how General Lane has announced an immediate withdrawal of all troops from the Middle East after a protest in Qurac against the United States and its role in the Supermen Theory turned violent.
Lois Lane enters the room. Lex says that he agrees with Lois’ father. Lois says that she and her father do not agree on much of anything. Lois asks Lex what he has to do with the Superman Theory. Lex responds that he has nothing to do with the Government’s agenda. Lex says that he is actually against it. Lex says that he has done some digging into this issue himself. Lex says that he is happy to share everything he knows about the Supermen Theory. That the two of them can work together on exposing the truth.
We then see Superman in the sky listening in on Lex and Lois’ conversation. (Ummmnm, creepy much?) Lex says that he has learned that the person who created these metahumans for the Government is also a metahuman. That at one point there was also a member of the Justice League.
We zip over to Johnny Thunder getting off the bus. We see him walking to the All-American Steel Factory. It has long been abandoned. Johnny enters the factory. Johnny comes across three junkies.
The junkies ask Johnny what he is up to in the factory. Johnny says he is just looking for his friends. The junkies then attack Johnny. Johnny runs away and the junkie chases him.
We cut to the Owl-ship. Ozymandias says that Batman’s world is worse off than Ozymandias’ world ever was. Ozymandias says that so many people in Batman’s world are lost in the narrative of good versus bad. That the heroes are so busy putting supervillains into prisons with revolving doors that they have ignored the world’s real problems. Now they are caught in this vicious cycle of entertaining themselves. That they cling to simplistic morality based on pulp heroes. Ozymandias wonders if that is why Dr. Manhattan came to this Earth. Ozymandias then head-buts Batman.
We see the Joker’s thugs beating up Commissioner Gordon on the rooftop of the Gotham Police Department building. Some of the thugs start hitting the Bat-signal. Marionette and Mime then arrive on the rooftop.
Back on the Owl-ship, Ozymandias says that he negotiated nuclear disarmament. That he cured famine and disease. We see a news report on the TV in the Owl-ship. The report says that Black Adam rescued Jack Ryder from the clutches of King Kobra. Black Adam has been increasing his attacks on the terrorist group within Kahndaq. However, the rescue of Ryder was different since it took place in Syria. Therefore, Black Adam has broken international laws. We see Black Adam making a statement that all metahumans who have been hunted by their own governments or forced into service can come to Kahndaq. That they will welcome any metahumans seeking asylum.
We see that Ozymandias has flipped the Owl-ship upside down causing Batman to fall onto the ceiling of the ship. Ozymandias opens the bay door and causes Batman to fall out of the Owl-ship. Batman fires his cable gun and barely avoids hitting the ground. The thousands of protestors try to reach out and grab Batman.
We then cut to Johnny Thunder running down a hallway in the factory. A green glow comes from the end of the hallway. Johnny enters a room and we see Alan Scott’s Green Lantern glowing. Johnny picks up the lantern and happily exclaims that he had found it.
Suddenly, the junkies arrive in the room and begin beating Johnny up. Johnny begs them to stop attacking. One of the junkies grabs the Green Lantern from Johnny.
We zip over to Gotham to see the protestors grabbing Batman’s cape and pulling him down into the crowd. The crowd begins to beat up Batman. We see Joker’s thugs rip the Bat-signal off of the roof of the Gotham Police Department and throw it over the edge. The Bat-signal lands on the ground and kills several of the protestors.
We hop back to the All-American Steel Factory where one of the junkies is about to hit Johnny with the Lantern. Suddenly, a Rorschach 2.0 appears on the scene and stars beating the crap out of the junkies. Rorschach 2.0 kills the junkies. Saturn Girl tends to Johnny. Saturn Girl tells Johnny to not worry. That the junkies were going to all overdose tonight anyway. That everything evens out. (Yeah, Imra would never be that glib about killing people. Even junkies.)
We slide back to the roof of the Gotham Police Department. Marionette and Mime look down on the crowd of protestors and the Bat-signal that killed a few. Marionette says that this is fun and romantic. (I love these two characters. They absolutely have to stick around after this big event has concluded.)
Suddenly, the Joker appears on the scene. The Joker says that Marionette and Mime have caused him trouble tonight. Some of Joker’s thugs interrupt and says that the Joker needs to see what they have found. The thugs drop a beaten and unconscious Batman at the Joker’s feet.
We zip back to All-American Steel Factory. Rorschach 2.0 is holding the Green Lantern. Rorschach 2.0 asks Johnny, “Tell us. Explain. What is Lantern?” We see a moth flying into the glowing Green Lantern. End of story.
We then get a two-page extra news article about the rise of the Metahuman-American. It spotlights Metamorpho, Doc Dread, Element Girl, Stingaree, Lady Clayface, Man-Bat, Firestorm, and Killer Frost.
We then get another two-page extra showing a map of the world and the metahumans arms race that is heating up all over the globe. We see all the different teams from various countries and we see the full rosters for each team. We see the People’s Heroes in Russia. Justice League Europe in France. Knights, Inc. in the United Kingdom. The Outsiders in Markovia. Hayoth in Israel. The Doomed in India. The Great Twenty in China.
We then get a two-page extra on Kahndaq and Black Adam and the fact that the country is now a sanctuary for all metahumans. End of issue.
The Good: Geoff Johns returned to form with Doomsday Clock #5. This issue was a brilliant read that is much like the stories that issues #1–3 delivered. It is great to see Johns back on track and firing on all cylinders once again with this big event.
The biggest takeaway from Doomsday Clock #5 is how Johns’s writing is simply on another level compared to almost every other writer working for Marvel and DC at this point. Johns continues to amaze me with the complex and immersive story that he is weaving on Doomsday Clock.
The pacing in Doomsday Clock #5 is perfect. To be sure, Johns is employing a slow-burn approach to this story. However, Doomsday Clock #5 is not meandering or slow. Johns shepherds the story forward with a clear purpose in mind. The story builds at a measured and controlled pace before ramping at the climactic final 1/3 of this issue.
The plotting in Doomsday Clock #5 is amazing. The large number of plot lines that Johns is juggling is amazing. The incredible amount of detail that Johns is crafting into each plotline is equally stunning. Johns is creating a story that is rich and nuanced. Johns is delivering a story that has multiple levels which demand the reader to read Doomsday Clock #5 multiple times in order to catch everything that Johns is conveying with each scene. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Nearly every panel has a double meaning.
What is also incredible is how massive the scope of this story feels and how well fleshed out and engrossing this world is that Johns has created for Doomsday Clock. This world is so well developed. There is so much fine detail packed into every panel. Johns is able to pull the reader so deeply into the story. The reader is completely captivated by this delightfully elaborate world that Johns is creating with Doomsday Clock. A sense of dread fills the pit of the reader’s stomach as we head to the chaotic ending to Doomsday Clock #5. Nobody can pull of world building like Geoff Johns. Doomsday Clock is simply reaffirming this fact.
Johns continues to expand the scope of his story with Doomsday Clock #5. Johns gives Doomsday Clock #5 the proper epic big event vibe. Johns begins reaching out into all the corners of the globe and pulls in characters from disparate parts of the DCU. More and more characters and franchises are being folded into Doomsday Clock.
Johns officially pulls in seven international super teams chock full of characters from the 1980s and the 1990s that have not been seen in the New 52. Johns also pulls in aspects of both the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super Heroes just in this issue.
Johns has Jack Ryder, also known as the Creeper, appear in this issue. The Creeper has appeared since Rebirth in Red Hood and the Outlaws. The Creeper that we get in this issue is the Pre-New 52 Creeper. The Creeper is a wild Steve Ditko creation. I like that we have the real Creeper back and it was nice to see him getting a cameo in this issue.
Over in Russia, Johns brings back several pre-New 52 characters. First, is the Rocket Red Brigade. This is a team that first appeared in Green Lantern Corps #208 back in 1987. Johns has the Rocket Red Brigade arresting Hawk and Dove. I have always liked the Red Rocket Brigade concept. We have barely seen the Rocket Red Brigade in the New 52. So, it is nice to see Johns’ referencing them in this issue.
The People’s Heroes are an old Russian team first seen in Outsiders #10. The People’s Heroes roster that we get in Doomsday Clock #5 has some different members than the original line-up.
There is also a Black Eagle listed on this team. There was a Black Eagle who appeared in All-Out War #2 in 1970. But, he was African-American. So, since this team is comprised of Russians I would expect this Black Eagle to be a completely different character.
Lady Flash is also on The People’s Heroes. Lady Flash first appeared in Flash #7 in 1987. Lady Flash was killed off in Flash: Rebirth #2 in 2009. Lady Flash was Russian. So, it appears that Johns has brought this character back to life.
Johns also brings back an old-school Teen Titan in Red Star. Red Star was created by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. Red Star had not been seen at all since the New 52. Red Star is another pre-New 52 character making his grand return. Johns makes sure to reference the fact that Red Star is coming out of retirement. This means that Red Star’s past from pre-New 52 is also being brought back.
There is also a Volstok and a Negative Woman on The People’s Heroes. Oddly enough, Volstok is the real name for Negative Woman. So, I am not sure what Johns is up to at this moment with these two characters.
Negative Woman. She has only been seen very briefly in the New 52 over on Justice League and was seemingly killed off. Johns reintroduces the pre-New 52 Negative Woman in this issue. Negative Woman is Russian and sports her classic look. Valentina is a classic Doom Patrol member from the 1970s. It is cool to see her on this Russian super team. This is a logical way to re-introduce her character.
There are other members of The People’s Heroes who also come from the pages of John Ostrander’s Firestorm from the late 1980s. Those characters would be Firebird, Morozko, Perun, Rusalka, Steel Wolf, and Vikhor.
Also on The People’s Heroes roster is Pozhar. Pozhar is a classic Firestorm character. In the New 52, Pozhar did not exist. Instead, Mikhail Arkadin was made into a professor who helped Dr. Stein create the Firestorm protocol. Well, that is all gone now as Johns firmly re-establishes the pre-New 52 Pozhar with this issue. Pozhar is a cool character so it is nice to see him back and better than ever.
Speaking of Firestorm, Johns gives us the classic pre-New 52 Firestorm in this issue. In the New 52, Firestorm was composed of Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch. Ronnie was the physical form while Jason was the mental form. Johns makes a point in this issue to have Ronnie talk to Dr. Martin Stein who is the mental form of Firestorm in this issue. This is Johns making sure the reader knows that this is the classic pre-New 52 Firestorm composed of Ronnie and Dr. Stein.
Johns also brings back The Outsiders. This team is headlined by the Pre-New 52 Geo-Force in this issue. The New–52 did have the appearance of Brion Markov. But, he had no superpowers and did not operate as Geo-Force. In the extra pages at the end of Doomsday Clock #5, Johns has Brion in costume and going by the name Geo-Force. This is awesome. Geo-Force was always my favorite character from Batman and the Outsiders.
But, Johns was not done with just bringing back Geo-Force. In the same article, Johns makes sure to write that there are reports that Geo-Force once worked alongside of Batman. In the New 52, DC junked Batman and the Outsiders completely. Well, John fixes that with Doomsday Clock #5. Just like that, Johns brought back Batman and the Outsiders from before the New 52. Boom. Even more real DCU goodness for you.
Johns fills out the roster of The Outsiders with some lesser-known characters and a new character. Baroness Bedlam is a new character and must be a version of the old Baron Bedlam character who first appeared in Batman and the Outsiders #1 back in 1983. The Eradicator is also on the team. He first appeared in Action Comics Annual #2 in 1989. I must admit that this is an odd place for The Eradicator to be placed. I’m curious to see what Johns is up to with this old Superman character.
Also on the Outsiders is Knighfall who first appeared in Batgirl #10 in 2012. We also get Terra IV on the roster. I am curious to see which version of Terra Johns delivers. Lastly, we have Wylde who first appeared in Outsiders #1. This character has not been seen in forever.
Johns was not done there. In the same news article at the end of this issue, Johns also brings back the Justice League Europe. Crimson Fox is the leader and the only member of this new roster that was also a member of the original Justice League of Europe. With these two moves, Johns brings back a classic DCU team in the Justice League Europe and a character in Crimson Fox that has not been seen since the New 52 reboot.
Also, on the Justice League Europe roster is Fleur-de-Lis who first appeared in Infinity, Inc. #34 in 1987. The Hunchback first appeared in The Question #33 in 1989. The Musketeer first appeared in Detective Comics #215 in 1955. We last saw him in the pages of Morrison’s Batman when he joined the Club of Heroes. Nightrunner first appeared in Detective Comics Annual #12 in 2011.
The super team of Knights Inc. is an interesting collection of characters. We have Beaumont. Beaumont is an English character who first appeared in Superman #689 in 2009.
Next is the Canterbury Cricket! This is a great character who first appeared in Flashpoint: Canterbury Cricket #1. Cricket was from one of the alternative timelines that we visited during Flashpoint. I was not expecting Johns to bring back some of the one-shot characters that we met in Flashpoint. What a cool surprise!
Ms. Hyde is another surprise. Ms. Hyde first appeared in Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #2. Ms. Hyde was another one of the random characters from the various alternative timelines that we saw during the events of Flashpoint.
I love that Johns reached into Flashpoint and pulled out some of the characters from that big event. Since Doomsday Clock is clearly carrying out Rebirth’s objective of bringing back the real pre-New 52 DCU then it makes sense to work some of Flashpoint into the storyline as well. Especially since it appears that Dr. Manhattan must have had a hand in the events of Flashpoint that destroyed the real DCU and created the New 52.
Also on Knights Inc. is The Crusader who first appeared in Azrael #10 in 2010. There is Godiva who first appeared in Super Friends #7 in 1977. Godiva was a member of both the Global Guardians and the Justice League.
Also on the team is Golden Pharaoh. Talk about a wild choice by Johns!! Golden Pharaoh was a character created for Kenner’s Super Powers line of action figures. I know this character well because I had all of these action figures. Super Powers remains one of the coolest action figures ever. Golden Pharaoh’s only comic book appearance was in Super Powers #3
The Hood first appeared in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #21 in 1993. [Jack O’Lantern](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_O%27Lantern_(DC_Comics) is a character that has had three different versions. The third and most recent version first appeared in Justice League Quarterly #14 in 1994.
Looking Glass is a crazy obscure character who appeared in Invasion #1-The Alien Alliance. Lionheart first appeared in Justice League International Annual #4 in 1993. Ridge first appeared in Legion Lost #8 in 2012.
Silent Knight is an obscure character that has rarely been seen. He first appeared in The Brave and The Bold #1 in 1955. Squire is well known for her role in Batman, Inc. She first appeared in JLA #26 in 1999. The Knight is the latest version named Beryl Hutchinson. She first became The Knight in Batman, Inc. #9 in 2013. Templar is the final member.
The Israeli team called Hayoth is comprised of several old characters. Golemfirst appeared in Ragman #2 in 1991. Dybbuk, Judith, and Ramban all first appeared in Suicide Squad #45 in 1990.
Johns also works on bringing back the Justice Society of America in this issue. The JSA was completely swept away by the New 52. However, Johns is methodically re-establishing the pre-New 52 JSA.
Johnny Thunder visits All-America Steel Factory in Pittsburgh. Now, I am engaging in massive speculation. But, I wonder if this factory is a reference to Commander Steel. The original Commander Steel was Hank Heywood who was a wealthy industrialist. Steel was a member of the All-Star Squadron and the JSA. Commander Steel is a cool character that has been played by three different generations of Heywood men. I love this character and it would be cool if the All-American Steel Factory turns out to be a Commander Steel reference.
The other more obvious return is the re-appearance of Alan Scott’s Green Lantern. We have not seen the real Alan Scott since the New 52. The Alan Scott that we saw on Earth 2 was an alternate-universe version of the original character. The appearance of Scott’s Green Lantern paves the way for the glorious return of possibly the most storied member of the JSA. I am beyond excited. I love Scott’s character and I cannot wait for his glorious return to the DCU.
Johns also continues to lay the foundation for the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The Legion is another franchise that was junked by the New 52. Now, everyone has known for a while that Jane Doe in Arkham Asylum was Saturn Girl. She first made her appearance in DC Rebirth #1. The references were obvious.
But, Johns finally makes it official with Imra officially revealing herself as Saturn Girl. I absolutely freaked out at this moment. As a die-hard Legion of Super-Heroes fan, I have been eagerly awaiting their return to the DCU.
It appears that the Saturn Girl in Doomsday Clock #5 is the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version. This also does not appear to be the version that Johns brought back after Infinite Crisis. That version was older and had a buzz cut. Saturn Girl in this issue looks like your classic pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version. And that is fine with me because that is the best version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Period.
Johns also integrates the classic version of Black Adam into this story. Black Adam has been seen in the New 52, but his character had been tweaked and changed. The Black Adam that Johns delivers in Doomsday Clock #5 looks and acts just like the pre-New 52 Black Adam that we know and love. Black Adam is an excellent character. And there is no writer that is better at writing Black Adam’s character than Geoff Johns.
Beyond the cool character re-introductions, the strong plotting, and the pacing, Johns also impresses with his technical skills in crafting an issue. Doomsday Clock #5 is impressively constructed. Johns employs creative scene transitions that give this issue a smooth flow. Johns is able to have each scene organically flow into the next one.
Johns structures Doomsday Clock #5 around eight different plot lines in the beginning. We have the Ozymandias plot line, the Batman plot line, the Supermen Theory plot line, the Gotham protests plot line, the Comedian plot line, The Marionette, Mime, and Joker plot line, the Rorschach 2.0 plot line, the Johnny Thunder plot line.
By the end of Doomsday Clock #5, Johns had further fleshed out the Supermen Theory plot line, merged the Ozymandias, Batman, Gotham protests, and the Marionette/Mime/Joker plot lines altogether. Johns also merged the Johnny Thunder and Rorschach 2.0/Saturn Girl plotlines together. Johns also introduced a few new wrinkles with the appearance of the Joker and the appearance of Alan Scott’s Lantern. Johns also wonderfully contrasted the merged plot lines in Gotham with the merged plot lines at the All-American Steel Factory into one dramatic ending.
This is some of the most impressive plotting and construction of a story that you are going to find in modern comic books. I love how all these disparate plotlines are beginning to slide into place with each other.
Johns opens Doomsday Clock #5 with a four page scene that effectively establishes the mood in the world at large and in Gotham specifically. This opening scene gives an Everyman’s view of The Supermen Theory from the viewpoint of the two cops. This creates a nice foundation for the Superman Theory that we get from a metahuman’s viewpoint later as well as the media’s viewpoint.
Johns is savvy and is able to use this scene to give the reader plenty of backstory on the Supermen Theory and perform some world-building while moving forward the plot line of Ozymandias escaping and getting back on track. This is a technique that Johns uses throughout the issue. This is the most effective way of performing world-building and delivering exposition without halting the momentum of the various plot lines.
Johns then gives us a one-page scene at the Daily Planet. This was a compressed and effective scene to continue unfolding the international stage and how the Supermen Theory is impacting metahuman relations across the globe. This scene also sets America against their longtime foe in Russia. This is a nice conflict that evokes the showdown between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the Watchmen.
We then get the one-page scene with Saturn Girl and Rorschach 2.0. This scene was the least dense scene of all the scenes in this issue. Having said that, while this scene was a bit shallow it did achieve its intended purpose. This scene was all about finally stating the obvious: That Saturn Girl is back. As a long-time and die-hard Legion of Super-Hero fan, I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I absolutely went nuts with this scene. I cannot wait to see how Doomsday Clock ends up leading to the return of the Legion of Super-Heroes. It has been too long.
Next is a three-page scene at the sanitarium with Johnny trying to get a train ticket. This scene delivers even more exposition on the political landscape concerning metahumans. This scene builds off naturally from the prior scenes concerning the increased global tension concerning metahumans.
Johns then gives us a one-page scene with Ozymandias and Batman. This is a big moment in this issue. Not only is it merging two plot lines together, but it is also the moment where Batman finally admits that Rorschach’s journal is the truth. It also is a cool moment that pits Ozymandias with the one DCU character most like him in the Batman.
Next is a one-page scene with the Comedian. At this point, this plot line is the wildcard. The reader has no idea how the Comedian is going to impact the other characters and plot lines in this issue. To be sure, the one thing that the reader does understand is that the Comedian is a badass.
Johns then gives the reader a one-page scene with Mime and Marionette questioning the Joker thug. This is an important moment in the issue because it introduces the Bat-signal as a story element. We will talk more about Johns’s theme of light and how it impacts this story. The Bat-signal plays into the theme of light in a big way.
We then get a three-page scene in the Owl-Ship. This was a masterfully written scene. Johns cranks up the tension between Ozymandias and Batman with the various news reports that chronicle the various problems around the globe concerning metahumans. This scene effectively merges together the far-ranging international issues concerning metahumans with the more local issue of the protests against Batman in Gotham. The protests in Gotham also place a more street-level reaction to the Supermen Theory in comparison to the large-scale global responses to the Supermen Theory.
Next is a one-page scene with Lex and Lois. This scene features strong character work. The reader gets a sense of Lex’s obvious desires for Lois in contrast with her clear disdain for Lex. I also like that Johns aligns Lex as opposed to the government’s metahuman plans. Lex works best when the reader is not sure exactly what he is up to at any given moment.
We then get a two-page scene with Johnny Thunder at All-American Steel Factory. This is a wonderfully depressing scene that serves to make the reader doubt that Johnny will be successful in his mission of finding his old JSA friends.
Johns then delivers the final six pages of this issue. This scene is brilliantly constructed. Johns masterfully integrates five different plot lines together. The Batman/Ozymandias plot line is merged with the international conflict and the protests in Gotham and with the Marionette/Mime/Joker plot line. This scene also merges the Johnny Thunder plot line with the Rorschach 2.0/Saturn Girl plot line. Johns then ends Doomsday Clock #5 with an incredible hook ending that brings the reader to the edge of their seat and eager for the next issue.
The cherry on top of all of this impressive writing by Johns in Doomsday Clock #5 is strong character work and dialogue. This issue is not just about world-building and complex plot lines. Johns does a nice job cranking out quality dialogue. Johns also does his best to give the various main characters their own well-developed personalities. Even in short one page scene like the one with Lex and Lois Johns is able to effectively convey the characters’ personalities.
Doomsday Clock #5 main objective was to fill the reader in on the Supermen Theory as well as fleshing out the global reaction to metahumans. Johns does both in an entertaining fashion. I love that Johns employs the news reports in the background to deliver critical information while the main plot lines are progressing in the foreground of the various scenes. This allows Johns to effectively deliver the exposition necessary to build out the global landscape concerning metahumans without halting the action of all of the plot lines and dumping a ton of exposition on the reader.
Johns also takes advantage of the bonus pages at the end of Doomsday Clock #5 with the double-page spreads containing magazine articles about the Supermen Theory, the global state of metahumans, and Black Adam and Kahndaq. These bonus pages are fascinating reading and a wonderful way to deliver tons of backstory to flesh out this world without getting in the way of the story.
I love seeing Russia and Markovia aligning with each other. This helps to elevate Markovia as a global player in the DCU. The establishment of Kahndaq as a sanctuary country for metahumans was also a nice way to give Kahndaq a pivotal role to play in the DCU, as well. With one fell swoop, Johns helps to elevate both Markovia and Kahndaq and helps make the DCU a bit richer and more interesting.
I also liked the little gem that Johns had Lex deliver that the person who is running the secret U.S. metahuman program is a metahuman and also used to be a Justice Leaguer. This immediately piqued my attention. If I had to pick a character who used to be a Justice leaguer who would be the most logical fit for this role I would go with Maxwell Lord. It just fits perfectly with Lord’s personality and history.
Johns also does a nice job of making the reader wonder if the Supermen Theory is real or not. On one hand, Johns does hint that the Supermen Theory may be a Russian-hatched fake news story. However, Johns also hints to the reader that the Supermen Theory, while distorted, may actually be based on a real secret U.S. Government agenda. I like that Johns avoids making it obvious to the reader if the Supermen Theory is true or not. This helps make the story more nuanced and engaging.
I enjoyed Johns playing with the theme of the classic superhero that Alan Moore examined in the original Watchmen. Moore made his characters based on the classic pulp Charlton Comics characters. Moore then took these classic-styled Silver Age characters and stood them on their heads. Moore’s real-world view of the superhero genre had readers viewing classic pulp superheroes through a lens that was entirely new to the readers.
Johns continues to play with that theme in Doomsday Clock #5. Ozymandias exposes the harsh truth of DC’s superheroes having Hero Syndrome. That DC’s superheroes never save anything. That they put criminals in prisons with revolving doors. That it is simply a cycle of entertaining themselves. What was most interesting is that Ozymandias wonders if it is the DC’s superheroes’ simplistic morality based on pulp heroes that attracted Dr. Manhattan to this world.
This is a fascinating moment. Moore took his classic pulp comic characters and ripped apart their simplistic morality with the multi-faceted modern view of the world and of right and wrong. Ozymandias was the culmination of this view by making the hard decisions that a superhero would have to make in order to truly solve the world’s problems. I like the concept of Dr. Manhattan viewing the DCU as similar to the Watchmen’s Charlton Comics-styled world before the events of Watchmen perverted everything.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, I have enjoyed Johns’ use of light as a theme throughout this story. The theme of light continues in Doomsday Clock #5. Johns begins Doomsday Clock #5 with light and what it signifies and then ends this issue with the theme of light. It is a wonderfully symmetrical structure to this issue.
In the beginning, Johns uses the concept of light as the hope of something better: Heaven. Johns contrasts this with the fact that the doctor then dismisses the light of possessing any magical powers and that it is simply a product of the human mind due to increased electrical activity during moments of death or near death. This is important because at the end of the issue Johns presents the reader with the light from Alan Scott’s Lantern. And that is light is absolutely magical in nature. This duality of light is continued throughout this issue.,
Johns continues the theme of light with two physical props in the story: The Bat-signal and Scott’s Lantern. Johns sets the stage by having the cops in the opening scene say that the Bat-signal simply attracts crazy people. Johns then employs the Bat-signal in the final six pages to whip the protestors in Gotham into a frenzy.
The Bat-signal becomes the light that attracts evil rather than protects from evil. The Bat-signal represents the falseness of light that pretends to offer hope but actually represents chaos and death. Johns then employs the Bat-signal as a literal danger as it crushes some of the protestors. The fact that the Bat-signal is turned into an instrument of death for the protestors emphasizes the negative aspect of this light.
On the other end of the spectrum is Alan Scott’s Lantern. Johns uses the Lantern’s light as a beacon of hope. The Lantern’s light guides Johnny Thunder to it. The Lantern’s light also guides Rorschach 2.0 and Saturn Girl to Johnny so that they could save Johnny from the junkies.
Unlike the Bat-signal, the Lantern represents hope. Unlike the doctor’s light at the beginning of the issue, the Lantern represents magic. Something greater than our world.
Johns even has a moth flying toward the Lantern’s light in the final panel of this issue. This shows how people are like moths in how they are attracted to lights either negatively or positively. The protestors, Marionette, Mime, and the Joker are all attracted to the Bat-signal. Johnny, Rorschach 2.0, and Saturn Girl are all attracted to the Lantern. People being like moths to light shows how the concept of light and its influence on people is on a primeval level that is beyond the conscious control of people.
All right, let’s talk about the artwork. Gary Frank is simply amazing. Frank’s artwork is gorgeous. There is so much mind-blowing detail packed into every single panel. Frank also injects so much emotion into the story with the wonderful facial expressions that he gives the various characters. Frank knows how to deliver the small nuanced moments as well as the grand epic moments.
There is no other artist that I would want to be drawing Doomsday Clock. I hate shipping delays. But, I am fine with it if it means we get Frank’s art on this story and not some fill-in artist’s artwork.
The Bad: While I love Doomsday Clock #5, I must admit that action fans may not be enamored with this issue. Doomsday Clock #5 offers very little in terms of action. Most of the action takes place off-panel. There is a tiny bit of action with Rorschach 2.0 saving Johnny. And we get a little bit of action with Batman falling out of the Owl-ship and being attacked by the crowd of protestors. That is about it.
Overall: Doomsday Clock #5 is a fantastic read. Johns treats the reader to a story that is absolutely worth the cover price. Look, I am acutely aware of the ever-increasing cost of comic books. And, often, a monthly comic simply is not worth the expensive $4 or $5 dollar cover price.
However, Doomsday Clock #5 is an exception. Johns packs this issue with so much insane detail that the reader can easily read Doomsday Clock #5 multiple times and still pick up new clues and details. The fact that this issue is so incredibly dense is what makes Doomsday Clock #5 such good value for your money.