Superman can move mountains, stop an oncoming train, and restart a dying star. He can keep up with the Flash in a race around the world, and routinely matches wits with Lex Luthor.
As exciting as it is to see Superman perform these astounding feats, as exhilarating as it can be watching him go toe-to-toe with Darkseid or Zod, I love seeing him interact with his supporting cast. Especially his friends and colleagues at the Daily Planet, be it Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, sleazy Rick Lombard, or his beloved Lois Lane. There’s just something endearing about the most powerful man in the world actively pursuing the life of an everyman reporter.
Doomsday Clock #8 has quite a bit of both Clark Kent and Superman, and is frankly at its strongest when it focused on the former. This whole series was positioned as a Superman book, yet he’s barely been in it up to this point. The story has fared well without him, for the most part, especially the previous issue which almost completely Watchmen-centric. Still, after the genuinely shocking final pages of issue 7, it’s nice to see Superman’s side of the story. I just wish this installment was able to keep up the momentum of its early scenes all throughout, as it starts strong and soon loses its way.
But man does it start strong. I don’t know if it’s just because of my background in journalism or what, but I would read an entire series that’s nothing but the day to day happenings of the Daily Planet newsroom. That’s one of the things I’ve been loving about Bendis’ run on Action Comics, for one, and there’s quite a bit of the hustle and bustle of the Planet here as well. Johns and Frank are both incredibly strong here, striking the creative synergy they found in Superman: Secret Origin. A disgruntled Perry White yelling at any who will listen asking who wants to cover the story, and Lois and Clark both have looks of sheer joy on their faces? How can you not love that?
So of course Clark takes this opportunity as a cover story so he can find Firestorm, who has run afoul of the international community and needs to be tracked down. Superman goes to Kahndaq, and there’s a tense conversation with Black Adam that kind of delivers, but never quite reaches the level of intensity you might want. Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but a verbal showdown between such big figures shouldn’t leave me feeling underwhelmed.
Besides the early scenes at the Planet, the best part of the issue is Superman’s handling of Firestorm’s grief. See, Ronnie Raymond was pushed to the limit by a Russian mob, and accidentally transmuted the entire crowd into glass. He’s stunned, in no small part because he’s never been able to change organic matter before. If he changed them once then he can certainly change them back, but the internal protestations of Professor Stein aren’t helping matters.
Enter Superman. Rather than wanting to take Firstorm in, like the young hero expects, Big Blue is there to offer support. It’s a great scene of Superman just being Superman, believing in someone and cheering them on even when they don’t feel like a worthy recipient of kindness.
“You can do it again” may not ever reach the same level of repute as “you’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust me,” but it’s still a great line and a good scene.
The rest of the issue is… a bit of a mixed bag. There’s not a point where the storytelling is bad, mind you, I just didn’t find myself connecting with the events like I did in he previous issue. Superman and Firestorm make their way back to the Russian square, where Ronnie promises he can change everyone back. Vladimir Putin is on hand, flanked by a group of superpowered beings, and rather than listen to the impassioned pleas of Superman and Firestorm, he calls for the military to open fire. This leads to a tragic firefight that costs lives that could have been saved, culminating in a twist that… might work.
This isn’t filler, and I’m loathe to write it off as such. Everything that happens has a point and fits with the narrative, I just wish there was more to it than what we got. Focusing on the Watchmen characters worked in the previous issue, and Superman can absolutely carry an entire issue on his own, so I don’t really know where the disconnect lies. It may just be that the scenes that worked the best worked so well that the other parts seemed on drag.
Like the lean main story, the back matter is lacking in much substance. It’s a collection of headlines from Metropolis-based newspapers, each giving their own spin on Superman’s involvement in the Russian tragedy. The Daily Star, for instance, reads ‘Trust Shattered,” with the S-shield serving as the ‘S’ in ‘Trust.’ The Metropolis Times has the bleakly alliterated “Metahuman Moscow Massacre” as a headline, and Metropolis Today speaks with authority that Superman chose the wrong side.
As expected, The Daily Planet is the only paper that gives a somewhat even-handed take on the Russian fiasco. Perry White himself takes to editorializing the situation, going so far as to title his piece “The Truth We Don’t Know,” while Ron Troupe asks that readers take a closer look at the available footage. Rather than running sensationalist hit pieces that will most certainly push papers, White and Troupe do what any good journalist should: they report what they know, and when they don’t, they acknowledge it.
There isn’t anything here that’s as substantial as, say, a rundown of international super-teams, or as enlightening as Ozymandias’ grief and guilt. From a design standpoint, though, it’s actually kind of fun, with the distinct letterheads and logos for each paper showing what tabloids and legit newspapers would look like in the DC Universe. Reading the words of beloved characters like White and Troupe is a nice touch as well, especially when in regards to Superman.
- You’re invested in Doomsday Clock.
- You like Superman being Superman.
Overall: Coming off a series high point, this is a more muted affair that could have used a bit more substance. There are some great scenes at the Daily Planet, and Johns just gets Superman’s stalwart optimism. Something just doesn’t quite connect, though, making the product as a whole a bit of a let down. Don’t take it to mean that this issue of Doomsday Clock is bad, though; there’s good writing, beautiful artwork, and a sense of hope even in the mire.