With Doomsday Clock taking place a year in the future, and the rest of DC's publishing line running to catch up with it, there will inevitably be some story beats that begin to play out in early 2018 and ultimately pay off when Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson's epic Watchmen follow-up is over.
While the most obvious places for those stories to play out so far seem to be in the Superman and Batman titles (as they seem to be major players so far) and possibly The Terrifics (more on that in a minute), could the upcoming New Age of Heroes publishing line play into Doomsday Clock in a big way?
The story is 12 issues long, “and it takes place a year in the future of the DC Universe, so that when the last issue comes out, the DC Universe will catch up,” Johns explained at Comic Con. “Everything from Rebirth and Metal and everything else, this will take place after all of that, and by the time issue #12 comes out, the rest of the DC Universe will catch up and be affected. You’ll see some changes to characters in this that you’ll see unfold and you’ll see events happen in the DC line that will then catch up to what we’re doing.”
DC co-publisher Dan DiDio would later echo those sentiments at a New York Comic Con panel, saying that plot threads from stories like Dark Nights: Metal and other key stories in the monthlies would build toward the version of the DC Universe seen at the start of Doomsday Clock.
This week's Doomsday Clock #2, though, which unveiled the notion of "The Supermen Theory," introduced a narrative concept that sounds at first like a crazy conspiracy theory...but which may be closer to the truth than fans first guess.
In the story, much of the public in the DC Universe seems to be skeptical of superheroes following a report out of Markovia that suggests the concentration of most of the world's superheroes in the United States is because the U.S. government has been experimenting on its own people for years, and that many of the world's self-appointed protectors are in fact agents of the government who can be turned against the rest of the world if the President wills it.
The notion that superheroics are "all a cover" to keep the true agenda of the metahuman population obscured from view would, if true, be a game-changing revelation but what seems more likely is that it is either all an elaborate hoax (perhaps with Lex Luthor, who seems to be riding a tide of anti-metahuman sentiment based on the articles linked to in the The Bulletin), or at best a tweak to DC's history by Doctor Manhattan.
The wave of anti-superhero sentiment, and particularly the visual of police lining up to protest against masked vigilantes, feels very much in keeping with the events that brought on the Keene Act in Watchmen -- a law that made it illegal for masked adventurers to operate, unless they were employees of the government, subject to oversight and with their identities known to their superiors.
At first blush, it seems preposterous; after all, readers have been privy to the thoughts and motivations of their favorite heroes for years, and there has never been an indication that their battles were all an elaborate ruse.
But then there's Damage, one of the characters appearing as part of DC's New Age of Heroes...
“Ethan Avery is a guy named Damage,” series writer Robert Venditti told ComicBook.com. “He lives in this world just like all of us. He wants to find a way to leave his mark, and in a world where there’s heroes flying overhead, how does a regular guy even make a difference anymore? He’s in the military and he volunteers for a program thinking he’s going to come out a hero, but instead comes out a monster, and he hates what has happened to him and now he just wants to be left alone, so he’s trying to hide out, but the people that created him want him back because he’s a very valuable asset. He’s trying to stay ahead of the people that are hunting him, and in doing so, he interacts with a lot of the forgotten or overlooked aspects of society and ends up becoming the hero that he intended to be, but he doesn’t realize that he’s becoming that.”
The notion that Damage, whose first appearance will be in January 2018, was an active-duty member of the U.S. military when he underwent a voluntary, disfiguring transformation, feels a little on-the-nose when one considers that, per Doomsday Clock #2's backmatter, that is almost exactly what happened to DC superhero Metamorpho, who will be appearing in The Terrifics, another title from DC's New Age of Heroes line.
Furthermore, Damage's existence is not new -- but it has been secret up until now.
“Even though we as readers are seeing Damage’s story for the first time, it’s clear that Damage has been around for a while and we’re just finding out about it now,” Venditti said.
It is also worth noting that in Doomsday Clock, backmatter specifically cites the Dominator invasion as an inciting incident for an explosion of metahumans. Such events have happened periodically since in DC's publishing history, with tales like "Bloodlines" and Zero Hour used to inject some fresh blood into the intellectual property pipeline. The New Age of Heroes initiative certainly fits that description pretty well.
Will anything come of this, or is it just a coincidence? Time will tell. Damage #1 will arrive on January 17, and Doomsday Clock #3 will be along on January 24.