In Doomsday Clock #3, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank reintroduced a long-absent DC Comics character: Nathaniel Dusk.
With only two miniseries and a guest appearance in an issue of Lobo to his name, Dusk is not a character most fans likely expected to pop up in a high-profile series like Doomsday Clock -- but his narrative does fill a niche fans have been asking about since the first pages started to trickle out into the world.
That niche? The one served by the Black Freighter comics in Watchmen. When Nathaniel Dusk first appears onscreen in the comic, he is the lead character in a movie called "The Adjournment," identified in the comic's backmatter as the last in a series. It is the last, because actor Carver Colman was murdered shortly after the film's wrap party.
"Nathaniel Dusk returns in Doomsday Clock #3 -- and if you're wondering who he is, the mystery he's trying to solve is more important," writer Geoff Johns tweeted today. "With Doomsday Clock #3, we start to peel back DC Comics's Golden Age of Hollywood...with some familiar faces..."
As with Tales of the Black Freighter, this story seems to be setting up a narrative to be enjoyed by bickering characters only tangentially tied to the central narrative, who will enjoy a piece of pop culture with thematic ties to what is going on around them.
In the comics, Nathaniel Dusk was created by Don McGregor and Gene Colan in 1984.
A New York City private investigator who began his career in 1934, Dusk served in the United States armed forces in World War I as a combat pilot. After leaving the military, he worked as a policeman until he quit after becoming disgusted by the rampant corruption in the force.
Dusk struck up a romance with mother of two Joyce Gulino, who had gone into hiding from her mobster husband Joseph Costilino. The vengeful husband ordered a hit on both his wife and Dusk but only Joyce died in the attack. Dusk went after Costilino, taking him down and then balancing other cases with taking care of Gulino's two children.
Elements of that story are echoed in the Dusk material seen in the movie-within-the-comic, while another aspect -- Colman's death coming via a statue he earned during his glory days -- eerily echoes the death of Hollis Mason, the Golden Age Nite-Owl in Watchmen.
The "unexplained Hollywood mystery" aspect of the Caver Colman story might also have some resonance here, since The Adventures of Superman star George Reeves's death has long been clouded by controversy over whether the official verdict of suicide holds up to scrutiny.
Doomsday Clock #3 is on sale now. You can get it at your local comic shop or buy a digital copy on ComiXology.