Today's finale to Doomsday Clock, DC's Watchmen sequel from writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank (with Brad Anderson on colors), is going to be one of those issues that fans talk about for a long time to come. Not so much for the quality -- although it's pretty good -- but because the back half of the issue is chock full of huge revelations, changes to continuity, and dangling plot threads that Johns and likely other writers will be dealing with and paying off for years. But one of those changes -- despite having been rumored for a while now -- is actually kind of stranger than the rest.
In addition to bringing back the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Johns and Frank make some major changes to Superman's history and backstory. The implications will likely play out in a number of upcoming stories and projects that Johns has teased in the text.
Spoilers ahead for Doomsday Clock #12, obviously. Click away now if you don't want to know.
In earlier issues of Doomsday Clock, Johns and Frank revealed that Doctor Manhattan had tweaked bits of DC's history in order to create ripple effects that radically changed the way the universe looked. Among those was interfering with the origins of the Golden Age heroes of the Justice Society, preventing their heroism from taking root. In the final issue of the series, Doctor Manhattan -- inspired by a selfless act from Superman -- repairs much of the damage that he has done to the timeline, reweaving the timeline together and allowing the JSA to appear, as well as the Legion of Super-Heroes (whose absence would have made more sense if the book wasn't so late that Brian Michael Bendis had to start without them).
"The future and the past are free," Doctor Manhattan narrates.
But it wasn't just the past and the future that were impacted by the change: a significant difference between the pre- and post-Flashpoint DC Universes is addressed in the form of the death of Jonathan and Martha Kent. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne's rebooted Superman in The Man of Steel had two living parents who were a significant presence in his modern-day adventures. That carried through until Johns killed Jonathan as part of his fan-favorite "Brainiac" storyline.
After Flashpoint, the birth of the New 52 universe came with a wrinkle: the Kents had died in an automobile accident when Clark was a teenager, leaving him racked with guilt after being unable to save them. That has been the status quo since 2011 -- until today. In the final issue of Doomsday Clock, it is revealed that the arrival of the Justice Society gave Clark inspirational figures to look up to. With the JSA in the history books, he suited up as Superboy when he first started exhibiting powers, rather than hiding them from view. As a result, he was out there, in a cape and tights, ready to stop his parents' truck from crashing that night. Now, in the modern day, Jonathan and Martha are still alive.
Doomsday Clock takes Doctor Manhattan, Ozymandias, and other characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen and transplants them into the DC Universe, fleeing the destruction left behind by a war that broke out after world leaders learned of Ozymandias's duplicity at the start of the original series. While its finale and the final episode of HBO's Watchmen both hit this week, each of them is a very different sequel to the classic '80s alt-history comic.
Picking up on a plot thread writer Geoff Johns had left in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Johns and artist Gary Frank, along with colorist Brad Anderson, return to the world of Watchmen and explore the question of just what Doctor Manhattan may have had to do with 2011's post-Flashpoint relaunch of DC's main line of continuity. Along the way, Superman has to deal with an increasingly paranoid and unhinged public who distrust him as a result of conspiracy theories being circulated to slander the metahuman community.
Doomsday Clock #12 is on sale now at comic book stores and online. The first half of the series is also available in collected edition.