While the Watchmen world is still stuck in 1992 and the DC Universe might have a fictional President of the United States, Doomsday Clock added Russian president Vladimir Putin to its cast today, following in the footsteps of Watchmen's decision to include real-world politicians like Richard Nixon in its pages.
Putin's actual "screen time" was small, but his impact on the story was not -- and decisions he made during he issue will likely reverberate through the rest of Doomsday Clock.
Spoilers ahead for Doomsday Clock #8, on sale today.
In the issue, Putin has a friendly moment with Superman -- which quickly turns tense and, ultimately, fatal for a number of those in attendance.
Earlier in the issue, in an echo of the "leave me alone!" scene in Watchmen, Firestorm erupts in the middle of a crowd of Russian civilians. Instead of sending them away, however, his transmutation powers transform them all into glass. Shocked by this -- his powers have traditionally not worked on organic matter -- Firestorm flees.
The result is an international incident, particularly since "The Supermen Theory," which has been a pervasive part of Doomsday Clock's background story, holds that Firestorm was secretly created as an American military asset.
A lot is made in the issue of the fact that Superman's alien origins more or less exempt him from the theory that bears his name, though, and that he is still seen as a paragon of good. He heads overseas and is able to walk peacefully into Kahndaq, a nation ruled by Black Adam, and which offers asylum to persecuted (or just criminal) metahumans. Firestorm, who had stolen one of the glass people before he left, manages to successfully transmute the statue back to human form, and Superman is ecstatic: his faith in Firestorm is rewarded, and all of those innocent lives can still be saved.
When Superman arrives in Russia to broker an arrangement for Firestorm to save the lives, Putin welcomes him with open arms and even chastises some Russian superheroes who try to draft him into chasing down Firestorm.
After Superman gives an inspirational speech about how persecuting metahumans is wrong, though, Putin sours on him. It's moments later that Firestorm arrives, and the Russian military opens fire. The bullets do nothing to Superman or Firestorm, but destroy most of the glass people that Firestorm was there to help.
Shortly thereafter, the audience learns that Firestorm's powers had never changed to begin with: he was, for reasons as-yet-unexplained, Doctor Manhattan in disguise the whole time. He and Superman disappear in a blue flash, and that ends the issue, leaving open the question of just how Putin will respond to the attack on Russian soil.
In the original Watchmen, a looming third World War with Russia is what motivated Ozymandias to launch his alien invasion sham. It briefly united humanity against a presumed common foe, forcing world peace. Written during the Cold War, Watchmen played on and incorporated American anxieties about Russian military adventurism in the Middle East and how it might destabilize both that region and our relationship with the Soviet Union.2comments
Doomsday Clock, meanwhile, comes amid revelations that Putin, a former Russian intelligence agent, was likely complicit in efforts to undermine the U.S. Presidential election in 2016. Thus far, those revelations have not changed much about US/Russian relations -- especially since U.S. President Donald Trump publicly dismisses evidence of Russian influence -- but everyday people have a decidedly different impression of Putin than they did prior to the election, and Trump's isolationist trade policy and aggressive foreign policy has occasionally put him at odds with Moscow. Earlier today, Putin threatened a new arms race, with both nations threatening this week to pull out of a 1987 treaty that was seen as key to ending the Cold War.
Doomsday Clock #8 is in stores today. The next issue will be available on January 23, 2019.