It seems like a long time ago that DC Universe: Rebirth #1 ended with the revelation that DC's 2011 "New 52" reboot and the altered timeline that came with it had been the result of something done by Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen fame. And now that Doomsday Clock, the series created to explain why he did it, what he did, and what it means for the DC Universe, is ending, it's time that we got some answers. And, yes, today's Doomsday Clock #12 (from writer Geoff Johns, and featuring art by Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson) gives plenty of answers. It also raises plenty of questions about the future of the DC Universe, but for the sake of argument here, we are going to focus on the answers.
Given the nature of Doomsday Clock so far, and the fact that all of this came out of Flashpoint, it probably is no surprise that two of Geoff Johns's favorite DC Comics toys are at the center of it all. Those characters? The Flash (Barry Allen), and Superman.
Spoilers ahead for Doomsday Clock #12, obviously. Click away now if you don't want to know.
Earlier in Doomsday Clock, Doctor Manhattan revealed that the universe seemed to be mysteriously retconning elements of its own history around a shifting timeline that centered on Superman. It was this realization -- that there was a kind of "metaverse" that was being shaped by the Man of Steel, even while he was completely unaware of it -- that led Doctor Manhattan to tinker with the DC Universe's timeline, to see what kind of changes he could create without breaking things entirely. In this issue, though, he acknowledged that around the time of Rebirth, his own hubris started to catch up with him, as Barry Allen and Wally West realized what had been done.
It was not until today's issue, when a selfless act by Superman changed his perspective on the DC Universe, that Doctor Manhattan took back what he had done -- and while it has permanent impact on the DC Universe, that impact is not perhaps what anybody might think. And independent of Doctor Manhattan (apparently), there were some tweaks to the history of the DC multiverse that are worth talking about.
In the original DC mythology, the multiverse was created at the dawn of time, when Krona -- an Oan scientist with a giant ego -- tried to look back through the history of the universe to see what had birthed it. An infinite multiverse was created, and then was later destroyed when the Anti-Monitor tried to consume all that is. After the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, the five remaining universes were merged into one, with a shared and crowded history. That universe had generations of heroes and legacies that stretched into the past and future -- most of which were taken away when The New 52 happened.
The DC Universe existed for about 20 years before a multiverse was restored, in the Johns-written Infinite Crisis. That multiverse was still much more limited than the original, with only 52 worlds represented. At the end of Convergence, an event fueled by the last survivors of doomed realities, the events of the Crisis were tweaked and the infinite multiverse was saved...but fans basically forgot about that book right after it ended, so DC has not paid much attention to that decision.
Instead, in Doomsday Clock we learn that the "metaverse" idea -- reality bending around Superman -- did not result in alternate timelines until the Silver Age of comics because it wasn't until Barry Allen was struck by lightning that the multiverse was born. Per the issue, it was the birth of the Speed Force and a second Flash that gave birth to Earth-2, home of the Justice Society of America and the original Superman. Even with the merged history restored at the end of Doomsday Clock and the JSA and others restored to their rightful place in DC's main timeline, Earth-2 exists so that the Golden Age versions of Superman, Batman, and other heroes can be there, undisturbed by changes in the era. After the birth of the multiverse, each new iteration of Superman would spin off a new DC Universe into a new Earth, allowing every generation's Superman (and every generation's DC Universe) to remain alive out there, somewhere.
Two examples given are Earth-1985, where the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths verison of Earth-1 lives on...and Earth-52, where the world Doctor Manhattan manipulated into being remains vibrant, unchanged by the events of Rebirth. The issue also teases the birth of Earth-5G, which sounds like it will be another take on the history where Superman and other heroes are repalced by younger and more diverse versions of themselves. that it will have its own Earth and not be intended as a permanent replacement for the DC Universe as it exists is likely a way to help fans adjust to such a world, something that Marvel learned (with their Marvel NOW! initiative) can be a tough adjustment for old school fans.
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.