- This is a page for the comic book series and the sequel of Watchmen. For the eponymous symbolism, see Doomsday Clock.
Doomsday Clock is a twelve-issue comic book series written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank. It began on November 21, 2017, at three minutes to midnight. It serves as a sequel to Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. It ended on December 18, 2019.
- 1 Background
- 2 Plot
- 2.1 Issue 1: "That Annihilated Place"
- 2.2 Issue 2: "Places We Have Never Known"
- 2.3 Issue 3: "Not Victory nor Defeat"
- 2.4 Issue 4: "Walk on Water"
- 2.5 Issue 5: "There is No God"
- 2.6 Issue 6: "Truly Laugh"
- 2.7 Issue 7: "Blind Spot"
- 2.8 Issue 8: "Save Humanity"
- 2.9 Issue 9: "Crisis"
- 2.10 Issue 10: "Action"
- 2.11 Issue 11: "A Lifelong Mistake"
- 2.12 Issue 12: "Discouraged of Man"
In 1985, Alan Moore stated that he and Dave Gibbons had discussed doing a prequel series to Watchmen entitled Minutemen, based around the team of the same name, if the original proved successful. While Dave Gibbons remained open to the possibility, Alan Moore ultimately declined. Other proposed spin-offs and prequels were vetoed equally adamantly by Moore, who believed Watchmen should remain a standalone story. The dispute over the rights to Watchmen between Moore and DC Comics ultimately meant that any future material produced from Watchmen as a franchise would be done without the original creator.
Meanwhile, the comic book industry underwent what is often referred to as "The Dark Age of Comic Books", during which large crops of stories inspired by the success of Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns emerged. However, attempting to emulate their more mature themes and styles produced less than spectacular results, and overtime public opinion of comics as a medium dwindled as a result. This period ended with the crash of the comic book industry in 1996, when the market became oversaturated by countless copies of unappealing material, and the industry temporarily collapsed.
In 2010, DC Comics offered the rights to Watchmen back to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in exchange for his cooperation in expanding Watchmen into a larger universe. Moore vehemently declined any continuation of Watchmen in any capacity, while Gibbons expressed his support at new creators getting to work on the property, leading to the publication of the Before Watchmen line of comics in 2012. Written by teams of different writers and creators, the line was met with a mixed response.
After several years of disappointing sales due to the failure of The New 52 and DC YOU Initiatives, DC decided to return to its roots with DC Rebirth, which introduced Watchmen to the broader DC Universe by hinting at Doctor Manhattan's involvement in the restructuring of time and space which followed DC's Flashpoint event. Rebirth proved a runaway success. Following the United States Presidential Election and a number of other events in late 2016, Geoff Johns, CCO and President of DC Comics, finalized the story for a sequel to Watchmen and the conclusion of the DC Rebirth initiative: Doomsday Clock.
Issue 1: "That Annihilated Place"
The series opens on November 22nd, 1992, seven years after the conclusion of Watchmen. The world is in chaos as the full extent of Ozymandias' plan is revealed to the public after several years of investigation following the publication of Rorschach's Journal in the New Frontiersman. A global manhunt is underway for Adrian Veidt, while relations between the United States of America and the Russian Federation are at their lowest ebb over the revelations, with each suspecting the other of conspiring with him. Protesters assemble outside the main building of Veidt Enterprises, and a riot breaks out. The police are unable to prevent the protesters from ransacking the building, where they find Ozymandias has fled.
Meanwhile, Russian special forces breach Karnak, and find the facility empty. All of Ozymandias' video monitors are tuned to different cable news channels, revealing that all independent news networks in the United States are going offline and a new National News Network will be coming online at 6:00. One journalist, Howard Beale of the Union Broadcasting Service, demands the people rise up before the network is shut down. During the period of silence which follows, the Russians discover a medical bay, with x-rays of Ozymandias' skull showing a large cancerous mass. The National News Network comes online, anchored by William F. Buckley Jr., who says that the Russians have invaded Poland. President Robert Redford has given them four hours to withdraw their troops or the United States will launch a full retaliatory strike. Mandatory evacuations orders are issued for all major U.S cities.
At Sing Sing Prison, the guards are evacuating and refusing to let the prisoners go. One prisoner is able to grab one of the guards and demand his release. The prisoner is horrified when the guard is knocked unconscious by Rorschach, who grabs the guard's keychain and asks the prisoner if he still wants to be let out, which the prisoner fearfully declines. Rorschach keeps the keys and moves on, locating the cell is he looking for. He confronts the occupant of the cell, a criminal known as Marionette, who reacts with terror when she sees him. He says he's come to recruit her for a job, but she refuses to leave, claiming that the last time she met Rorschach he threatened to drop her down an elevator shaft if they ever met again. Rorschach claims he is not Walter Kovacs, and is forced to pull off his glove to prove it, revealing he is African-American. He incentives the still reluctant Marionette with a photograph of her missing son, promising a reunion if she complies. She is adamant, however, that they rescue her husband Mime before leaving, which Rorschach reluctantly agrees to.
They leave the prison and head for New York City, making a quick exit into the sewers, finding their way to Nite Owl II's base. When they arrive, however, it is not Nite Owl waiting for them but Ozymandias. With two hours left before nuclear war begins, Ozymandias reveals the job is to find Doctor Manhattan and return him to Earth so that he can stop this.
In Metropolis, Superman has a nightmare of the night his parents died in a car crash when he was young. He wakes up screaming and unwittingly floats off the bed in a panic before being calmed by his wife, Lois. She says she can't remember the last time he had a nightmare, and he reveals that until now, he never has.
"He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place."
—"Ozymandias" (Horace Smith)
Issue 2: "Places We Have Never Known"
Mime and Marionette reapply their costumes while Rorschach and Ozymandias review footage of their final heist. When the duo attempted to rob a government bank, Doctor Manhattan intervened, and a standoff between he and Mime ensued. Just as Doctor Manhattan was about to disintegrate Mime, Marionette threw herself in the way, demanding she die first if he was going to go through with it. Manhattan, seemingly sensing that she was pregnant, relented and retreated as the authorities arrived. Ozymandias wishes to use that moment to remind Manhattan of his inherent humanity and leverage his assistance. The footage blinks out as nuclear war erupts. The group follows a trail of electrons left by Manhattan aboard the Owlship, using quantum tunneling to narrowly escape the destruction of New York City.
In Gotham City, Bruce Wayne is undergoing psychological examinations at the request of Wayne Enterprises Board of Directors, who want assurances that he is healthy and fit to lead the company. Wayne Enterprises is currently embroiled in a heated game of corporate warfare with LexCorp. over the Metagene, a part of human DNA which is believed to be the catalyst for superhuman abilities. Its secrets have become both coveted and controversial as a Markovian scientist, Dr. Helga Jace, has recently stirred international tensions by proposing what she calls "The Supermen Theory", which accuses the United States government of manufacturing both superheroes and supervillains to maintain the global dominance and cultural hegemony they have enjoyed since the end of World War II. Accusations have been leveled at superhero Metamorpho, as well as supervillain Man-Bat, whose origins have newly leaked government connections, though their credibility is questionable. Protesters are now demanding Batman publicly unmask, as he has always been one of the most unaccountable vigilantes. Only Superman himself has been considered above suspicion, as his origins are well-documented and his actions speak for themselves. The theory frightens the Russian Federation, who ally themselves with Markovia amidst fears of a superhuman arms race. The Doomsday Clock is set to three minutes to midnight as global tensions rise.
Wayne meets with Lucius Fox, head of R&D, and manufacturer for the equipment utilized by Batman. He expresses his concerns that the board may sell the company to LexCorp. if Wayne is not deemed fit to run the company, which would place not only the Metagene research firmly in the hands of Lex Luthor, but also expose Batman to the public. Bruce dismisses his concerns and continues his war on crime.
The Owlship crashes at an abandoned amusement park elsewhere in Gotham, rendering the crew unconscious. Ozymandias is the first to awaken, and rouses Rorschach, who at first forgets the agreement forged between the two to find Doctor Manhattan and tries to kill him. He is quickly returned to his senses and assists Veidt in securing Mime and Marionette, who they determine to be too big a risk to allow to roam free. They leave to gather information on where they have landed, passing by a television in an electronics store playing a marathon of Nathaniel Dusk films. They research the world at a nearby library, familiarizing themselves with history and current events. Noticing some of the heroes present were fictional characters in their world, they hypothesize that Manhattan may have created them, and might even be hiding among them. They also recognize Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne as the two most prominent and intelligent men on the planet, meaning they represent the best opportunity to find Manhattan. Veidt goes to seek the aid of Luthor, while Rorschach goes after Wayne. Mine and Marionette escape their confinements to get a drink in the city.
In Wayne Manor, Rorschach finds a plate of pancakes prepared by Wayne's faithful butler Alfred, which he eats with pleasure. Doing so inadvertently leads Rorschach to discover a draft pulling through the room, leading to a clock on the far end of the room. Pulling it aside, he descends a staircase and discovers the Batcave, tripping a silent alarm and summoning Batman in the process, having just defeated Mad Hatter and his minions, Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
At LexCorp. Luthor's research on the Metagene is slow-going and providing little in the way of results. He is rapidly hiring and firing staff for failing to meet his expectations. Luthor has been perpetuating the Supermen Theory to further his own vendetta against superhumans and Superman in particular. He finds Veidt waiting in his office, admiring a painting on his wall, who suggests they share ambitions and insists them to be the two smartest men from their respective worlds. A bemused Luthor decides to humor him until security arrives, and while he does appear to believe the story, he also does not consider it his problem. At that moment, Ozymandias senses movement in the corner of the room and ducks for cover when a bullet flies through the air. It strikes Luthor in the chest, incapacitating him. Turning to face his attacker, Ozymandias is shocked to see Edward Blake, The Comedian, returned from death and eager to take his revenge.
"We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known."
Issue 3: "Not Victory nor Defeat"
A flashback reveals that Eddie Blake was seemingly saved in the middle of his fateful fall from his apartment window, seemingly disappearing just before he hit the ground. Blake instead lands in the ocean outside Gotham City and swims to shore, where Doctor Manhattan greets him, dropping The Button in the sand as the Comedian demands to know where they are and what they're doing there.
Ozymandias and the Comedian battle it out in Lex Luthor's office. The Comedian, sober, clearly gains an upper advantage on the cancer ridden Adrian Veidt. Veidt is saved from sharing Blake's initial fate when he is thrown against the window, only for the reinforced glass to refuse to break. Realizing he is outmatched, Ozymandias turns off the lights, shatters the window, and uses his acrobatic skills to leap from the rooftop safely. However, his new perch gives way and he falls to the ground, injured but alive. The Comedian disappears while Veidt and Luthor are hospitalized for their injuries.
In a retirement community, senior citizens bicker over the control of the television, with one lamenting the loss of real heroes like Theodore Roosevelt and Sgt. Rock, and declaring that the only one left who they can trust is Superman. Johnny Thunder, the last survivor of the Justice Society of America, is seen looking out onto the rainy street waiting for someone he says never comes.
Mime and Marionette make their way to a bar near the amusement park, analyzing the situation they've found themselves in. When they walk in, they are greeted by a number of thugs, who take offense to their attire as this territory belongs to the Joker. When one of them threatens Marionette because she does not know who that is, Mime reveals that the items he has been miming are real, but invisible to the human eye. His guns become visible when he kills the thug. He and Marionette slaughter the rest before getting a drink and deciding to go find the man the thugs called Joker.
Rorschach is confronted by Batman, who demands that he leaves. Rorschach tries to explain the situation before deciding to simply hand him Kovacs's journal and let him read the details for himself. Batman, having had a long day already, takes his time and offers Rorschach a place to rest and clean up. He accepts, though he is uncomfortable with the luxuries he's offered. While in the shower, blood runs down his face as he violently tries to scrub himself clean, and he later suffers a nightmare of the New York City Massacre. He is roused by Batman, who reveals that he has completed the journal and claims to have found Doctor Manhattan in Arkham Asylum. The two breach the facility together, where they trace Manhattan's signature to the Mad Hatter's empty cell. Rorschach enters believing Manhattan to be inside, only for Batman to lock the cell. He apologizes and departs, with Rorschach threatening, begging, and screaming to be let out of the cell.
"For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
Issue 4: "Walk on Water"
A series of flashbacks reveal the identity of Rorschach II as Reggie Long, son of the late Malcolm Long. He was at university when his father took on Walter Kovacs as a patient, was unaware of the effect that Kovacs was having on his father, whose condition is kept secret by his mother. When war between the United States and the Soviet Union seemed imminent, Reggie drove down to New York City to evacuate his parents. A car crash on the way into the city spares Reggie from the New York City Massacre, though he is driven nearly insane by the incident, and is committed to a mental hospital. The treatment proves fruitless, and one night Reggie escapes to commit suicide by throwing itself off the rooftop. However, when he reaches the roof, he encounters a naked man standing on the corner. When he asks him if he is going to jump, the man replies saying he's going to fly. As security closes in, Reggie is stunned when the man flies away on a pair of makeshift wings.
The next day, Reggie meets the man again, and he identifies himself as Byron Lewis, the former Mothman. He makes frequent escapes and is always recaptured, each time smuggling contraband into the asylum. The two quickly become friends and learning of Reggie's background, Byron delivers a package of his father's belongings, the initial report on Kovacs among them. The rest of the reports are implied to have been destroyed by Byron. When a sadistic orderly breaks his father's mug, Reggie is taught by Byron how to fight, teaching him the skills of the Minutemen. At the same time, Reggie develops an admiration for Rorschach.
As evidence mounts against Adrian Veidt, implicating him in the destruction of New York City, Reggie plots to take revenge on him. He and Byron escape, burning down the asylum and fleeing. However as they leave, Byron hallucinates, and walks into the fire and dies. He leaves behind a bag containing food, water, a ticket to the Arctic, a map to Karnak, and Rorschach's mask. He dons it to confront Veidt. When they meet, Reggie is surprised to find Veidt remorseful over his actions as he confronts his own mortality. Reggie agrees, reluctantly, to set aside his grudge and work with Veidt to save the world.
In the present day, Reggie is detained in Arkham Asylum as a 'John Doe'. He quickly gets into violent confrontations between guards and prisoners alike. Reggie is interviewed by Matthew Mason about his identity and his background, but Reggie says nothing. As Reggie plans his escape, he is suddenly aided by a 'Jane Doe', in reality the time-displaced Saturn Girl, and the two flee Arkham together. Unbeknownst to them, they are being monitored by both Batman, who believed Reggie's story but knew him to be unstable, and seemingly Doctor Manhattan himself.
"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on earth."
Issue 5: "There is No God"
Adrian Veidt is in hospital following his battle with the Comedian. Sedated, he is examined by a doctor, who finds it remarkable that he sustained so little injuries from the fall. She states he should be sedated for a couple more hours, during which time the police intend to turn him over to federal authorities. He awakens mere minutes later, overpowers the police, recovers his personal effects, and flees. He returns to the Owlship, discovering that Mime and Marionette are missing, and Batman waiting for him in the cockpit. Batman informs him that Rorschach is off the grid and then demands to know what Ozymandias really wants with their world, not believing his claims of altruism. The police surround the Owlship and they are forced to take off. In flight while evading police pursuers, Ozymandias realizes that Batman is blaming him for the ongoing chaos around the world, and the two engage in a heated debate about the role of heroes in the world. When Ozymandias begins to use lethal force against their pursuers, Batman struggles with him for the controls. The craft spirals out of control and Batman is thrown from the craft into a massive crowd of anti-vigilante protesters below, who quickly turn violent and beat Batman senseless as he struggles to escape, unwilling to fight back against innocent people.
An international incident occurs in Russia, where American superheroes Hawk and Dove were arrested following a botched attempt to apprehend Chechen separatists responsible for a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. They came into conflict with the Rocket Red Brigade, a metahuman Russian military unit, and were promptly detained amidst heightened tensions over the Supermen Theory. Superhero Pozhar announces the Russian Federation is closing its borders to all foreigners. The Russian President then unveils the People's Heroes, a team of government-employed Russian superheroes including Pozhar, and announces to the world that no one should underestimate the Russian Federation. Similar actions are taken by the governments of Britain, France, Israel, India, and China as nuclear weapons are supplanted worldwide in favor of metahuman armies. Adding to the tensions, Black Adam, leader of the Middle-Eastern nation of Kahndaq and one of the world's most powerful metahumans, launches a one-man military intervention into Syria to rescue an American journalist, Jack Ryder, from the terrorist group King Kobra after both America and Russia announce full military withdrawal from the Middle East. He then issues an open-ended invitation to all metahumans around the world, offering them asylum in Kahndaq.
At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane is arguing with her editor, Perry White, about his inclusion of the word "Metahuman" in her reporting of the attack on Luthor despite their being no evidence of any metahuman involvement. White defends his decision, noting that the world's faith in superheroes is faltering, and that if she wants to restore their faith, she needs to prove them wrong. She storms out of his office in anger. Witnessing Pozhar's press conference, Lois and Superman decide to investigate the origins of the Supermen Theory in the hopes of averting a global catastrophe. Lois secures an interview with Lex Luthor at the hospital where he is recovering. Lex claims that he was targeted because he was himself investigating the Department of Metahuman Affairs, the supposed government agency at the center of the Supermen Theory, and discovered that its leader is himself a superhero. Superman, listening in, is disgusted when Luthor claims they were once a member of the Justice League.
Johnny Thunder escapes from his retirement community after reading about a mysterious green fire which destroyed the All-American Steel Factory in Pittsburgh. Making his way there, he realizes that the workers must have attempted to melt down the power battery belonging to the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, one of Johnny's missing comrades and friends from the Justice Society of America. He is accosted by heroin addicts squatting on the property and while fleeing finds the battery. The addicts catch up and attempt to beat him to death with the battery, only to be intercepted by Rorschach, who brutally dispatches them. Saturn Girl arrives and comforts Johnny, while Rorschach recovers the battery.
Mime and Marionette cut a bloody path through Gotham searching for the Joker, unknowingly pursued by Blake. One of Joker's thugs reveals that the Clown Prince of Crime is launching an attack on the Gotham City Police Department at midnight, taking advantage of the ongoing protests to destroy the Bat Signal on the roof. Arriving at the specified time, they find the police crippled, and watch as the signal is pushed from the rooftop as Ozymandias makes evasive maneuvers in the skies around them. Initially finding the situation romantic, they are quickly interrupted by the Joker himself, who is none too pleased to see them. He is quickly distracted, however, when his henchmen drag the unconscious Batman onto the roof.
"When men make Gods, there is no God!"
Issue 6: "Truly Laugh"
In the past, Erika Manson and her father operate a puppet shop in New York City, where she plays with her marionette Sophia. One day, another store opens across the street, and she befriends the mute boy who runs the store with his parents, Marco Maez, who drives off a group of bullies who terrorized Erika. Returning to their home, they discover two policemen picking up a puppet from Erika's father, who tell Marco his mother has died after falling down a flight of stairs. Sometime later, the policemen return, and it is revealed they have been extorting the immigrant families in the neighborhood, including the Mansons and the Maezs. When Marco's mother tried to defy them, they murdered her. They threaten Erika when her father attempts to rid himself of them, and in a last bid to protect her, he kills himself so that they cannot harm her. However, Erika and Marco, who was informed of their role in his mother's death, kill the cops in retaliation and grow up on the street, making money through street performances, before eventually growing into the criminal duo of Marionette and Mime.
In the present day, Mime and Marionette are taken captive by the Joker, who is too delighted by his capture of Batman to execute them. They are brought to a meeting of the Legion of Doom beneath Gotham City, organized by Riddler to discuss the ongoing international crisis and decide on a course of action. During this meeting, it is revealed the Amazons have recalled Wonder Woman to Paradise Island, the Green Lanterns and their rogues have scattered into space, and Task Force X has gone missing in Kahndaq after a botched assassination attempt on Black Adam. At the same time, Japan and Australia have begun to mobilize metahuman armies of their own, further escalating tensions. As the federal government has captured a number of supervillains already, the Legion is divided between seeking asylum in Kahndaq or to continue operations as is. Further compounding the problem is the presence of Typhoon and Moonbow, two supervillains named as federal agents by the Supermen Theory. After voting to eject Typhoon from the Legion, he grows defensive and prepares to attack everyone else when he is gunned down by Comedian, who has tracked Mime and Marionette. Horrified by his appearance, Marionette grabs Mime and flees while Comedian fights the villains. Mime and Marionette take refuge in a motel, sleeping together, before they are found once again by Comedian who reveals he is trying to find Ozymandias. Before he can extract the information, he is ambushed and incapacitated by Joker, who thanks Mime and Marionette for entertaining him as he takes Comedian's Badge. Marionette realizes Comedian knows where Doctor Manhattan is, and Joker decides he will be joining them in their search for further amusement.
At the Department of Metahuman Affairs, the suspicions surrounding Typhoon and Moonbow are revealed to be true, confirming at least part of the Supermen Theory. The Director orders for Typhoon's body to be retrieved for study.
"To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it."
Issue 7: "Blind Spot"
Doctor Manhattan's disjointed temporal perspective leads to him to muse on the fate of Alan Scott, the Green Lantern and founder of the Justice Society of America. In the original timeline of events, Alan Scott was involved in a railroad bridge collapse, narrowly saved when he grabbed hold of a mystical lantern forged in China a millennium earlier. However, Manhattan's experiments with the timeline result in a different outcome: the lantern is moved six inches out of Alan's reach, and he dies in the crash. The Justice Society never forms, and the foundations are laid for the modern day.
In the present, Rorschach, Saturn Girl, and Johnny Thunder are discussing the newly acquired power battery when they are found by Ozymandias. Saturn Girl reveals her true identity and origins to the disbelief of both Ozymandias and Rorschach. Veidt begins to wonder whether or not they have any chance of finding Doctor Manhattan when Bubastis II begins to glow, indicating that he is near. They follow her lead as she glows brighter and brighter.
In Joker's lair, Mime and Marionette torture the Comedian, trying to extract Manhattan's location, while Joker looks on in amusement. Comedian reveals that Manhattan brought him to the present to kill Bubastis, as the cat is distressing him. They are interrupted when Batman frees himself and a brawl ensues. At first, Batman has the upper hand, but gradually his fatigued state wears on him and he is overwhelmed by their numbers before the timely arrival of Ozymandias and Rorschach brings the fighting to a halt. Batman admits he was wrong about Reggie as Bubastis begins to surge with energy. Ozymandias begins to demand that Jon show himself when blue energy surges from inside the power battery and Doctor Manhattan materializes before them. He quickly draws a circle in the floor and teleports himself and the others away, leaving Batman and Joker behind.
Floating in another location, Veidt begs Jon to return to their world and save it from destruction, but Manhattan refuses. He reveals that he knows Veidt wanted to recruit Laurie Juspeczyk for the mission, but she refused, and instead pointed him towards Mime and Marionette for their miraculous survival. When questioned on this by Marionette, he reveals that it was because he saw her child's future, and decided it was worth preserving. When pressed on his location, Manhattan reveals that Marionette is actually pregnant once again due to her night with Mime, and it is this child he chose to save. Manhattan states that no matter what Adrian says, it will not change his mind, and that he will forever be a disappointment in his eyes. When Rorschach attempts to claim that Veidt has reformed due to his affliction with cancer, Manhattan glares at Ozymandias, and coldly states that he does not have cancer. Shocked, Rorschach demands an explanation, and Ozymandias reveals that he needed Reggie in order to carry out his plan as he needed a capable henchman, faking the cancer diagnosis and symptoms in order to sell the act. Ozymandias refocuses his attention on Manhattan, wanting to know why he came to this universe of all places. Manhattan reveals that originally he had hoped to find a place among them, a place where he could fit in, but in his curiosity he discovered something far more ominous: his visions of the future stop approximately one month into the future. After that, no matter how far he looks, there is only nothingness. Ozymandias tries to discern what this means, but he and the others are returned to their normal location by Manhattan, who departs for Mars once again.
Before Ozymandias can come up with a plan of action, Rorschach savagely attacks him, prepared to kill him. Mime and Marionette take the power battery and depart. When Joker intervenes in the fight, he too is beaten to within an inch of his life, but when he draws a smiley face in blood on Rorschach's mask, Reggie takes off the mask and flees. Ozymandias takes the opportunity to escape, knocking out Saturn Girl and Johnny Thunder, before taking off with a new plan that he believes will save both their worlds. Batman inspects Joker before picking up Rorschach's mask and going after him.
All around the world, nationalized teams of metahumans carry out missions on behalf of their governments. Superman is the only hero allowed to freely travel internationally anymore as his heroic actions speak for themselves. In the midst of all of this, Black Adam attacks Israel, a dangerous escalation of the situation. The so-called Super War appears imminent.
On Mars, Manhattan contemplates what could possibly stop his visions, and thinks on the last thing he sees: Superman. As the world burns around them, Superman approaches Doctor Manhattan, and throws a single punch. Doctor Manhattan is left to wonder whether Superman somehow destroys him, or if he will destroy everything.
"Seeing-is-believing is a blind spot in man's vision."
—R. Buckminster Fuller
Issue 8: "Save Humanity"
Now aware that Doctor Manhattan is attempting to accelerate the events leading to the end, Ozymandias breaks into the White House and seizes a file from the Oval Office. At the same time, Lois and Clark Kent are at work at the Daily Planet when news breaks that Firestorm has attacked the People's Heroes in Russia. Firestorm, a hero composed of two separate individuals, Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein, is increasingly distraught at the public suspicion of him and has decided to take action against those he deems responsible. In the midst of the fighting, Firestorm seems to cause a crowd of protesters to turn to glass, despite the fact that his powers have never before been capable of affecting organic life. Clark rushes off in the guise of Superman to handle the situation while Lois investigates an envelope that was mailed to her anonymously. When she opens the envelope, she finds a USB drive which contains archived newsreel footage from 1941, detailing the exploits of the Justice Society of America.
Superman flies to Kahndaq, where Firestorm is rumored to have taken refuge. Black Adam meets with him, and reveals the reports to be false. The two argue over the growing global crisis and their roles in it, with Superman warning Black Adam not to launch any further interventions outside his borders. Superman flies to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, where he finds Firestorm desperately trying to fix a young boy turned to glass. With Superman's encouragement, he is able to reverse the effect. Superman flies to Moscow to speak to the Russians and convince them of Firestorm's innocence, all the while issuing a speech denouncing the Supermen Theory and the demonization of metahumans. He is contacted remotely by Batman, who is en route to investigate. He warns him to stop talking, and not to pick sides. Superman ignores him and continues. Firestorm arrives seconds later with the cured boy, but the Russians views him as a threat and begins to move against him, killing several of the people turned to glass. Superman rushes to defend Firestorm and engages the Russian military on live television. As the battle escalates, Firestorm seems poised to release another glassing wave. Superman rushes to him to convince him to calm down, and he does.
However, Batman detects the energy levels around them are still rising, and realizes the energy is Doctor Manhattan's. A massive explosion occurs, consuming Firestorm and Superman, downing Batman's aircraft, and knocking out all technology. From a secure location, Ozymandias watches with satisfaction.
"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."
—H. L. Mencken
Issue 9: "Crisis"
After investigating the disastrous events in Moscow, every hero available is called in for a mission to Mars to confront Doctor Manhattan, whose energy has been traced back to him. Firestorm is brought along on the expedition while the comatose Superman and Batman are tended to on Earth. Batman awakens first, and when informed of the situation, tries to warn the heroes not to engage. He knows Firestorm did not cause the explosion, but discrepancies lead him to question whether or not Manhattan was truly responsible. He laments that he did not listen to Rorschach as his message fails to reach the heroes.
On Mars, the heroes make contact with Doctor Manhattan and attempt to ascertain his motives. When they discover his vision of Superman, they move to stop him. However, Manhattan easily overwhelms them, learning about and adapting their superpowers as they go. Firestorm, eager for payback, storms into the fray only for Manhattan to show him a vision of the past in which he discovers his mentor, Martin Stein, engineered the accident that created him. Furthermore, he learns that Stein is in fact the Director of the Department of Metahuman Affairs, and that the Supermen Theory originated with his experiments. While the Department did create several heroes and villains as part of their experiments, few knew of their involvement, and fewer still actually worked for them. Realizing this and seeing an exponentially growing number of metahumans, Stein engineered a final experiment to infiltrate the superhero community from the inside and keep them on a leash, resulting in the accident which fused him and young Ronald Raymond into Firestorm.
Horrified and enraged, Firestorm unleashes his full strength upon Doctor Manhattan, and damages him. Inspired, the rest of the heroes launch a combined offensive, weakening and knocking Manhattan down before Captain Atom attempts to take him apart on the molecular level. At first, he seems successful, only for Manhattan to quickly regenerate. Having had enough, he wipes out the heroes in a single attack.
On Earth, Superman is comatose in the Hall of Justice, watched over by his wife as protesters gather outside. To Lois Lane's shock, Lex Luthor pays a visit, and reveals that he was the one who sent the file containing the footage of the J.S.A. and that he has discovered the truth behind the manipulations of the universe. In Gotham, Reggie lies broken in an alleyway as riots consume the city, and the U.N meets in emergency session to be addressed by the recently returned Wonder Woman, who intends to unveil a comprehensive peace plan to defuse the rapidly escalating situation worldwide. However as she delivers her opening remarks, Black Adam attacks the building while Ozymandias observes.
"Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for crisis."
Issue 10: "Action"
Victorious on Mars, Doctor Manhattan thinks over the events that have lead him here, as he considers his imminent fate. After entering the Multiverse following the events of Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan arrived in the current universe in 1938. Arriving in Los Angeles, he encountered a young man named Carver Colman, an aspiring actor. Curious and unable to see the timeline, he accompanies Carver to a nearby diner, where he reads Carver's future to adjust himself to this new reality. The two form a mutually beneficial relationship with Carver being encouraged by Doctor Manhattan's prophetic visions and Manhattan using Carver to anchor himself in this new reality. They meet once every year in the same diner until Carver's untimely death. This encounter inadvertently leads him to discover Superman, who has just revealed himself to the public for the first time. Soon after Manhattan witnesses the emergence of a number of costumed heroes with superhuman abilities, who form the Justice Society of America alongside Superman.
As Manhattan observes this, something unusual happens. Superman's appearance in the timeline suddenly moves forward to 1956. His appearance in 1938 and subsequent activities prior to 1956 suddenly disappear, leaving the JSA to form without him. Superman's emergence moves forward again to the 1980's and then further along still. Manhattan begins to realize that he has not just entered a parallel universe, but the Metaverse, the baseline universe from which all others emerge, changes to which are reflected throughout the multiverse. Powerful forces can influence it, which is the cause of the changing timeline.
Manhattan grows curious as to its properties, and becomes fixated with Superman, whose influence is seemingly infinite despite the constantly changing timeline, and yet Manhattan cannot understand why. Eventually, he decides to experiment on the Metaverse himself. He prevents the formation of the JSA and Legion of Superheroes before killing Superman's parents in a car crash. These events in tandem cause Superman to grow distant and cold, which encourages Manhattan as he believes it brings him closer to understanding him. However, Manhattan discovers he has underestimated the Metaverse, which is actively resisting the changes he has made as it attempts to return to its normal state. He visits Carver Colman one last time on the night of his death, where Manhattan realizes the Metaverse has turned against him, and sees the vision of his inevitable confrontation with Superman and the unknown fate which lies beyond it.
In the present day, Manhattan ensures the heroes on Mars remain incapacitated as the moment of truth approaches, before teleporting to Earth just in time for Superman to awaken from his coma.
"Every action has its pleasures and its price."
Issue 11: "A Lifelong Mistake"
With the global situation deteriorating exponentially and the mainland ravaged by freak weather events, the United States of America decides to launch the first strike against its enemies, rearming the dormant nuclear arsenal. However, before it can be utilized, Batman cripples the system, eliminating the possibility of nuclear holocaust. At his instruction, Alfred Pennyworth goes to Reggie Long to try and convince him to aid them in their quest to exonerate Superman and bring Ozymandias to justice, but Reggie refuses, still shattered by the revelations about his late father. He runs away, briefly crossing paths with Mime and Marionette evading the authorities.
Lex Luthor takes Lois Lane to his secret lab, where he reveals he has been tracking temporal anomalies for the past several years, each of which had manifested as a copy of the only photograph taken between Jon Osterman and Janey Slater. They are the signature of Manhattan's presence and evidence that the timeline has been tampered with.
Ozymandias monitors the global situation from his safehouse. Telepathically harassed by Saturn Girl, he goes over and confronts her, confirming that he engineered the explosion in Moscow to set these events in motion as part of his plan to save both worlds. Saturn Girl tells him he's foolish if he thinks he can kill Superman, but Adrian reveals he intends to keep Superman alive and well. When Adrian points out that she is as much of an anomaly as they are in this universe, Saturn Girl turns to dust as the Metaverse corrects itself, but her ring remains.
Manhattan likewise thinks of events that have transpired. He reveals that the reason he spared Marionette was due to her second child eventually being adopted by Laurie Juspeczyk and Dan Dreiberg in their new civilian identities.
Superman suits up only to be confronted by the authorities, who move to arrest him on the personal orders of the President. Superman says he'll go to the President directly to declare his innocence, before taking off. The freak weather events are revealed as a cover for Black Adam, who launches an invasion of Washington, D.C. and moves on the White House. Superman arrives, the lone obstacle in their path, determined to stop them. Superman is beaten back and sent flying, but when the smoke clears, he finds himself face to face with Doctor Manhattan.
Unbeknownst to Lois, Luthor actually had one other picture in his collection, not of Osterman and Slater, but of Barry Allen and Jay Garrick meeting for the first time. His true purpose in investigating this is not to expose the tampering, but to discover how to end his endless battle with Superman.
"I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too."
—"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (James Joyce)
Issue 12: "Discouraged of Man"
Superman stands face to face with Doctor Manhattan, who identifies himself as either the one Superman destroys or the one who destroys everything. Before Superman can process this, he's confronted by the People's Heroes and the Outsiders, who demand he surrender. Black Adam arrives and rebukes them, saying Kahndaq will have Superman. Over Superman's objections, fighting breaks out as Manhattan observes.
Elsewhere, Reggie Long watches television monitors in a shop window, showing all superhuman nations sending their forces to Washington, D.C. to support their allies as war breaks out. Reggie is attacked from behind by the racist shopkeep with a pipe, but refuses to fight back as he believes there's nothing left to fight for. Alfred arrives and takes the man's arm, beating him with his own pipe before trying once again to get through to Reggie. Batman arrives and apologizes to Reggie for not believing in him. He hands Reggie Rorschach's mask once again, and convinces him to make Rorschach into a true force for good. Seeing the image of Mothman in the mask and realizes that Byron wanted him to make Rorschach his own, to create the idealized hero he thought of him as. Armed with this knowledge, he dons the mask and they go to confront Adrian Veidt.
All forces converge in a bloody frenzy in Washington, with Superman fighting all sides to try and protect the people caught in the middle. During the battle, Superman is shocked by Manhattan's unwillingness to do anything to help. He finds one of Manhattan's photographs lying on the ground, and realizes more are swirling around him. Manhattan reveals he killed Superman's parents, as well as erasing friends and mentors from the timeline, simply to satisfy his curiosity. He now wants to know what will happen. Superman throws the punch Manhattan has been waiting for, which he calmly accepts, but is shocked to discover it is aimed not at him but at an adversary behind him. Manhattan is confused, as he can still see the darkness approaching. Superman points out the photographs, which Manhattan has been creating with every step he takes, and posits a theory: Manhattan has been seeing only what he wanted to see, what he thought made sense. In reality, Manhattan can fix all of this, but it will take everything he has. Realizing this is indeed the correct solution, and that his hope in humanity was not misplaced after all, Manhattan unleashes all his power on the Metaverse.
Suddenly, the timeline is restored. The Justice Society of America serves in World War II, giving Clark Kent the courage to don his costume and allowing him to prevent his parents death as Superboy, in turn inspiring the future Legion of Super Heroes. In the present day, Ozymandias is shocked when Saturn Girl is restored, and she reminds Johnny Thunder of how to use his powers. They rush to Superman's aid, and are quickly backed up by the full might of the JSA and the Legion. The tide turns, and the heroes win the day. The combined efforts of Batman and Lois Lane reveal Ozymandias's machinations and the temporal tampering. However, before Batman can take Ozymandias into custody, Manhattan teleports him and all the others from the Watchmen world to the Washington Mall, where Ozymandias claims victory and says they can all go home. However, he is shot by the Comedian, who satisfies his need for revenge. Luthor appears and fires a weapon at the Comedian in retaliation for his earlier injuries, sending him back to the moment he left so he can die in the fall. Ozymandias believes he will die a hero, but Reggie uses Rorschach's mask to stop the bleeding, declaring that he will make sure Veidt rots in prison. Manhattan uses his energy to take them home, but not before making one last trip to the diner the last night he spoke to Carver Colman. He apologizes to Carver and simply tells him not to be afraid of what he feels. This saves Colman's life, and he instead dies peacefully after a long life spent with his partner.
The events which befell their home have changed. Manhattan wipes away the global nuclear stockpile, disarming all nations. Ozymandias is imprisoned in his former headquarters, visited only by a young girl named Cleopatra Pak, who watches the building every day after school with Bubastis II, whom she adopted. Manhattan sees that in her future, with Bubastis, she will be the first in a new generation of heroes, going by the name Nostalgia. Reggie, now permanently taking up the mantle of Rorschach, visits Byron's grave to pay his respects and thank him for all he did. Mime and Marionette, who have remained in the DC Universe, expect their second child. Manhattan then reveals that he could never see the first child's future clearly, and now he knows why: he follows the example of Pa Kent and raises the child to be a protector who will love and be loved, preventing any future disasters. For the first time in many years, Manhattan is truly happy. He looks back to the universe he helped save and realizes that the Metaverse exists as a means to preserve Superman in all his incarnations. Worlds live, worlds die, and worlds are reborn; nothing ever ends after all.
Manhattan passes all his remaining power into the young boy he raised and briefly sees what life would have been like had he not been in the accident. He smiles as he disappears.
At the Hollis household, Laurie and Dan discuss if Manhattan really was responsible for saving everyone. Laurie has no doubts. There is a knock at the door and their daughter answers it. She finds a young boy standing at the door in a suit and with a suitcase. He tells her Jon sent him and that when her parents saw him, they'd know what to do. She offers him pancakes and asks him his name. The boy, revealed to have Manhattan's emblem upon his forehead, says that his name is Clark.
"Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man."