Thursday Comics Hangover: Superman runs down the clock

We are now halfway through Doomsday Clock, the 12-issue Watchmen...sequel?...written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, and I still have no idea what to think of it. Is it fan fiction? Is it an earnest attempt at a sequel? Is it supposed to be funny?

It would be easier to tell if Doomsday Clock had a consistent tone. This is a book that completely misunderstands Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's postmodern riffs on superheroes by reveling in their "coolness." The most recent issue features a Watchmen character massacring DC super villains in a scene that is clearly supposed to impress readers with its badassness. Previous issues featured a resurrection from the dead that is just as cheesy as a plot twist you'd find in one of the old cliffhanger serial films Ozymandias mocked at the end of Watchmen.

In the end, of course, it doesn't matter. Watchmen will still be there, long after Doomsday Clock is forgotten. And Watchmen isn't even as good as you remembered it, anyway. But the fact that it's taken six issues at $4.99 a pop to get exactly nowhere in the story is downright criminal.

"I believe in the power of these icons. I believe in the power of hope, and optimism," Johns told SyFy when Doomsday Clock was announced. That doesn't reflect anything I've seen in the first six issues of Doomsday Clock.

Surprisingly, another DC Comic is honoring exactly those values. When writer Brian Michael Bendis jumped ship to DC after umpteen years of exclusivity at Marvel Comics, readers expected Bendis would take on a street-level hero like Batman as his first project. Instead, he decided to write Superman. And, honestly, Bendis's Superman is exactly what the character should be: powerful, optimistic, friendly, and warm.

My one regret is that Bendis launched his time on Superman with a plot that involves yet another mysterious character from Krypton's past. As I've written before, the sci-fi trappings of Superman are the least interesting part of the character. Nobody has ever given a shit about Krypton.

People read Superman comics for the same reason they watch Mr. Rogers: they want to believe in a morally good universe, one in which right triumphs over wrong because it is right, not because it's strongest. If Bendis can maintain the essential decency of the character in months to come while telling stories that get to the heart of Superman's appeal, odds are good we'll be remembering Bendis's Superman run long after the mess that is Doomsday Clock has faded from our memory.