WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Doomsday Clock #11 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, on sale now.
Watchmen readers undoubtedly remember that series' penultimate issue, when Ozymandias revealed his twisted master plan for saving the world: Devastating New York with a fake alien invasion in order to keep the United States and Soviet Union from raining down nuclear destruction on one another. In Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Doomsday Clock #11, Adrian Veidt is again unveiling his latest machinations. Even as world destruction looms once more, Veidt is confident in his plans. Too confident, perhaps, because unlike last time, those plans aren't as iron clad as he thinks.
After all, Superman wasn't there last time.
Someone Had to Save the World – and Did
Veidt's success in Watchmen hinged on his plans being put in place before anyone could intervene. His now-classic line -- "I did it 35 minutes ago" -- coldly and concisely told his former allies that there was nothing they could do to stop him. He only revealed his plans because there was no risk to him in doing so. It was an explainer that allowed him to show off his own arrogance and conceitedness to his defeated foes. Despite his pride, his plan worked -- the tragedy he ushered in served to unite his world, at least for a time.
Ozymandias' arrogance is at work again this issue. Before an imprisoned Saturn Girl who's displaced in both time and reality, Veidt summarizes his latest plan to save both his current and previous worlds. But there are some powerful forces at play well beyond his command -- forces that are not under his control like Veidt thinks they are.
Ozymandias' Very Own Superman Theory
Last issue, Doctor Manhattan realized the importance of Superman to not only the world, but to the very fabric of the multiverse -- or "metaverse" -- itself. In Doomsday Clock #11, Ozymandias shares his own understanding of Superman's significance. It's an understanding that's not as far-reaching as Manhattan's, but it's important nonetheless.
Observing the hope the Man of Steel inspires in people, despite the world's deep-rooted problems, Veidt sees the world's belief in Superman as "holding it together like string and chewing gum." By turning the world against Superman, Veidt reasons, the resulting instability would create a vacuum allowing Ozymandias to step in and save it -- to his way of thinking, at least. And Veidt thinks he's initiated that turn by intervening in Superman's earlier confrontation with Firestorm in Moscow.
The so-called Supermen Theory -- the U.S. has been creating metahumans as weapons -- is already a source of worldwide tension, and one that people's beliefs in Superman could only escalate. When Firestorm inadvertently killed several innocents in Russia, that tension only worsened. Things worsened further when Superman played right into Veidt's hands and showed up in Moscow, inadvertently creating a full-blown international incident.
Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan -- Presented by Ozymandias
Veidt brought the entire Russia situation to a boil when he created an explosion at the scene using Manhattan's energy signature. The explosion took out Superman and was initially blamed on Firestorm, but was later pinned on Manhattan. The world's heroes took Veidt's bait, and believed Manhattan to be responsible for the calamity. When the heroes collectively ventured to Mars to confront him, their departure conveniently moved a world's worth of superheroes out of Veidt's way.
Of course, Manhattan made short work of the heroes on Mars, and has now made his way back to Earth -- where Superman has just recovered. The issue ends as Ozymandias gloats over his own presumed success, and with Superman and Manhattan ready for a showdown.
It's a confrontation that Veidt seems to have deliberately engineered. Manhattan is all-powerful, Superman's allies are gone, and Veidt wants Superman taken off the playing field. While Ozymandias has shared his plans thus far, though, he hasn't directly stated his precise endgame. It appears, however, his ultimate goal is for Manhattan to defeat Superman, so Manhattan can rebuild both world at Veidt's behest -- without any additional interference.
The World's Smartest Man is Wrong
Ozymandias might be gloating a little too soon this time, however. In Watchmen, he had already made his final move before the nature of what he had done became apparent to anyone who could've stop it. Here, though, everything hinges on the outcome of a battle between two forces far more powerful than he is -- a battle that has yet to even take place.
Manhattan discovered Superman's connection to the metaverse last issue, and while the exact workings of that connection aren't yet understood, one thing is clear: there's more to Superman than anyone knew -- even the Man of Steel himself. If Superman really is linked to the metaverse, there's likely a level of power associated with that bond no one knows about, either.
Manhattan clearly doesn't understand it. And Veidt doesn't even know about it. So any foregone conclusion that Doctor Manhattan can defeat Superman is anything but certain.
And that's the flaw in Ozymandias' new plan: Superman might win.
Rebirth is Coming
Adrian Veidt knew the exact capabilities of everything and everyone he was manipulating in Watchmen. In Doomsday Clock, he only thinks he does. He likely grasps the extent of Manhattan's powers because of his familiarity with him, and in fact is counting on those powers to make his plan come together.
But Superman is not of Ozymandias' world. Veidt wasn't even aware of Superman's existence until he journeyed to Earth-0. So to presume that he can manipulate Superman, without the full understanding of Superman's place in the metaverse, is the ultimate in arrogance and conceit, as well as -- for a character who's professed to be the smartest man in the world -- ignorance.
Ironically, it might be Superman's victory that ensures the success of Veidt's plans, not his defeat. If Superman truly is a fundamental part of the multiverse, throughout all its reboots and rebirths, then it's his victory that will ultimately save it. If Manhattan is defeated, then his multiversal meddling will cease, and the multiverse will live on, as intended.
And that survival would include not only Earth-0, but possibly Veidt's world, as well. Such a resolution would provide a kind of cosmic irony -- while Veidt's intervention saved his world, this one would survive in spite of it.
Doomsday Clock #12 concludes the series. No release date has yet been announced.