With only one issue left to go, the various disparate plot threads in Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Doomsday Clock begin to converge as the characters of the DC Universe and Watchmen collide in a showdown threatening all of reality.
However, as the creative team positions its key players for the inevitable climactic confrontation, much of this penultimate issue is spent with not one, but two iconic antagonists taking the opportunity to deliver their own villainous monologues throwing off the pacing of the issue overall, especially given its paneled layout.
The issue has the long-simmering metahuman arms race brought to a full boil as Black Adam and his coalition launch an all-out assault against the United Nations, with only Wonder Woman standing in their way. Meanwhile, as Batman attempts to stop a full-on nuclear war, Superman finds himself back in action as Russia threatens to invade the United States as tensions continue to flare all over the globe as Lex Luthor and Ozymandias separately sit back to watch the world burn.
After the past several issues revealing Doctor Manhattan's greater role in tampering with the history of the DC Metaverse and being confronted by the assembled heroes on Mars, Johns delivers what is largely an exposition issue here. There is certainly action taking place as the DC Trinity are drawn into open conflict with the fate of the world at play. However, the sheer amount of dialogue delivered by Ozymandias and Luthor as they reflect on their roles in the story can be unwieldy.
With the two separate monologues serving as a sort of dueling narration virtually over the entire issue, robbing the mounting tension of any real sense of urgency and crowding out the action sequences by the sheer volume of content in the paneling. Simply put, there is too much going on at once for much of the issue and it runs the risk of taking readers out of it, especially ones that have been waiting months since the last chapter hit stands. The issue will almost assuredly read better as part of a collection at once rather than a standalone issue but, even so, it does run overly heavy on exposition.
What does continue to elevate the work is Frank's artwork, with Brad Anderson on colors. Just as the multiple plot threads begin to meet, the art team has to contend with various, distinctly different environments and do so with great visual aplomb. Darkened hallways and secret lairs, visceral violence in both back alleys and the global stage, and a world poised to give in to the escalating apocalyptic intensity are all on display here and Frank and Anderson more than deliver.
Of note here, in particular, is also letterer Rob Leigh; as the issue carries monologues and dialogue from different characters from cover to cover, Leigh's selections in typography are invaluable to help readers identify which specific character is speaking at any given time.
At the penultimate issue, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank still have a lot to deliver on as they set the stage for Doomsday Clock's conclusion. The major plot threads are indeed beginning to converge but it still seems as though there's a daunting amount of story to cover in one last issue. Johns reveals the scope and culprits of the overarching plot here but the sheer amount of exposition from its nefarious mastermind runs the risk of derailing the overall flow of the issue itself.
However, with its major players now in position, the epic maxi-series stands hopefully ready for a showdown of the ages for the fate of the DC Universe and pay off the long-standing promise of DC Rebirth.