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Doomsday Clock #8 & #9 – Reaction from a Firestorm Fan **SPOILERS**

Warning, the following contains SPOILERS for Doomsday Clock #8 & #9. There were major Firestorm-related plots and revelations in these issues. I recommend you read the issues yourself before reading my commentary.

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Reading Doomsday Clock #8 left me concerned that Firestorm might be permanently damaged as a character. Reading Doomsday Clock #9 just left me mad as hell.

Let me start by saying I realize this story isn’t finished yet. Therefore judging the overall story would be wrong; doing that before reading the ending is always a mistake. Instead I’m providing my commentary in regards to Firestorm’s activity in the story so far, and some speculation on the future direction of the Firestorm arc. Fair warning, this is gonna be a long one.

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #8

You should really read the issue itself, lots of Firestorm stuff in there (even Pozhar, now looking like the awesome Elemental Firestorm design!).

The short version is Ronnie Raymond decides, against Professor Stein’s recommendation, to fly to Russia to confront those accusing Firestorm of being part of the “Supermen Theory”.  The “Supermen Theory” is a conspiracy theory finding momentum that many superheroes were created as part of some secret government program.

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

While in Russia Firestorm battles the People’s Heroes. The Nuclear Man finds himself overwhelmed and (apparently) loses control of his powers and this happens…

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Later Firestorm tries to use his power to reverse the glass transmutation…

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Superman arrives to talk with Firestorm. Then…

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Doomsday Clock #8 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Later at the site of the glass Russian citizens, the situation escalates again. Russian tanks and soldiers attack and open fire on Superman and Firestorm. Collateral damage shatters several of the glass Russian citizens, and presumably destroys any chance of reversing the process for those shattered. At the end, Firestorm nearly lose control of his powers again, but manages to calm down and regain his composure. Simultaneously at the same location, the heroes discover there is a massive amount of energy building but Batman insists it’s not coming from Firestorm. Finally, a massive explosion rocks the area, as Ozymandias watches happily from a secure location.

MY REACTION TO DOOMSDAY CLOCK #8

Whoa. Complete shock. How could this happen? Especially since Firestorm has never exhibited the ability to do this previously. Certainly there has been the occasional story where he impacted something organic, but never anything on a scale like this event.

Doomsday Clock #8 left me thinking this story could cause long term damage to the character of Firestorm. If Firestorm really did turn all those people to glass, then how does he come back from this? He is responsible for the death of all those glass people that were shattered by bullets and tanks. Yes, there is a redemptive arc where he turns the child back human and tries to do the right thing, but still so many people died. Firestorm would be responsible for involuntary manslaughter on a massive scale. It’s such a terrible action, future writers simply won’t be able to ignore these events. It will hang around the character’s neck like an albatross until the next major reboot. Think of characters forever changed by a story line, such as: Hank Pym hitting his wife, Speedball causing the destruction of an elementary school in Civil War, and Hawk becoming Monarch in Armageddon 2001. These stories forever changed the characters and these events hung around the characters like an albatross impacting future stories for years. Our friend Dr. Anj recently wrote an interesting piece about the comic book albatross over on his Supergirl blog, Comic Box Commentary.

I do have thoughts on what may have really happened, but I’m saving those for the section below, “Where does the story go from here?”

After all that, I had no idea what was in store for me in Doomsday Clock #9

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #9

Again, you should really read the issue itself. Lots of interesting stuff in there, especially with Dr. Manhattan.

The general public have turned on Superman and there are protests against the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, the explosion last issue has left Superman comatose. The President of the United States puts out a statement condemning Superman’s actions in defending Firestorm.

Ronnie Raymond and Professor Stein awake on a spaceship to discover they’ve been framed for the explosion at the end of issue #8. The heroes of Earth believe the explosion was actually caused by a source on the planet Mars, and they are heading that way to confront whomever responsible.

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Batman reaffirms that Firestorm wasn’t responsible for the explosion in Russia, but also suggests the heroes have been deceived into believing the answer is on Mars.

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Meanwhile on the spaceship, Professor Stein is very angry about being taken from Earth…

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Ronnie and the Professor continue to conflict over just about everything. The heroes confront Dr. Manhattan on the surface of Mars, and Manhattan blasts Ronnie into some sort of mindscape…

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

In the end, it appears Dr. Manhattan devastates the Earth’s heroes. The back matter of the issue includes this memo from Professor Stein..

Doomsday Clock #9 by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank featuring Firestorm

MY REACTION TO DOOMSDAY CLOCK #9

What the holy hell?!?!? And I thought issue #8 would leave a negative legacy for Firestorm!?!?

Reading this issue for me was a roller-coaster of curiosity, then discomfort, then shock, then horror, then anger and finally cursing. Lots of cursing.

Two pages that change Firestorm forever (maybe). So we’re supposed to believe that Professor Stein secretly manipulated Ronnie Raymond and orchestrated the creation of Firestorm? The purpose of Firestorm was so Stein could infiltrate the collection of superheroes to learn their darkest secrets? Stein also has a previously unrevealed son, which we’re left to assume died when his metagene activated? Those are some pretty big pills to swallow.

In 41 years of Firestorm comics, not once has there been a hint of Professor Stein being manipulative. This is a drastic and sudden departure from the Professor Stein we’ve known. He’s always been a guiding force for Ronnie and shown to be a genuinely good person. To be specific, this is technically the New 52/Rebirth version of Professor Stein, which we don’t know all that well. In the New 52, he was somewhat controlling about the Firestorm Protocols, but let’s be honest with ourselves that most people pretend that story never happened. I find it hard to believe that the New 52/Rebirth version of Professor Stein is that drastically different from the classic version.

Another way to look at this is… the death of Professor Martin Stein’s son led him to these reprehensible acts. Really? Because the internet needs another excuse to accuse Geoff Johns of “daddy issues” in his comics?

I’m not buying into this origin retcon, and I’ll explain further below.

WHERE DOES THE STORY GO FROM HERE?

I’m hoping future issues will reveal Firestorm’s activities (both in present day and the newly-revealed origin) are essentially a Captain America “Hail Hydra” plot. Meaning that Dr. Manhattan or Ozymandias (or perhaps both) have retconned history and events to produce this inexcusable behavior from Professor Martin Stein and Firestorm. There are already precedents in Doomsday Clock for “wibbily wobbly timey wimey” nonsense from Dr. Manhattan; moments where he adjusted the timelines to produce different futures related to superheroes. So it’s quite possible before the end of the mini-series that history will be put back on it’s proper track and Firestorm will be absolved. It also seems likely that DC would want to retcon away the “Supermen Theory” as it could have a negative impact on many of their characters in the long-term.

There have been other precedents in the story for misleading events, like the misdirection of the explosion in Moscow that was rigged to frame Firestorm. It’s possible turning Russian civilians to glass was caused by someone other than Firestorm, which would make sense since Firestorm had never used his power in that way previously. There were scenes in issue #8 suggesting Ozymandias was orchestrating the entire Russian fiasco. Also, the flashback showing Professor Stein’s evil plan to create Firestorm may have simply been a lie by Dr. Manhattan to manipulate Ronnie Raymond. In fact, that seems fairly likely. If so, both of these reveals would absolve Firestorm and Professor Stein.

The main villain of Doomsday Clock is likely either Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, or even Lex Luthor. It would make sense if one of them manipulated Firestorm so the general public (and other heroes) would respond in a desired fashion. In that case, Firestorm wouldn’t be the villain but instead the unwitting pawn of the main antagonist.

AT THE END OF THE DAY

Did I enjoy reading these comics? No, not really. What happened to Firestorm was pretty upsetting for me. However, was I intrigued by the developing story? Yes, I was.

Next question, is Firestorm ruined as a hero forever? Hopefully not; we’ll have to wait and see. Keep in mind that Geoff Johns truly loves the character of Firestorm. He’s mentioned his affection for the character in various interviews. I doubt Johns is planning to turn Professor Martin Stein into DC’s version of “Ultimate” Reed Richards. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of Johns’ retcon in Brightest Day that Firestorm was formed from, “the spark that triggered The Big Bang, the creation of the universe.” With that said, I still believe that retcon was coming from Geoff Johns’ love for the character.  The events involving Firestorm in Doomsday Clock don’t feel like they are coming from a place of love, which lends credence to my hope these events will be undone.

Something else to remember, Geoff Johns stories often follow the idea of, “darkest before the dawn.”  Lots of dark, horrible things happen, which leads to a positive and uplifting ending. I hope that’s the case with Doomsday Clock and for Firestorm. Lets all hope so.

Assuming the Firestorm related events are somehow undone, then no harm, no foul. If that’s the case, then Doomsday Clock is great exposure for the Nuclear Man in a very high profile book. This might begin to drum up support for the character which could lead to another ongoing series. If these plot threads are not undone, then sadly DC has lost their way with this character and forgotten what made Professor Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond so wonderful together.

Finally, these were just two issues in a larger story. Two issues that caused me to have an emotional reaction about my favorite character. Any time a comic book effects me emotionally (whether for good or bad), that’s a credit to the book itself. I’d rather be passionate about a comic than apathetic. Therefore, I recommend you go read the issues for yourself and form your own opinion.

I look forward (somewhat apprehensively) to reading the rest of Doomsday Clock.

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5 Comments

  1. Craig MacDonald says:

    As much as I’d like to give Geoff Johns the benefit of the doubt there, I’m afraid this might be permament. Johns (and Dan Didio) has long held on to a belief that the best heroes are born from tragedy. Look at The Flash. Barry Allen was a pretty whitebread character. Then Grant Morrison brought him back (probably because Didio asked him to) and when Johns wrote The Flash: Rebirth mini-series he changed Barry’s origin to make it more tragic by having the Reverse-Flash go back in time and murder Barry’s mother.

    To this day it’s a story decision that I disagree with, but I can’t argue that they didn’t get some good stories out of it for The Flash television show. Johns also turned “Superboy Prime” into a murderous brat of a villain and turned Atom-Smasher and Obsidian into villains in JSA. He’s responsible for some of the best stories in comic book history but he also has a history of taking characters that haven’t been used in a while and putting them through some serious trauma. I think there are 3 (?) issues of Doomsday Clock left, so maybe Firestorm will come out of this a bigger hero than before or maybe Ronnie Raymond will have to find a new partner for the Firestorm matrix (maybe Jason Rusch again?) and Professor Martin Stein will retroactively become a villain/anti-hero along the lines of Niles Caulder (the Chief) from Doom Patrol.

  2. Martin Gray says:

    I’m firmly in the ‘not buying it’ camp. There are so many outs, and as you say, we’ve seen so much evidence to the contrary as to the nature of Martin Stein’s character… and I’m taking it this is the pre-New 52 version, because so much of that history is back in play.

  3. Adam Crouch says:

    The development was surprising. Perhaps mostly because I believe Johns is the one that recently mended DCs relationship with Conway and Conway just ousted Rusch to return Stein. I think this be a result of manipulation, but I also think it will be permanent. I think it could also be a sign of Johns having bigger plans for the character, and would be good for Firestorm overall. But it sucks that it would alienate long term fans. That said, personally I love the book, and found the development intriguing.

  4. Mike Reinhardt says:

    Wow, I really took this as Firestorm being played the entire time. I hope you are incorrect and this is a massive overreaction on your part, because it does make things dicey for Firestorm. But I think it is much more likely the character is having his strings pulled, so to speak. Great synopsis anyway, I enjoyed the different perspective as to what you think is going to happen.

  5. Anj says:

    I feel your pain.

    I was there for the Conway/Broderick run and have been a fan of Firestorm for a long time.

    This Stein reveal (or is it reveals) come way out of left field. Unless Stein dies and we get a new half, this feels like an albatross. And it still wouldn’t wipe away the stain of nearly 50 years of history of Martin being a stand up guy./

    Can only hope this is timey-wimey/hypertime nonsense.

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