What happens when Superman and Batman run out of villains to battle? What happens when the superheroes of today get too old to save mortals like us? Does the world really need Superheroes? These are just some of the questions asked by Mark Waid and Alex Ross in their mini-series Kingdom Come.
In the future the Justice League has disbanded. Green Lantern sits in an emerald citadel above the earth, patrolling for any cosmic invaders. Batman uses drones to keep Gotham locked in a state of fear in an attempt to prevent crime. The flash no longer stops running. Wonder Woman is now ambassador of her people. Superman has disappeared. In their place is a new generation of vigilantes and superheroes. All of them misguided with the disappearance of the Justice League and the dependence society has placed on them for safety. The line between hero and villain has blurred as these new “heroes” have taken to fighting each other more often than fighting crime. Many of these new heroes, instead of fighting petty thugs, take to political crimes like immigration because the politicians are afraid to challenge these new “gods.”
In the middle of these two superhero factions is Lex Luthor who forms the Mankind Liberation Front. A group of aged super villains like Catwoman, Riddler, Vandal Savage, and Ibn al Xu’ffasch (the son of Talia al Ghul and Bruce Wayne). Luthor intends to use this group to take back control of the world that the Superhumans have taken away from them.
Narrating this whole story is a minister named Norman McCay. Guided by the Spectre, Norman moves from event to event as he witnesses the events of the book of Revelation unfold as the tension rises between these three groups.
Kingdom Come is probably one of the most creative ideas I have ever read that also makes some of the most sense. Superheros are meant to be god-like beings. They reflect our need for someone outside of ourselves to save us. The problem is, many of them reflect the same ideals and attitude that we as human beings feel. Many of them are selfish, angry, or obsessed among other things. Kingdom Come shows what happens when real people gain super powers. There are some people like Superman who can do “what is right” but we come to learn that Superman has a breaking point as he begins to use his powers for control instead of the objective moral good. One of the biggest things I appreciate about this story is how it humanizes all of the characters. Because the reader is viewing the entire story through the eyes of Norman McCay, the reader is confronted with the human (mortal) emotions about the events transpiring. As Norman tries to wrap his mind around everything that is happening, the words from Revelation continue to pour through his mind as he witnesses the end of days.
Overal, the writing for this story is incredible. Mark Waid makes the difficult task of incorporating the book of Revelation into a Superhero story seem easy.
Aside from the writing, one of the things that made me want to pick up this book in the first place was the artwork by Alex Ross. Alex does not use traditional pen and ink methods of illustrating the comics, rather he paints the images. His very distinct and detailed style almost makes the panels look like clippings from a photograph. If anything, I would recommend this book just for the art.
Kingdom Come is one of those story that is one in a million. It might not deserve a place on the pedestal next to Watchmen but it comes close. All of the greatest comic book stories aren’t just about good versus evil. The greatest stories deal with the human spirit and the ideologies that make us who and what we are.
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