Kingdom Come: The Pinnacle of Superhero Stories
Writers: Mark Waid, Alex Ross
Artist: Alex Ross
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Superheroes have begun to bore me. I tired of the men in tights and billowing capes a long time ago, burning myself out from reading way too many Marvel comics by the time I was fourteen. Around that time, everything seemed like it had already been done before or had simply gotten stale. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but the interest, for me, had waned. I’d moved on to smaller indie comics with ordinary people getting into extraordinary circumstances, or adventures in space travel. Superheroes, while still entertaining here and there, were old news.
Then I read Kingdom Come.
Kingdom Come is not your average superhero story. It’s much more than that. It questions the morality of the superhero in itself; it poses the situation that things may go horribly awry when the “super” consumes the “hero”.
Ten years into the future, Superman has retired. The world in which the DC Universe exists in is in a state of peril, with a new breed of superheroes fighting for the sole purpose of proving who is more powerful. The heroes, for all intents and purposes, are gone. Superman has retreated to a farm simulation within the Fortress of Solitude, and just about every major superhero of the world has followed suit. The metahuman population has skyrocketed, and the end of human life as we know it is upon us.
The original Sandman, Wesley Dodds, is lying on his deathbed; he warns his pastor, Norman McCay, of his apocalyptic visions. He ignores them. After Dodds passes on, however, McCay is visited by The Spectre and led through a journey in which McCay must decide the fate of mankind.
McCay will serve as the narrator for this story, giving it an extra layer outside of Superman and his struggles with the other heroes. Kingdom Come is a highly philosophical work, posing numerous moral questions and pitting many beloved heroes against each other.
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all want the same goal – peace. However, each has a different method of obtaining it. Superman takes on the role of a spiritual figure, creating a gulag to collect all of the metahumans who cannot behave themselves and attempts to teach them, as opposed to punishing them. Wonder Woman believes that peace can only be achieved by force; she proposes that the metahumans learn to get along willingly, or, if they do not cooperate, by death. Batman, on the other hand, believes that the metahumans will never learn, and the best course of action is to simply do nothing and to let them destroy themselves.
These questions are much more than what is normally presented to us in your standard superhero story. These are questions that attempt to question whether or not a superhero should even exist in the first place; will there always be a degree of inevitable yet accidental death toll? Look at just about any comic book. Pay attention to the buildings as they crumble in order for a hero to dodge a projectile. These are most likely not just empty structures. Are these “heroes” really doing the world any good, or is mankind better off without them?
These questions weigh heavily on Superman’s mind, causing the biggest defeat he’s ever been dealt with. This, undoubtedly, is worse than the loss of his life, and instead, is the loss of his purpose. It is the possible loss of everything that he has tried to do. And as he flies about from place to place attempting to help others to see reason, their resistance to his unwaveringly pure intentions only serves to frustrate him and defeat him even further. I could go on for pages about the moral implications and emotional depth of the story, but I think it’s a much better idea to not spoil anything and let you, the potential reader, to experience it for yourself.
The entire book is painted by co-writer Alex Ross in gouache, which is similar to watercolor. The characters within these pages are represented in such visual detail and realism that at times it is easy to forget that this is a comic book. The panels ebb and flow with each other naturally, never becoming too populated and blurry to see what’s going on. Like a photograph, everything is clear and visible. Just thinking of the painstaking detail that was put into this book and the process behind it seems like an inconceivable amount of work, as the whole series contains around 220 pages. In conjunction with the story (written also by Mark Waid), Kingdom Come is a masterwork of the comic book medium. There’s simply nothing like it.
The story is, without a doubt, the best superhero story that I have ever read. For better or for worse, it has served to make every other comic book I’ve ever read seem meaningless and contrived. Kingdom Come is filled with texture, heartache, redemption, and most of all, power. It is the pinnacle of what Superman is supposed to do – fill the reader with excitement, but above all, an unparalleled sense of wonder.
The Geeked Gods Score:
10/10 – Quite possibly the best comic book ever written.