Reviews: Kingdom Come

An Essential Read For Comic Fans

Okay seriously, why hasn't DC done an animated adaptation of this? Flashpoint is a-okay but not this masterpiece? Oi...

Anyway, long ago before DC decided to make a terrible reboot, DC had created many great storylines and alternate continuities. Out of all of them however, Kingdom Come will always be my favourite. Not only is the book visibly gorgeous, wish Alex Ross' magnificent artwork oozing style and detail into every panel, and Mark Waid's spectacular writing providing a deep and profound look into the philosophy, morality and ethics of superheroes.

The story centers around a potential Bad Future of the DC Universe, where the Silver Age heroes have all been replaced by murderous Anti-heroes. Superman is in self-imposed exile, Batman controls Gotham with an army of Bat-robots and Wonder Woman has been exiled from Themyscira. At first the world seemed glad to have heroes who would kill villains off, but then once the villains are dealt with, what are the 'heroes' to do other than fight each other for fun? Now the world is left with an army of superpowered, amoral teenagers beating the shit out of each other for fun and causing massive collateral damage, with no earthly force capable of stopping them. After a disaster caused by the anti-heroes leads to Kansas being nuked to ashes, the stage is set for the return of Superman and an all out war between the reborn Justice League, the anti-heroes, humanity, and the surviving supervillains of yesteryear.

To say any more would spoil some truly amazing scenes and a deep plot with well-thought out and flawed characters. It presents one of the best potential futures for the DC universe...well the old one at least.

I've heard detractors of the book call it glorification of the Silver Age and saying Waid was completely biased against the 90's heroes. Honestly though I think people are missing a lot of detail there. While ultimately the classic heroes are shown to be in the right, leading to less loss of life and widescale destruction, the book does point out that the classic heroes caused problems like Joker Immunity and Cardboard Prison.

Give this a read if you're a comic fan, especially a DC fan.

One of the great literary comic books.

I remember when I first read this comic I recognized that it was a cut above the typical comic. I asked my english teacher to look at it and asked if it was literature. She returned it to me and wisely said she was not qualified to evaluate it.

Literature comments on writing, it influences the works that come after it and it often has interesting things to say about the world beyond. At the time the story was too new and my teacher too unfamiliar with the medium to make that assessment. But that is exactly what this is.

The story is set in the future where are familiar heroes are retired and displaced by newer more violent heroes. Its a theme familiar to centuries of our history. The old and entrenched are displaced disruptively and often violently by new ideas, but in the zeal to meet a new need, some of the good of the old is lost. We replace old problems with new ones. The old guard then reacts extremely in the other direction citing all the new problems that have been created. Eventually time and again we have come together and found new balances and compromises often returning to the core of our values and figuring out whats important today. Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis.

Thesis, supervillains always escape. The people are tired of it. They cry for new protectors who are willing to kill. Antithesis, the first who are willing to take up that call are too violent, so the old heroes return to imprison them. Both thesis and antithesis lead to catastrophe and in the end, heroes from both sides have to sit down and think about what they've done and how they're going to move forward.

This is also a commentary on the direction comics had taken. In reaction to the sugary silliness of the Silver Age, Bronze Age heroes became "topical" but it still wasn't enough for some and antiheroes were created who were dark and violent. In a short time, the comic book landscape was filled with gun-wielding chain-smokers and all kinds of grizzly darkness. So much that it was hard to care anymore. Kingdom Come brought the brightly clad heroes with their ideals into this darker world and forced them to figure out how to keep being heroes in such a place. Heroes who can be shining beacons without being dragged down by the world are that much more powerful. This is the impact that Kingdom Come had and in its wake, the medium shifted. That is literature.

A Work Of Craft, A Work Of Love

It is worth noting, before this review begins, that mine is not a youth defined by the Silver Age of comic books. As time has marched on, authors who did are now adults, now mature and reasoned craftsmen in the field. And it is to these men that The Dark Age Of Comic Books was a scar, an open and terrible transition away from what it was that they loved about comic books. And it is to these men that I pen this respectful disagreement.

Kingdom Come is a love letter to the 1970s comic books. It borders on the self-satisfied, almost smug in its quiet professing that Superman, the classic icon, choosing to remain unchanged since the 1950s was not his failing, but rather, the failing of the rest of the world for choosing to change. It stands proud and says, implicitly, that the 1950s Superman never had to make a hard moral decision, and this is what makes him a moral man, a moral bastion.

There are a lot of things about the Dark Age that were bad, that were juvenile and immature. Kingdom Come decries them, holds them up in their ugly glory, then strikes them down, strikes them down again, and strikes them down a third time. Kingdom Come is an amazing comic book. As a narrative unto itself, it is good; it is the work of amazing amounts of effort, and a creative, clever mind that could cram it full of Shout Out after Shout Out. It expands interestingly on dynamics between characters, worn in time and wearied by years. It reconstructs the genre, trying to pull the older, classic comics into the modern era - and it is definitely a work that those who suffered through the Dark Ages will appreciate, as a return to something simpler, without being something simplistic.

As a work to me as a reader, however, Kingdom Come has the unaware air of a forty year old man who lived through the seventies sneering at 'moral decay' of the youth. Without dwelling on it, I think Kingdom Come is a great comic. A comic book every comic fan should read, just like Watchmen. Like seminal works of classic literature, it is important, to me, that every comic fan should read this comic... and be able to form their own opinions on whether it's good, or bad.

So please. If you're curious... give it a read. And maybe you'll find a comic book you love, and will want to own. And maybe you'll just find something that makes you think about your genre all over again.