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Comic Book / Kingdom Come

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"According to the word of God, the meek would someday inherit the Earth. Someday. But God never accounted for the mighty."
Norman McCay

Kingdom Come is a 1996 DC Comics story published under the Elseworlds imprint, written by Mark Waid and beautifully painted by Alex Ross. The story depicts a dystopian future in which Superman has retired due to the public's preference for heroes who will use lethal force. The Silver Age superheroes follow him, in some cases retiring completely, in others sticking to their own small areas. With the absence of the old heroes and the abundance of a new, more reckless generation, the world has become a bit grimmer, a bit more pessimistic and hopeless, but nevertheless seems to keep turning.

That is, until a tragedy strikes in Kansas. The death of Captain Atom causes a nuclear explosion that destroys most of the American Midwest. This loosens the last bounds of restraint among the new generation of metahumans, who begin to fight one another with abandon. Superman returns, reassembles the Justice League, and tries to take back control, with dire consequences.

Through it all, a simple pastor named Norman McCay, the minister of an elderly Wesley Dodds (the Golden Age Sandman), is guided by apocalyptic imagery drawn from the Book of Revelation and by The Spectre. He must decide the fate of humanity - whether to allow the metahumans to be killed en masse and save the rest of humanity, or to allow them to survive, but doom the world.

This series was followed by The Kingdom, which introduces the concept of Hypertime by having the Kingdom Come future superheroes fight alongside their present-day mainstream continuity counterparts, and Thy Kingdom Come.

Unusually for a graphic novel, Kingdom Come also has a full Novelization by Elliot S! Maggin, which expands slightly on the comic's events and is generally considered to be at least as good if not better than the highly beloved graphic novel itself.

See also Justice, a similar miniseries also painted by Alex Ross that attempts to reconstruct The Golden Age of Comic Books and The Silver Age of Comic Books after this series deconstructed The Dark Age of Comic Books.

Although no animated adaptation has been made (and likely will never be, due to Warner Bros considering the art style of Alex Ross too hard to replicate), several elements of the comics have made it to live-action:

Kingdom Come provides examples of:

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  • Abstract Apotheosis: One of the least noted Repower, yet one of the most insane, is the one which took its toll on The Flash (said to be Wally West); in this continuity Wally became the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Speed Force, becoming a force in perpetual motion, attaining omnipresence by running that fast. Oddly enough, he doesn't seem able to use his newfound omnipresence to any actual use, especially in the ending where it might have been REALLY useful (simply because he can't pick anyone up to save them or they'll be vaporized by air friction and the Speed Force itself. The other speedsters are able to help, however.) As such, he's Blessed with Suck: Wally achieving godhood had its sacrifices; as noted above he is in perpetual motion, he can't stop moving ever, the times where he seems to be still is just Wally moving in a short space while circling through... well, everywhere else at the same time, basically an illusion. Also it forces him to cut ties with everyone he knows; since now he basically lives in another reality altogether, no one can keep up with him to even communicate with the guy, Superman is the only one who can talk with Wally, and even then, that's only by processing what Wally says some time after the actual conversation.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Wonder Woman's Hephaestus-forged sword. According to her, it can "shave the electrons off an atom." It can even cut Superman — though she remarks this is because magic is one of the few things that Supes isn't invulnerable to.
  • Actor Allusion: In a one-panel cameo, The Joker looks just like Jack Nicholson in the Tim Burton Batman movie. This is a general rule for all Alex Ross publications that feature The Joker. Likewise, Alex Ross clearly looked up what Frank Gorshin looks like as an old man in order to draw The Riddler.
  • An Aesop: The Novelization gives a potent one during the Dénouement: when Clark attends Norman's sermon, the latter talks about the origins of citrus fruit, and ending it with the fact that we can make things better for ourselves, and we don't need to aim for absolute perfection to get it.
  • All There in the Manual: Due to being filled with numerous characters, the story doesn't have the time to get into unnecessary details about each and every characters' backstory or relation to the previous generation of heroes. The collections provide guides for who's who.
  • Almost Kiss: Superman and Wonder Woman are about to kiss before the league announce they found Magog.
  • Amazonian Beauty:
    • Power Woman is Power Girl when depicted as extremely muscular.
    • Wonder Woman has a muscular body befitting of an Amazon warrior, and many characers notice how her beauty has not diminished through the years.
  • Amicable Exes: A middle-aged Fire can be seen at the superhero-themed bar asking if owner Booster Gold is around. According to the Novelization, they used to be together.
  • And Then What?: The comic shows what would happen if heroes went around killing all the villains. You get individuals with powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary people with no one left to fight, and rather than give that power up (and the highs that come with using it), will sate themselves fighting each other over the stupidest of reasons.
  • Anti-Climax: The anticipated fight between Superman and Magog never happens because of the latter's Villainous Breakdown. Wouldn't have been much of a fight anyway as Magog lashes out and Superman just takes it, more surprised than hurt. It's in keeping with the relative power levels of Dark Age characters versus Silver Age ones.
    Magog: Your fault... you bastard. The world changed... but you wouldn't. So they chose me. They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn't... and now they're dead. A million ghosts. Punish me. Lock me away. Kill me. Just make the ghosts go away.
  • Anti-Hero: Magog and his cronies are these. A large part of the book hinges on the difference between antiheroes and traditional heroes, to the point where the whole thing can be seen as a metaphor for The Dark Age of Comic Books with the rise of the '90s Anti-Hero and the decline in popularity of the Silver Age super heroes and the coinciding loss of morality in comics, and the eventual need to bring those ideals back. It also explores the differences between anti-heroes and villains. That difference is what breaks Magog in the end.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Lord Naga (Kobra) asks Lex what he plans to do about Superman. It's the only time Lex is completely out of control.
    • In the Novelization, when Wonder Woman is questioned by the Amazons about her actions during the crisis, she states that Paradise Island had become too insular.
      Diana: For example, who among you has actually met a living soul who does not live on this Island?
      A few hands went up among the four- or fivescore assembled sisters. Even they went down when everyone realized what their former princess meant by "living".
  • Armor-Piercing Response:
    • A few cases, but the most notable one is when Superman first comes back to the world and is struggling to understand all the changes in attitudes and such. He asks Batman what has happened and why, and is visibly unnerved when Batman replies with "You quit."
    • When Superman expresses concern about Wonder Woman's sword, she snaps back that not everyone has heat vision.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Detonating a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere, not on a surface, just spreads fallout further. Captain Marvel would have made the bomb more destructive, not less. To be fair, it does still kill anyone who is not shielded (like those protected by Green Lantern’s shield) or invulnerable to the nuke’s effects (like Superman).
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Joker meets his end at the hands of Magog. Given how monstrous the Joker was, the general populace comes to praise Magog for putting an end to him.
    • Von Bach, one of the more violent metahumans apprehended by the heroes, is killed by Wonder Woman before he can claim another life during the final battle.
  • As the Good Book Says...: All over the place. Quotations from the Book of Revelation bookend at least two chapters, and biblical apocalyptic imagery is heavily used throughout.
  • The Atoner: Magog. In the comic, Magog can be seen sitting calmly in his cell, downbeat and presumably mourning the deaths he accidentally caused. Unlike the other residents of the Gulag, Magog is the only rogue superhero to walk up to the gate and knock - and patiently waits for someone to come out. What follows is both humorous and touching in the Novelization:
    Eventually Comet walked up behind Magog in the shadow of the Gulag. Magog turned and smiled lightly, putting his helmet and energy spear on the ground as the older man approached.
    “We’ve not met,” Comet said. “I’m Adam Blake,” and he extended a hand.
    “I’m Magog”, the caller said. He extended his own hand to take Comet's, the first-time someone had shaken his hand in years, he thought. “I need a place to think. I need a place out of the sun. I understand that this is the village of the damned. I understand that this is a place where I might be welcome.”
    “Yes,” Comet said. “Come in. We’ll find you a room.”
  • Audience Surrogate: Pastor Norman McCay is a normal man who suddenly finds himself involved in a metahuman war after being recruited by the Spectre. Much like the reader, he can do nothing but passively watch and be amazed/terrified at the story's events, at least until the final issue, where he talks down Superman before the hero destroys the United Nations in a blind rage.
  • Babies Ever After: Wonder Woman is pregnant with Superman's child in the ending. Batman is the godfather and they even discuss him having regular custody of the child, making he or she effectively a child of the Trinity.
  • Badass Preacher: Norman McCay, with touches of Badass Pacifist. He never fires a shot or throws a single punch, but through the power of his sermons, he singlehandedly saves the UN, and by extension the entire world from Superman.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Titans Tower has become one of these. Though granted, it's more of a '90s Anti-Hero Bar.
  • Batman Gambit: Batman agrees to work with Luthor, but only because he wants to dismantle the Mankind Liberation Front from within. After he earns the villain's trust, Batman discovers his plan to exacerbate the tensions between humans and metahumans and takes measures to successfully apprehend Luthor and his conspirators.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The current status quo comes about partly because regular civilians reject the traditional heroes, who won't kill their enemies no matter what, and demand heroes who will. They get what they wanted, and millions die for it. Batman actually says this trope word for word in his conversation with Superman.
  • Beware the Superman: The series focuses on both the catastrophic damage and morale-depleting effects that having godlike beings on the planet positioned so far above humanity that they can essentially do whatever they want without consequence can cause. Although the younger generation of anti-heroes are the most obvious example of this, the story takes pains to point out that the older, more traditional generation aren't without blame either.
    • The trope is literally invoked in the book's climax when a grief-maddened Superman nearly collapses the United Nations building upon the heads of everyone inside.
  • Big "NO!": Wonder Woman loudly screams no after Captain Comet is killed by Von Bach.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Good News: Superheroes are now working properly with humanity and they can now be together in peace and the Big 3 are now friends again. Bad News: About twenty superheroes are actually alive and psychologically, they are going to need lots of help and millions of innocent lives were lost throughout the story. However it soon becomes an Earn Your Happy Ending, since we see that Superman and Wonder Woman are going to have a baby and they want Bruce to be the godfather and 1000 years in the future the Legion of Super-Heroes fly over a large group of connected people which includes Superman himself.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    • In the scene where Superman attempts to destroy the UN building and kill everyone inside, the Filipino delegate says "Siva ulo! Nandiyan na ang siva ulo! Papatayin niya tayo ulo!", which literally translates to "Damaged Head!note  There is already the damaged head! He's going to kill us! Heads!" The authorial intent apparently is closer to "There is (or 'here comes') (the face of) death! He has death in his head (or "on his mind")!", but that requires much longer sentences for a correct translation.
    • In the climactic battle, when Von Bach is ready to kill Zatara, he says "Du wurst wie eine wanze zerquetscht!!" He's supposed to say "You'll be squashed like a bug!", but to that effect, he should have said Du wirst ("You will") instead of Du Wurst ("You sausage"). Justified in the novelization which reveals that Von Bach is a poser who likes German affectations but is not German. At one point, World War II veteran Captain Comet tells him that no German would say Schweinhundt, just Schwein.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Superman and his crew are right that the anti-heroes have become too bloodthirsty and overzealous, blurring the binary of hero and villain, losing track of concepts like collateral damage and simply not caring about the people not on their power level. But the anti-heroes are also right in their belief that simply beating up Supervillains and tossing them in jail is a temporary solution at best and useless at worst because of Joker Immunity and that they refuse to consider that their own ideology might have flaws and are absolutely correct that they really are out of touch with the modern world, both due to their powers and their refusal to think critically about their own approach to heroism.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Billy Batson becomes subservient to Lex Luthor after being infected with literal ear worms that had been artifically created by Dr. Sivana.
  • Brick Joke: A subtle one that spans two Alex Ross publications and a decade in between. The mind-controlling bugs that Lex Luthor uses on Captain Marvel show up also in Justice, a 2005-07 miniseries also featuring art by Ross, with the kicker that Luthor actually stole them from Doctor Sivana in the first place, Sivana being Captain Marvel's arch-enemy.
  • Broken Pedestal: Magog actually looked up to Superman, and goes into a long rant in the Novelization about it.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Well, this is the DCU after all...But still, look for a cameo by our old pal Marvin from Superfriends, who still wears a shirt emblazoned with the letter "M".
  • Call to Agriculture: After retirement, Clark Kent is living in an artificial farm.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: All of the original Teen Titans' children are on the side of the anti-heroes in defiance of their parents. Shout-Out: They're called Batman's Outsiders.
    Ibn al Xu'ffasch: And they're prepared to fight tooth and nail with the generation that sired them?
    Batman: Aren't all young people, son?
  • The Cameo: Many, especially in the bar scene— keep an eye out for Rorschach, who shows up a few times. Examples include:
    • Alex Ross himself, with long hair, in the Planet Krypton chapter.
    • Alex Ross' mother, twice: cheering at Superman in a crowd and in the end, watching Norman McCay's mass.
    • Björk, on a poster in the street and in a crowd.
    • Fat Albert and the gang.
    • Non, from Superman 2.
    • Lobo, bald and in bad shape.
    • An aging Fire, asking to see her old friend Booster Gold, who works as a manager at Planet Krypton.
    • Monty Python
    • The Beatles
    • Watchmen
    • Krypto the Super Dog and Comet the Super Horse
    • Village People
    • Columbia and Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
    • The Monkees
    • Tommy and the Acid Queen from Music/Tommy
    • Spider Man, Captain America and Thor
    • Sherlock Holmes
    • The Shadow
    • Chernabog from Fantasia
  • Canon Immigrant:
    • The version of Superman introduced in Kingdom Come was later incorporated into the main DC continuity and interacted with the Justice Society.
    • The Kingdom Come-verse is officially Earth-22 of the post-Infinite Crisis multiverse.
    • Versions of a number of Kingdom Come characters also ended up in the Main DCU's JSA, including Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and even Magog himself.
    • Alloy showed up in in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Then again, the Metal Men combining is just too good an idea not to use...
    • Justice League: Generation Lost, which had a major subplot having to do with the events of Kingdom Come, actually did use it. In a reversal of this, Rorschach shows up twice in the bar scene... at one point talking to the character he's an Expy of, The Question.
    • The (Kid) Flash of this series later shows up in a few other stories, and is identified as Iris West II. Taken a step further, the mainstream Wally West eventually has twins, one of whom is named Iris "Irey" West II, who becomes the second Impulse.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Magog is based on Cable, with elements of other Rob Liefeld characters such as Shatterstar. According to Ross, the original intent was to make him "look like everything we hate in modern superhero design." Modern in this case meaning '90s Anti-Hero. The golden horned helmet and cybernetics were also meant to imply he was a "golden calf", going with the biblical motifs of the series. Though Ross also stated that he found himself liking some of the design in the end.
    • Tusk, a robot in the first fight scene is visually based on Z'gok-E from Mobile Suit Gundam.
    • Americommando is visually based on Judge Dredd, with a hint of The Comedian. He's actually a pre-existing superhero from an alternate universe and based on Captain America.
    • Tokyo Rose takes some visual hints from Chun-Li of Street Fighter, although with a more Japanese tone to it (obviously).
    • An Unnamed background character in the Gulag is visually similar to Duke Nukem.
    • Several background characters are based on bands and musicians, including Björk, The Beatles, The Monkees, Village People, and King Marvel is visually very similar to an older Elvis Presley. This is a recursive Shout-Out — Elvis based his famous stage costume on Captain Marvel, Jr., his favorite superhero.
    • An unnamed background character in the Gulag is a dead ringer for David Bowie as the Goblin King, package and all.
    • Peacemaker's costume is very much modeled after Boba Fett.
    • A female-shaped robot from the Gulag scene looks a lot like the robot Maria from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. (This is actually a Mythology Gag to a pre-existing Captain Ersatz; Mekanique originally appeared in All-Star Squadron, where didn't look as much like Maria, but was created by a scientist called Rotwang.)
  • Cast Herd: We've got the original "Silver Age" DCU heroes, their children, the rogue antiheroes, the former supervillains, and a number of ordinary "humans" (mostly politicians). So much work was put into creating a gigantic cast of superheroes that it almost works against the book's favor, as you have to seriously do your homework on the appendices to work out who people are a lot of the time, doubly so in the battle scenes.
  • Central Theme: The loss of humanity through justifying your actions, whether it be taking a life or throwing your power around to get people to fall in line. All the classic silver age heroes lose their connection to the very people they swore to protect, Superman retires to his Fortress of Solitude, Wonder Woman is stripped of her royal title because she spends more time as an ambassador of peace (and crimefighter) than as a more proactive warriornote , Flash exists in constant motion unable to interact with anyone, Green Lantern remains in a watchtower construct in orbit over Earth and Batman polices Gotham via drones. As such the new generation, who idolized the classic heroes, are left without guidance and fight each other as much as they fight supervillains. In the Novelization, Norman's narration repeats several times "There is a right and a wrong in this universe. And that distinction is not hard to make."
  • Clark Kenting: Explored in the end, where each of the heroes unmask themselves and join society, eliminating their secret identities altogether. While in a Justice League themed chain restaurant "Planet Krypton," featuring serving staff dressed as the classic characters, Clark, Diana and Bruce enjoy a meal together and are largely undisturbed. In the same scene Diana even mentions that Clark wrote the book on secret identities.
  • Cold Equation: The Spectre demands that Norman McCay decide on humanity's worth. When Norman points out that the world is too fragmented to allow for an accurate judgement, the Spectre simply tells him to "judge carefully". At the climax Norman finally calls him out for quantifying humanity as a destructive species.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Bruce Wayne's appearance is partially based on Gregory Peck. This is a nod to the much lauded Batman: Year One by Dave Mazucchelli and Frank Miller.
    • Ross tend to model some characters after other comic book authors. The most blatant examples are Joker's Daughter and 666, modeled after Jill Thompson and her husband Brian Azzarello.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Norman McCay is an old reverend who single-handedly manages to stop Superman's rampage in the final issue.
    • In the Novelization, Norman meets Wesley Dodds, who's in his nineties, in a gym; Wesley is doing exercises a man in his twenties would be doing.
    • Elderly Bruce Wayne is no slouch either, and someone reading it today would be pleasantly reminded in some ways of Bruce's portrayal in Batman Beyond a few years later.
  • Corrupted Character Copy
    • Magog, being a Take That! at Rob Liefeld, is a Jerkass and demented version of Cable, though this is subverted somewhat as Magog manages to be redeem himself after a Despair Event Horizon and helps the Justice League. He still proves to be the villainous opposite of Cable in later comics though, as seen in Infinite Frontier where he joins the Injustice Incarnate whom mean to keep the worlds of the Multiverse separate, whereas Marvel's Cable is all about hopping between universes for the greater good.
    • Minor character Americommando is a bloodthirsty, psychotic version of Captain America.
  • Crapsack World: Ten years after Superman and most other famous superheroes have retired, the world becomes overrun with more and more violent metahumans. Their fights are a constant source of collateral damage and put countless civilian lives in danger; many now compare hero/villain fights to gang wars. The Kansas tragedy sterilizes America's breadbasket, throwing the world's economy into near-collapse with the threat of global famine. There are also more subtle signs of how crappy this world is, like when Norman McCay is offered a signed baseball from the last world series ever played.
  • Cruel Mercy: Superman opting to spare Magog so that the latter will live with his sins can be interpreted as this.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Superman's words to Billy Batson.
    Superman: I don't know what to do! You can see that, can't you? Every choice I've made so far has brought us here— has been wrong! So listen to me, Billy. Listen harder than you ever have before. Look around us. Look what we've come to. There's a bomb falling. Either it kills us— or we run rampant across the globe. I can still stop the bomb, Bill. That much I'm sure of. What I don't know is whether I should be allowed to. Superhumans or mankind... one will pay the ultimate price. And that decision is not for me to make. I'm not a god. I'm not a man. but you, Billy... you're both. More than anyone who ever existed, you know what it's like to live in both worlds. Only you can weigh their worth equally. Fight the brainwashing, Billy. You can let me go... or with a word... you can stop me. Do you understand the choice that can be made by you alone? Then decide. Decide the world.
  • Dark Age of Supernames: The list of new generation of anti-heroes and/or villains appearing in this story include such standouts as NIL-8, Joker's Daughter, Germ-Man, Swastika and Shiva the Destroyer.
  • Darker and Edgier: Invoked when Batman notes that black (replacing the yellow in the "S" insignia) is a new look for him. Superman (in the novelization) replies it's "for Kansas." Batman harshly chuckles and snarks, "Is there anything you can't justify?"
  • Death by Adaptation: In the novelization, Kid Flash is stated to have died in the blast, despite this never being depicted on panel (plus her being alive and well in the follow-up series The Kingdom.)
  • December–December Romance: MLF members Selina Kyle and Edward Nygma (Catwoman and the Riddler) are both much older now, and are in a relationship.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Deconstructs the Dark Age by showing the consequences of violent vigilantes willing to kill becoming the breed of hero accepted by the general public, reconstructs the Silver Age by showing how it's better for heroes to stay in touch with civilians, figure out how to solve problems without endangering them and generally strive for figuring out how to improve the world.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: For the sake of exploring the moral and philosophical differences between the Silver Age and Dark Age ideals of hero. Although it's generally considered primarily a deconstruction of the latter, the former don't escape unscathed either.
  • Deconstructor Fleet:
    • When a bunch of “superheroes” with a darker and grittier approach towards crime than Batman and other classic heroes starts targeting villains, they wipe out a significant amount of them in about 10 years. But when there is no one else to fight, they begin fighting each other, and everyone nearby feels the full effect of their battles.
    • Superman is easily one of the greatest superheroes of all, if not the greatest. He’s the paragon of the classic superhero age, and almost everyone looks up to him. So what he happens when a great figure many look up for guidance just leaves? Who do people go to for advice or help? When public support swings toward anti-heroes, everyone looks to Magog the preeminent crimefighter among the new breed. But his catastrophic actions only make things worse and help usher in a dark age.
    • Killing dozens of villains for peace may eliminate a good chunk of crime, but that does not mean crime is gone for good. Also, after years of He Who Fights Monsters battles, the “heroes” are no longer fighting villains but fighting each other; sometimes out of dislike, mostly of them out of boredom, and all of society suffers in the long run.
    • Having a set of uncompromisingly moral superheroes may look good on paper, but the very inflexibility of the classic superheroes' moral compasses lead to a constant tug of war between good and evil, with no end in sight. This in turn makes people look up to "heroes" that have far less qualms about end things once and for all via lethal means. This is most noticeable with Superman and Magog's case, where, after public opinion swings in favor of Magog after his murder of the Joker, the Man of Steel elects to exile himself from the world, rather than publicly confront his rival and his ideals, along with the possibility that his own ideals might have flaws.
    • Often, for purely narrative purposes, comic stories depict superheroes either fighting each other or knowingly provoking a superhuman brawl on public ground, causing reckless, almost wanton destruction and after everything is resolved, they simply walk (or fly) away as if nothing had happened, without any consequences, often even making light of it. Examples: A superhero, just by Rule of Cool, will pick up a random car on the street and bludgeon some supervillain with it, or makes a dramatic entrance by landing onto a vehicle. In this story it is shown how ridiculous, violent and selfish a metahuman would need to be to so thoughtlessly destroy public property and risk the lives of civilians just for the sake of showing off.
  • Defeat Means Menial Labor: After events unfold, the defeated members of Lex Luthor's alliance are put to work in a hospital for victims of the final battle. They are forced to wear collars to keep them compliant, and the worse they acted in the course of the story, the dirtier the work. Lex himself is forced to do the most humiliating task... cleaning bedpans.
  • Dem Bones: Deadman is considerably more skeletal than usual when depicted here.
  • Designated Hero: Invoked; this is a reality where the Nineties Anti Heroes have gone so far, many have become no better than the villains they fight despite still claiming to be heroes. Standouts include Americommando, whose solution to illegal immigration is taking an Uzi to the immigrants in question (though he's under Mind Control at the time it's implied that it simply brought his worst qualities to the forefront), proud Neo-Nazi Von Bach, leather-clad Torture Technician Pinwheel, and the briefly-mentioned Genosyde, who apparently gets his jollies blowing up prisons full of already-convicted criminals.
  • Deus ex Nukina: The United Nations try to put an end to the metahuman war by nuking the Gulag. Subverted in that Captain Marvel destroys it with his magic lightning, so that a few metahumans might still live.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Diana (Wonder Woman) becomes so consumed with regaining her "Amazonian honor" that she doesn't consider until it's too late how normal humans will react to the League's war against the dangerous metahumans.
    • The League don't seem to realize that putting hundreds of angry metahumans in a gulag might not go well if containment is breached. Aquaman does, which is why he refuses. In the Novelization, an angry US Secretary-General tells them that un-powered criminals manage to break out of high security prisons on a regular basis:
      Superman, Wonder Woman, we have lots of prisons in Montana. Federal prisons. State prisons. Local jails. Detention centers. People — normal, nonsuperpowered people — find a way to get out of them all the time. But we've learned something about prisons where I come from. One of the most important, basic things we've learned is that you don't put the slyest, craftiest, most escape-prone people you've got all together in one place. Because if one of them gets out — and one of them will, somehow, get out, that's pretty much the rule — then in that case the rest of them are always going to follow.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Savage kills a secretary by snapping her neck because she didn't put two sugars in his coffee. According to the Novelization, she did — but Luthor stocked the small cubes of sugar, so Vandal thought she didn't.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In issue 1, one of the graffiti on the wall is the Japanese phrase 'tenchi muyo'. The way it is written, complete with exclamation mark, makes this a Shout-Out to the popular 90s anime. One of its translations, 'no need for heaven or earth', also makes it an ominous warning of things to come, as suggested in a Wizard magazine on artist Alex Ross.

  • Eagleland: Since the book is essentially a gigantic Crisis Crossover, there are a number of old-time DC heroes and their replacements or counterparts with patriotic themes representing the Type 1s, but as the second act starts, Americommando and the Minutemen start going on a violent rampage against "the wretched refuse" of immigrants... though, they are being mind-controlled at the time.
  • Eco-Terrorist: Former hero Hawkman has essentially become a mild version of this, who has no hesitation about using violence against loggers and others who threaten his precious Pacific Northwest.
  • Elseworld: The story takes place in an alternate universe where Superman and the majority of other heroes resign after the Joker is killed by Magog, sparking strong public support for a more ruthless form of vigilantism.
  • Enemy Mine: Batman and Lex Luthor join forces against the Justice League. Subverted in that Batman really wants to destroy the Mankind Liberation Front from within.
    Luthor: If I'd known a common enemy could bring us together, I'd have invented one years ago. This must be killing you.
  • "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement: The fourth and final issue ends with most superheroes (as well as normal people) actively cleaning up the mess they've made during the story. Batman turns Wayne Manor into a field hospital with the help of plenty of other superheroes (and villains impressed into service), Superman works on a farm, and Wonder Woman reunites with the Amazons to help them (and the ant-heroes under her tutelage) adjust to this new world.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: What Norman McCay's visions tell him will happen. In the end not quite everybody dies, but the final battle involving nearly all metahumans on Earth gets a massive nuke dropped on it. Only a few characters survive.
  • Expy:
  • Final Battle: The Rogues break out from the Gulag, the Justice League answers the call with anger until The Outsiders arrive to try to stop everyone from killing each other; it balloons into a battle that can consume the Earth, so the joint powers of humanity decide to nuke all fighters out of existence; the only two people that can stop the nuke are fighting each other; the nuke drops with the bomber asking for forgiveness for killing the heroes of the Earth; Captain Marvel emerges from his brainwashing to give a few seconds window to the people below; he triggers the bomb before the payload is deployed, allowing a handful to survive... though they are all dead to Superman's eyes... and he's pissed.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Orion's segment in Apokolips serves as a warning to Superman and the Justice League of the unforeseen ramifications their actions might lead to and how their noble intentions could backfire in the worst way possible.
    • As Diana prepares her armor, Superman grabs her sword and cuts himself on its edge, to which she reminds him that he's vulnerable to magic. Cue the battle at the Gulag, where Superman is stopped from intervening by brainwashed (and fellow Flying Brick) Captain Marvel... him being Superman's magic equal.
  • Food End: The story ends in an epilogue with the three main heroes (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) having a meal at a restaurant.
  • Framing Device: The Spectre recruits Norman to assist him in the coming apocalypse to judge the guilty, because Norman inherited the visions of The Sandman. The Spectre guides Norman as an unseen observer to the incidents providing the most context to what happens. Norman only interacts with the characters twice, once when The Flash catches them observing them in the watchtower and again at the end where he intervenes himself to get Superman to calm down and reclaim his humanity. Norman also helps the Spectre regain his humanity.
  • Fun with Acronyms: NIL8. Say each letter and number individually.
  • Gaia's Lament: After Captain Atom is torn open by Parasite, the entirety of Kansas, along with parts of Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri, are reduced to an irradiated wasteland.
  • Genre Relaunch: Of Silver Age era super hero comics.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The Mexican reprint in Spanish language skips the whole scene set in Apokolips, which wasn't in the original series printing but added in the trade as bonus material.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: The climax has Norman give a firm but sympathetic version of this to Superman as he is about to attack the United Nations staff, appealing to him that his behaviour is why they sent the nukes to wipe out superhumans to start with.
  • A God Am I:
    • Deconstructed in the end.
      UN Council Member: We saw you as gods.
      Superman: As we saw ourselves. And we were both wrong.
    • In the Novelization, Deadman asks Norman if he ever considered being a god. Norm is, to say the least, highly skeptical. Boston replies he didn't mean capital G God, just a god, and gives examples like The Phantom Stranger and The Spectre, and notes that even Zeus himself was originally some normal guy who found a magic rock.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: The Spectre tells Norman that the Apocalypse is coming, but his job is only to punish the guilty, not stop the event. In the Novelization, Norm is less than amused and has a Refusal of the Call.
  • Going Critical: Captain Atom. When his body is violently breached, the escaping nuclear blast and energy ravage the American Midwest.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Magog kills The Joker pronouncing, "Sic semper criminalis!" It's also a Shout-Out to Abraham Lincoln's assassination (John Wilkes Boothe reportedly shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis!")
  • Hands Go Down: In the Novelization, when Wonder Woman is questioned by the Amazons about her actions during the crisis, she states that Paradise Island had become too insular.
    Diana: For example, who among you has actually met a living soul who does not live on this Island?
    (a few hands went up among the four- or fivescore assembled sisters; even they went down when everyone realized what their former princess meant by "living".)
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • In the Novelization, Lois Lane. She stalls The Joker long enough for Superman to arrive and bring him to justice. Part of the reason that Superman abandoned humanity was that Magog made Lois' act a Senseless Sacrifice.
    • Captain Marvel ends up tanking a nuke to try to save the superheroes. While it saves many lives, there are still plenty of casualties.
    • The Blackhawk jet fighters who deliver the nukes. According to the Novelization, they weren't expected to survive the blasts.
    • Alloy (which is a literal amalgam of the Metal Men) protects Magog from dying from a nuclear blast. Magog isn't completely protected, as he shows signs of radiation sickness.
  • Hero Insurance. Explained in the Novelization, in which heroes tend to be impoverished and unaccountable. Auto insurance makes it impossible to own a car, damaged public property goes unrepaired (like the Statue of Liberty), and so forth.
  • Hidden Depths: Magog is a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but he quickly becomes The Atoner. For example, he's the only character who goes to The Gulag to simply introspect, spending his time in his room doing nothing but thinking (and crying, in the single panel showing him in his room). By the end, he's learned his lesson and has become a true hero (and teacher).

  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Von Bach is killed when Wonder Woman impales him with her sword from behind.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Superman is speaking with Wonder Woman about the sanctity of life as he rescues a woman from a collapsed building. Cue Vandal Savage snapping an office assistant's neck because she didn't prepare his refreshment properly in the very next panel.
    Superman: You're right. They seem to have learned little regard for human life, and there is nothing more sacred than that.
    Vandal Savage: I said two sugars. [neck snap]
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: When the metahuman battle in the prison rages out of control and threatens to engulf the planet, the New United Nations resorts to this. Captain Marvel, Batman, and Wonder Woman do their best to stop it, but it ultimately ends up incinerating the vast bulk of the metahumans, and sends Superman into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The human race is let off fairly easily for having nuked the metahuman race. Although Superman was going to Kill All Humans, he is talked down by Norman McCay. Justified in that the U.N. had sent the nukes out of fear, something that the heroes ended up causing, so it was up to everyone involved to work together and trust each other to never allow that to happen again.
      • Many view the UN's actions as just retribution, as a relative handful of metahumans (Magog's "Justice Battalion" and the Parasite) are directly responsible for the nuclear razing of Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, costing countless innocent lives.
    • Swastika is among the few to survive the nuke. Although he technically doesn't do much notable bad stuff, he's a flagrant neo-Nazi with a swastika tattooed across his entire body.
    • Vandal Savage, as viewed by The Spectre. The Spectre would do anything to punish Savage - except for the fact Savage is immortal, and out of Spectre's purview. With that said, Savage ends up helping Bruce Wayne in his clinic, showing his knowledge of medicine picked up over a millennial lifetime, so you could say he earned his redemption..
  • Kill the Poor: A brief scene sees one Anti-Hero, The Americommando, and his cronies declare war on meager immigrants, claiming "the poor, tired, huddled masses camping on our shores, begging citizenship" are the biggest foreign threat to the United States after the disaster in Kansas, though it's shown that he's under Mind Control.
  • Knight Templar: Wonder Woman, after being exiled from Paradise Island and stripped of her royal station, crosses the line, attempting to resolve her situation by "overcompensating", as Batman puts it.
  • Lack of Empathy: A version applying to the heroes. At the climax, Norman points out to Superman that the actions of superhumans (even the moderate, classic heroes) are so intimidating that they cause distancing from the rest of humanity. Events escalate to the point that human society becomes intimidated and scared enough to drop nukes onto the metahumans.
  • Large Ham: Lampshaded when Vandal Savage strangles a woman for getting his drink order wrong and the King calls him a "ham".
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Lex Luthor and his "Mankind Liberation Front" (a collection of Silver Age villains) attempt to exploit the metahuman war and Take Over the World. They end up being forced to work by Batman in his makeshift hospital for the casualties of the civil war. Lex himself is emptying bedpans.
    Batman: Shazam.
    Lex: Shut up.
    • Karma's laser is further guided by the relative sins of the various members of the Front. For example, Selina Kyle, Edward Nygma and Joe Carny, who were basically glorified thieves with a gimmick, have fairly light duties at the hospital which appear to involve mainly minor nursing / orderly duties for the patients; Edward in particular is entertaining the younger patients with magic tricks. Would-be world-conquerors and megalomaniacs like Luthor and Kobra, however, have more demeaning and menial duties such as cleaning the floors and, in Luthor's case, washing out bedpans. Savage, meanwhile, uses his extensive medical knowledge to help with burn victims. Ibn also helps, but he's the only one without a restraining collar since he's a mole.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Near the end, Norman McCay can be seen seated next to an elderly, bespectacled man with a mustache and an eyepatch, who is clearly Phillip Sheldon, the protagonist of Marvels, which, like Kingdom Come, was also illustrated by Alex Ross.
  • Leave Me Alone!: Uttered by the Parasite who attempts to escape from Magog and his Justice Battalion. But as the Battalion is made up of Blood Knight Nineties Anti Heroes, his cries for mercy are ignored, which kick-starts the plot of the story as he lashes out in fear, ripping through Captain Atom's suit, nuking the American Midwest. One reporter even points out that Magog could have averted tragedy if he had just listened to Parasite.
  • Literal Metaphor: Aside from being a reference to a passage in the book of Isaiah, the motto of the United Nations, where superhumans and humans finally reach an accord, is "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (In fact, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have their picture taken in front of the plaque that bears it in the Novelization.) The end of the book as Superman using a giant plowshare, to indicate there will be no more war. (One wonders if Superman literally forged it out of swords. Knowing Supes...)
  • Literary Allusion Title: Not only Kingdom Come itself a literary allusion (to either Matthew 6:10 or Luke 11:2 from the Bible), but each chapter title ('Strange Visitor', 'Truth and Justice', 'Up in the Sky' and 'Never-Ending Battle') is an allusion to the classic Superman introduction.

  • Manly Tears: Magog can be seen in one panel sobbing in his private room in the Gulag. In the Novelization, Bruce and Dick hug and sob - the first time in decades for Bruce.
  • Meaningful Background Event: At the metahuman bar, you can see Deadman noticing Norman and the Spectre milling about.
  • Men Get Old, Women Get Replaced: While many of the male heroes come out of retirement after Superman does, most of the female superheroes stay retired and have been replaced in this distant future. Examples include Supergirl, Black Canary, Catwoman, Starfire, and Zatanna. A handful of exceptions include Wonder Woman, Power Woman, and Jade, and only the latter has aged all that much, since it's established that Wonder Woman is immortal and Kryptonians like Power Girl not only age at a reduced rate, but get Stronger with Age.
  • The Mole: Batman refuses to rejoin Superman, and instead he and his "Outsiders" infiltrate Lex Luthor's "Mankind Liberation Front" and stop them from exploiting the metahuman civil war for their own ends. Ibn al Xuffasch is the actual mole in the MLF. Bruce suspects Ibn is his biological son, but it isn't confirmed til the very end.
  • Monster Modesty:
    • The Spectre is a spirit who wears nothing but a single cape.
    • Hawkman is now a humanoid bird and wears very little besides a loincloth.
  • More than Mind Control: Billy Batson. The mind control bugs also appear in Alex Ross' and Doug Braitwaithe's Justice. Both instances show that they're a technology stolen from said character's archenemy Dr. Sivana.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: According to the creators, the character of Von Bach comes from stories from The Golden Age of Comic Books where superheroes would fight Hitler, or thinly veiled Hitler Captain Ersatz dictators. He even speaks in German, and is covered in tattoos of far right German symbols. And the fact that the design for Swastika, whose tattoos form a giant swastika across his entire body, was originally designed as Von Bach, confirms this. The Novelization reveals Von Bach's hero is Marshal Tito.
  • Neck Snap: Vandal Savage breaks a woman's neck because she didn't put two sugars on his coffee.
  • Never My Fault: The antiheroes don't understand why they've been put in the Gulag, exclaiming they've stopped multiple dangerous villains and say that they're heroes. They don't bother to acknowledge the other reasons why they were imprisoned, like their rampant disregard for human lives and the fact they're a bunch of thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies constantly fighting one another out of sheer boredom.
  • News Monopoly: Superman sees multiple reports of the Kansas disaster in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: Numerous characters, primary and secondary. And since Mark Waid and Alex Ross are Golden Age/Silver Age fans, they push the '90s Anti-Hero to the logical maximum: a bunch of superpowered gangs fighting each other because they killed all the supervillains and have nothing better to do, personified by Magog.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • A primary theme throughout the story. In flexing their strength to bring the metahuman population under control, the reformed Justice League makes the exact same mistake that the current generation of anti-heroes made. In a brief visit to Apokolips, Superman finds Orion has overthrown Darkseid but his reign turns out to be much the same as that of his father- he rules because the slave population finds freedom just as terrifying a prospect as fascism, and promptly elect him as their leader. Other than that, he seems to view himself more as a prison warden, keeping the worst of the 'lowlies' on Apokolips under his sway, rather than inflicting them upon the rest of the universe, and he lets Barda and Scott Free preach freedom and revolution (presumably in the hope that they'll succeed where he fails).
    • Shortly after meeting Orion, Superman end up forced to build an immense metahuman prison called the Gulag and the narration mentions how familiar it looks, particularly as it resembles the Legion of Doom's skull-shaped headquarters.
    • After all the events are over, the Spectre tells Norman McCay that he and the superheroes he just saved are not so different: both exist to bring hope.
    • Wonder Woman is Superman's lieutenant and one of the Justice League's main proponents in the cause to reestablish order by reigning in the renegade metahumans. But both Superman and Batman note, on separate occasions, that she has become nearly as violent and reactionary as the beings she fights.
    • In the second visit he pays to the Batcave, Superman tells Batman that, despite their differences, they share a principle in common: Thou Shalt Not Kill.
  • Not So Stoic: The novelization reveals that Bruce Wayne's favorite movie is Citizen Kane, except Bruce sees it as a comedy; every time he watches it, he has a full-blown laughing fit at the part where Kane says, "If I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man."
  • Not the Intended Use: Captain Marvel summons magic lightning by saying "Shazam". Normally he's struck by it and transforms, but in the final battle he repeatedly dodges his own lightning with his Super-Speed (Speed of Mercury) to blast Superman, who can be hurt through magic. This only backfires on him when Superman tanks one blast to hold him in place so that Marvel transforms back to Billy.
  • Not Used to Freedom: Played for Drama. At some point during the other heroes' retirement, Orion finally defeats and kills his monstrous father. However, when he attempted to free the enslaved population of Apokolips, the people long since broken by Darkseid's tyranny can't handle the concept. As such, they force Orion to become their new dictator, and overall nothing has changed, except that Orion doesn't actively oppress his people the way Darkseid did, viewing himself as more of a prison warden, and lets Barda and Scott Free preach liberty and revolution in the vain hope that they'll succeed where he failed. The experience has effectively broken Orion, who wearily wonders if all sons are doomed to become their fathers, and offers to help Superman by taking on all his prisoners, as they can't possibly be worse than his current subjects.
  • Novelization: Elliot S! Maggin's novel follows the plot closely but with enough additional nuances and expanded characterization that it is arguably better than the miniseries in many regards. It doesn't have Alex Ross' gorgeous art, though.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Wonder Woman kisses Superman before leaving the Final Battle.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    Norman: He had not turned his back at us. He stands in the sky... faith rewarded. He is returned... and— (vision of screaming Superman, which changes Norman's mood and reaction) —dear God. The threat of Armageddon hasn't ended. It's just begun...
    • The moment when Superman learns from Batman that Captain Marvel has been brainwashed and unaccounted for; and oh, it doesn't end well: "Armageddon has arrived."
  • Old Superhero: Batman is now so old and battered he needs machines to help him walk, but he's still as sharp as ever, able to execute a classic Batman Gambit and has the guts to punch Captain Marvel. Who is really Billy Batson. It's stated that Batman in this future has basically abandoned the Bruce Wayne "personality" altogether.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Quintessence, consisting of The Phantom Stranger, Zeus, Ganthet, Shazam and The Spectre. The Spectre bristles at their avowed unwillingness to meddle in the affairs of mortals when Shazam begs the others to help Captain Marvel, accusing them of just being too scared to interfere and just have these meetups to tell each other "no". Deadman tells Norman in the Novelization that the last time they interfered, it resulted in The Trojan War, so naturally they're a little gunshy.
  • Once More, with Clarity: One of Norman's first visions is a dim, shadowed glimpse of a muscular man on his knees, screaming in a smoke-filled landscape. Apparently it's part of the looming apocalypse. At this point Superman is now bearded and cut off from the world. Over the course of the first act, he sees Superman and the Justice League return to work. He's exulting in their first public heroism like the Innocent Bystanders, until he has the vision again (or just remembers it) and it's clearly Superman in his current form. Superman's return hasn't prevented the apocalypse at all, it's a necessary step towards the end.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Justice League stands as the order to the anti-heroes' chaos.
    • Batman for his part sees his Outsiders as the order to the chaos of the Justice League.
  • Pacifism Breaking Point: Wonder Woman shows a degree of alarm when Superman, of all people, who had been advocating for trying to reason with and teach the younger metahumans, closes his eyes and says, "We are at war."
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Superman's final words to the UN.
    Superman: But I no longer care about the mistakes of yesterday. I care about coping with tomorrow, together.The problems we face still exist. We're not going to solve them for you, we're going to solve them with you. Not by ruling above you but by living among you. We will no longer impose our power on humanity. We will earn your trust... using the wisdom one man left as his legacy. I asked him to choose between humans and superhumans. But he alone knew that was a false division and made the only choice that ever truly matters. He chose life. In the hope that your world and our world could be one world once again.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Captain Atom. After Parasite tears him open, the radiation contained within him is unleashed into a massive explosion that makes the American Midwest uninhabitable.
  • Pet the Dog: Magog saving Tokyo Rose from a nuclear blast. "Rosie, hold onto your spandex..."
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Norman is merely an invisible spectator for most of the story, but the Flash demonstrates that he's not completely undetectable.
  • Powered Armour: Batman needs an exoskeleton to move about, he's so battered from 60-odd years of superheroing. When he goes into combat, he does it in flying power armour. A number of other characters do as well.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Magog indicates the radioactive wasteland of Kansas is his legacy, Superman responds, "You must be proud."note  Magog responds, screaming, "GODDAMN YOU!" before blasting him with his weapon and falling to the ground, sobbing.
  • Prime Directive: The reason the Quintessence won't interfere with the "critical path" on Earth. The Spectre snorts it's just a convenient excuse.
  • Psychotic Smirk: Bruce Wayne sports one throughout as a sign of his apparent Face–Heel Turn, quite unusual (and unsettling) considering Batman's Perpetual Frowner reputation.
  • Pun: When Clark, Diana, and Bruce meet up at "Planet Krypton" (a kitschy superhero-themed diner), one of the meals their waitress suggests is "the Power Girl chicken sandwich", which is made with breast meat.

  • Rage Against the Heavens: A much more direct form than usual. After the nuke clears, the Spectre is about to leave the despondent Superman to blow at the UN Assembly, but Norman stops him, saying leaving Superman to his rage would be nothing less than pure evil, and demands to be taken with him so he can calm him down and guide him to the truth he and metahumanity and humanity need.
  • Real Men Take It Black: In the epilogue to the collected edition, Clark, Diana and Bruce meet up at Planet Krypton restaurant. While Clark has milk and Diana gets some water, Bruce's drink order is "Coffee. Black. And keep it coming."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: During the final battle, Batman calls out Wonder Woman's wanting to wage war on the anti-heroes being an attempt to earn back her crown among the Amazons. Wonder Woman does not react well, accusing Batman of arrogantly sitting in the Batcave and letting the world fall apart until he decided it was time to save it.
  • Reconstruction: Of everything that was great about the Golden and Silver Ages, to the degree that the publication of Kingdom Come has been retrospectively labeled the end of the Dark Age.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning. Superman is, to put it mildly, none too pleased after the nuke is detonated, with the Spectre remarking that this is a signal for him unleashing "a fury that would cow Satan himself." Norman refers to it as "an anger that could twist steel."
  • Refusal of the Call: Norman in the Novelization, when he learns The Spectre won't prevent the upcoming Armageddon, and merely wants Norm to judge the guilty. Norm quickly judges The Spectre and basically flips him off. In a powerful subversion of the trope, there isn't even a The Call Knows Where You Live. After realizing Superman will be the catalyst of the impending disaster, Norm realizes that it's going to happen anyway and maybe he can help avert it in some way. He does, and it's implied The Spectre knew he would.
  • Repower: Lots of the Golden Agers get big power boosts as Waid draws their abilities to the logical conclusion. Especially The Flash, who has become one with the Speed Force and now exists as a living blur in constant, never-ending motion.
    • Superman's power level in general is boosted and he becomes immune to kryptonite due to all those years soaking up the sun. And in the Novelization, in the end Superman becomes immune to magic because he realizes its fundamental paradox.
    • Alan Scott (a Green Lantern) has fused his power battery into his chest. Unlike Superman, however, he still retains his original weakness - to wood. While he's effectively invincible otherwise, Oliver Queen is able to punch right through his Powered Armor with regular arrows. On the other hand, Alan survives the nuke while Oliver doesn't.
    • Batman uses powered armor and keeps his city safe with robotic drones. This one overlaps with Disability Superpower: Batman has taken so many beatings over the years, his body has said "so long" and pretty much given up. He is dependent on an exoskeleton to be able to walk, and covering that in armor wasn't a big step.
    • Doctor Mid-Nite (now called simply "Midnight"), who once used smoke bombs, now exists as a living smoke cloud that fills out his costume's cape.
    • Garfield Logan — once called "Beast Boy" and "Changeling", now called "Menagerie" — can only shapeshift into fictitious creatures, such as the Jabberwock from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.
    • Doctor Fate, now called Fate V, is now merely the helmet and cape, having gained sentience from the many hosts it has used.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Superman retires, Supergirl and Superboy decide to leave the present and join the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century.
  • Second Coming: Superman's return from his self-imposed exile to deal with Magog and his generation of heroes is first seen as this by McCay. However, the visions McCay has seen reveal that Superman's presence will catalyze the coming doom, not avert it.
  • Second Love: Wonder Woman gradually becomes this for Superman over the course of the story.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: The revelation of Bruce Wayne being Batman leads to Wayne Manor being wrecked by Two Face and Bane, and Bruce, of course, no longer keeping up the pretense. Superman also drops the Clark identity. Indeed the ending shows all the surviving supers de-masking, and seems to be showing the end of the Secret-Identity Identity for this universe.
  • Seen It All: When Norman talks about approaching Armageddon on Earth, Boston pauses and notes Norman must mean the events of the "critical path" down there, hinting strongly he's seen a few of them already.
  • Self-Plagiarism: Before Kingdom Come, Alex Ross designed the characters of Astro City. There are at least two references to this work:
    • Wonder Woman's winged armor cause her to somewhat resemble Winged Victory, herself a Captain Ersatz of Wonder Woman.
    • Joker's Daughter's clown motif and red-and-green, diamond-shape pattern costume make her look like a Distaff Counterpart to Jack-in-the-Box.
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: Wonder Woman has a magic sword that is sharp enough to "carve the electrons off an atom". Leaving aside the ways that doesn't actually make sense, it suggests a blade with an edge thinner than an atom. Superman accidentally cuts himself on the blade.
  • Sherlock Scan: During the epilogue, it takes Batman only a few seconds, of course, to realize that Diana is pregnant. Having not been around him for several decades, she's momentarily flummoxed by his deductions (he noticed that she'd gained a little weight — which being "an ageless Amazon of perfect physique", she hadn't since he'd known her — and that her hair had begun to take the same tint as Clark's, implying the fetus was absorbing solar radiation like he does.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Ted Kord, Olivia Queen, Red Hood, and Alloy are all explicitly shown or heavily implied to have been killed by the bombing in the comic's climax, but aren't listed among the people Norman specifically sees dying in the novel.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye:
    • Clark vanishes while Bruce's back is turned to him. The latter comments "So that's what that feels like", lampshading how it's Batman who tends to disappear while the interlocutor is distracted.
    • In the epilogue, Clark wonders in bafflement how it was possible that Bruce is able to sneak up on them at a restaurant, even with his superhearing and X-Ray vision: "There you are. You snuck up on me. Me. How do you do that?"
    • After Norman gives his speech during the climax, The Spectre removes him from the scene, leaving Superman confused and frustrating Norman, who wants to talk to him some more. Norman muses that The Spectre has a better sense of drama than Norman does.
  • Stepford Smiler: Captain Marvel, both as Billy and as Cap, is always flashing a vacant smile as a result of his brainwashing. It unnerves everyone.
  • Stronger with Age: Superman, who is not vulnerable to Kryptonite anymore. But magic can still harm him. In the Novelization, at the end not even magic can harm him, and that Hephaestus' sword can't injure him. Why? He discovered the paradox of magic. Then there's Power Woman, Power Girl at her most muscular.
  • Take Up My Sword: In the Novelization, The Spectre says that he had come for The Sandman (Wesley Dodds, not Dream of The Endless), but when he died, the Sandman passed on the visions to Norman so he could deal with the upcoming Apocalypse himself.
  • That Man Is Dead: During most of the story, Superman has completely abandoned Clark Kent, giving minor Death Glares to people who call him by that name, forcing them to address him as "Kal". (Batman, naturally, keeps calling him "Clark".) When Supes realizes that he lost a lot more than a secret identity when he abandoned being a part of the human race, he becomes Clark once more at the end. The Novelization explores it further, when Norm notes that Superman has a hard time addressing the press. When Superman becomes Clark again, he talks easily and naturally to a crowd, having regained Clark's people and reporter skills.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Explored in the story. It's the violation of this creed that is a major part of why Superman abandons humanity. It's also the one thing that he and Batman have in common, no matter how distant their philosophies get, and the way Superman convinces him to intervene at the Gulag: to prevent as much loss of life as possible. Wonder Woman, Superman's lieutenant and future lover, does not share this credo.
  • Touch the Intangible: Norman McCay can travel unrestricted through space and time and observe events unheard and unseen. However, he does not count on The Flash, who has received a power upgrade that causes him to exist on multiple planes of reality at once. The Flash senses Norman observing a meeting of the Justice League, grabs him, and yanks him back into physical reality.
  • Tragic Intangibility: The reader is told Martian Manhunter has been left a nervous wreck, but we're only shown it when he's so out of it he can't even reach for a cup of tea without phasing his hand through it.
  • Troll: In the Novelization, Mera, who brings up an old rumor that Arthur and Diana were to marry to unite Themiscyra and Atlantis. When Wonder Woman and Superman are pleading their case, Mera is giggling, Atlantean-style (bubbles coming from her lips.) Neither Superman nor Wonder Woman understand the significance, but Arthur does.
    • In true Batman fashion, he continuously calls Superman "Clark", despite The Man of Steel's insistence that his human alter ego is dead.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Orion ends up as the ruler of Apokolips after defeating Darkseid for good.
    Superman: You're more like Darkseid than ever, Orion.
    Orion: So it was written to be. Our story has always been a generational one. It is said that many men eventually become their fathers.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: During the climax of the Gulag battle, Norman's thoughts and Superman's words dovetail.
    Norman: "There is no "evil" here! There is tragedy and bedlam and — "
    Superman: "I — I don't know what to do! You can see that, can't you? Every choice I've made so far has brought us here— has been wrong!"
    Norman: (*thinking*) Superman's palm spasms around Batson's jaw...and Batson whimpers. The clock is racing. Only moments remain before the blast...
    Superman: "...So listen to me, Billy. Listen harder than you ever have before. Look around us. Look what we've come to. There's a bomb falling. Either it kills us — or we run rampant across the globe. I can still stop the bomb, Bill. That much I'm sure of. What I don't know is whether I should be allowed to."
    Norman: (*thinking*) Superhumans or will pay the ultimate price.
    Superman: "And that decision..."
    Norman: (*thinking*) not for me to make. I'm not a god...
    Superman: "...I'm not a man. but you, Billy... you're both. More than anyone who ever existed, you know what it's like to live in both worlds. Only you can weigh their worth equally. Fight the brainwashing, Billy. You can let me go... or with a word... you can stop me. Do you understand the choice that can be made by you alone?"
    Norman: (*thinking*) His tears answer for him.
    Superman: "Then decide. Decide the world."
    Norman: (*thinking*) And when he cries...
    Billy(*whispers*): "Shazam."
    Norman: (*thinking*) ...Seven thunders utter their voices.

  • The Unfought: After two full chapters fervently hinting that Superman and his "successor" Magog were destined to have a huge, all-out battle, their eventual confrontation consists of Magog blasting an unfazed Superman, then breaking down in tears before he surrenders.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Swastika survives the massacre and is sent to Themyscira to be healed (and most likely to be set straight); he shows his gratitude by spitting during a solemn Amazonian ceremony. Fortunately Magog, the new Dean of Students there, gives him a hard clout.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Subverted. After the nuke, Reverend McCay manages to talk Superman down from destroying the United Nations building and killing everyone inside.
  • Values Dissonance: Invoked In-Universe. It's problems with values dissonance that cause Superman to retire in the first place because he cannot reconcile his values with those of the younger generation of heroes and, more importantly, the public that supports them.
  • Victory Is Boring: This is what happened as a result of the new generation of heroes wiping out most of the villains for good. The numerous fights and battles that occurred happened because they were bored. The first illustrates this by showing many of the antiheroes fighting against each other, but then later on will team up with people they'd just been trying to kill for no given reason. They don't actually care who they're fighting just as long as they get to fight.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Magog. He goes down without Superman even touching him. He just collapses to his knees at the weight of the guilt over the destruction of Kansas.
    Magog: They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn't. And now they're dead. A million ghosts. Punish me. Lock me away. Kill me. Just make the ghosts go away.
    • Luthor has a mild one part way through the story; for most of it, he's smug and in control, but when one of his confederates raises the question of whether he's concerned about Superman's return his immediate response is to violently scream that Superman will not get near him before he calms down.
  • The Voiceless: A lot of characters have no speaking parts, but two really stand out - Hawkman, who is mute, since he's very anthropomorphised, and The Flash, who was only meant to be audible to Superman, but simply ends up without speaking lines.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Magog wanted to take Superman's place as The Hero.
    Magog: You were afraid... that I was the Man of Tomorrow. You were afraid of the future I represented. (gestures the nuclear wasteland he inadvertently caused) Well, look around you. This is what I represent.
    Superman: You must be proud.
    Magog: Proud? PROUD? GOD DAMN YOU!
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Though he may have benefited from a Repower, Alan Scott and his constructs are still vulnerable to wood. Explains why Oliver Queen was able to put so many arrows in him during the final battle.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Magog. While he does value innocent lives, his Fatal Flaw is that he doesn't value all life as Superman does. It comes back to bite him in the ass when his zealotry costs millions of lives.
    • Superman. Green Arrow admits to people at the Good-Guy Bar that Superman has the best of intentions, but he's a bull in a China shop and isn't quite suited to dealing with the current day's problems.
    • Orion. Scott Free says in his underbreath to Superman that Orion is trying his best to do good, then loudly exclaims — so that the lowlies hear him — that he's a buffoon tyrant.
  • Wham Line: Even Wonder Woman (who had been the story's most prominent Knight Templar to this point) is shocked, at this declaration:
    Superman: We are at war.
  • Wham Shot: Luthor encourages Captain Marvel to go on the attack, seemingly setting up the big fight...and then Bruce Wayne decks Marvel with a single punch and puts a foot to his throat. Everyone just stares before it sinks in that even at his prime, there's no way Batman could deck the World's Mightest Mortal. Which means...
    Green Arrow: He's not...You're kidding me! You mean all this time we've been living in mortal fear of Billy Batson?!
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: In the Novelization, Spectre is baffled by Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship. Norman explains that theirs is a relationship of maturity: he needs a mature woman (like Lois Lane was), or he needs no one else, and she needs a mature man, or she needs no one else. Spectre notes that Norman's experience as a minister is exactly what he lacks, having been separated so long from his mortal life, and no longer can comprehend human relationships. At the end, Norman is teaching Spectre to be Jim Corrigan again.
    Norm: These are people who come together only after doing a lot of living. Only after being vulnerable and disappointed a lot. After loving and being loved a lot. Both of them. A woman this formidable needs a man who’s weathered, sanded down around the edges—or she needs to be with no one at all. And a man this weathered needs someone capable of making him forget the ghosts of his own sad stories—or he needs to be with no one at all.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The UN delegates (and by extension, the United States) expresses anger at Superman and Wonder Woman for building a meta-human prison in the middle of Kansas without telling anyone nor even asking for permission. The Winston Churchill Expy levies a potent threat to Superman as a Wham Line:
    Perhaps it is time that we began to decide some things for ourselves. Good day.
  • When He Smiles: After the events are over, in the Novelization, the President asks Superman if he's okay, because he hasn't smiled, and the Superman everyone loved always had a warm smile. Superman tells her he will again, but not now. In the comic and the Novelization, after Wonder Woman gives him a pair a glasses "to see a little clearer", he finally gives a very Superman-like smile as he pulls a gigantic plough in Kansas, ending the main story.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: This was the public's complaint about Superman, who's too "old-fashioned" and wouldn't "get with the times".
  • Wild Card: The only reason Batman bothered to infiltrate the MLF was due to Billy, whom he dubbed a "wild card" - for good reason.

  • Xanatos Speed Chess: While the whole world burns with the question of what to do with the superhumans, the "Mankind Liberation Front" (led by Lex Luthor and his gang of Silver Age villains) are plotting to exploit the events to wrest all power. For this reason Lex manipulates Billy Batson into doing his bidding. Batman supposedly joins the MLF to foil this. Luthor even states that Superman's unexpected return accelerated his plans.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The younger "Dark Age" style heroes have names like "Genosyde”.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Norman's reaction to the The Spectre stating their job was done after the bomb is dropped on the metahumans, leaving one very pissed Superman in its wake.
    • Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) says the trope nearly word for word when it's revealed that the figure of Captain Marvel that they've all been scared of is actually Billy Batson grown to adulthood.

They won't forgive you for this, Clark. Forgive yourself.