“There were voices, and thunderings, and lightenings, and an earthquake. and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood. There fell a great star from Heaven, burning as if it were a lamp. And I beheld and heard an angel, saying with a loud voice. Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of earth.”
With that. we start what is one of the most epic books I have read from DC so far, Kingdom Come. Published in 1996, this book is nothing short of a masterpiece. Released originally as a four issue series set in an elseworld universe, the story weaves biblical prophecy with superhero mythology flawlessly.
The story starts with Wesley Dodds on his deathbed, speaking with pastor Norman McCay, relaying his dreams of Armageddon. He passes his gift of visions onto Norman who begins having nightmares of the end of times. He is then approached by the Spectre who tells him that he is now the gateway to seeing the future, and that Norman must show him who to punish for the horrors that lay ahead.
We see the world overrun with superheroes who have no regard for public safety. It’s the wild west but with men who can fire laser beams and lift 5 tons. What could be likened to the baby boom of the 50s and 60s, superheroes have exploded into the world at alarming numbers and the public is willing to let them run everything. That is of course, until the fateful day when a group of heroes led by Magogg, chase down Parasite through the Midwest until they finally catch him. But they don’t let him surrender; there is no surrender and they force his hand into doing the unspeakable, tearing about an atomic hero, triggering a nuclear explosion, leveling Kansas. This prompts an old hero to step out of retirement. Wonder Woman breaks the horrific news to Kal El, better known as Superman, who now resides permanently in his Fortress of Solitude.
Superman decides to end his 10 year exile and returns in flurry back to the world, saving countless lives and stopping several metahuman battles. Ten years has had quite a change on numerous heroes. Alan Scott the Green Lantern, has now fused with his lantern and lives high above earth in his own green world. Hawkman has become his spirit animal to the tenth degree and has escalated his environmental crusade. The Flash has become the closest to a living god, in my eyes at least, travelling in between plains of existence at speeds that no one, meta or not, could measure. Each one is more than willing to join up with Superman again to fight for justice. Bruce Wayne, the Batman, however is not willing to join back with Kal, as he has his own group to help combat the growing metahuman problem. He warns Superman that his interference will only exacerbate the situation.
While the Justice League works to quell the metahuman menace, the humans form their own coalition to combat the growing problem, led by Lex Luthor. His plan consists of bringing the war to it’s explosive end. Superman finally confronts Magog who reveals the pressure he has felt becoming the new man of tomorrow. Magog took the reigns of the new savior when he ended a villain that Superman would not. The public supported this new hero who would permanently stop the bad guy and Superman left town, leaving Magog and his ilk to their inevitable conclusion. Now Superman takes in the heroes willing to change to his will and lets them join the new Justice League, those who refuse, are imprisoned. In the wastelands of Kansas he builds a prison, named the Gulag, to hold the growing number of prisoners. But as it gets more inmates then it was designed to hold, Through out it all one hero is suspiciously missing, the champion of thunder, Captain Marvel. What is his role in the growing tension between the different factions? Will Superman be able to contain the rising metahuman problem?
This book is amazing, from start to finish it flourishes in awesomeness. The artwork alone is stunning. Alex Ross draws the most amazing pictures to accompany this masterpiece. You feel the tension in each page; the excitement, the horror… The colors are vibrant and leap off the page. Ross brings the gods and legends to life. For anyone who says that the costumes heroes wear would look stupid in a movie, need only peruse some of Ross’ artwork to be proven wrong. Alex Ross’ art not only makes the outfits look realistic and practical, it makes them demand respect.
The story is one of the most epic I have ever read. The way the biblical prophecies are woven into the story is masterful. Each prophecy comes to life on the page. The characters are treated with respect and admiration. You really get the feeling that the creators of this book truly care about the characters, especially the silver age legacies. They put so much emphasis on the old ways of the comics, and almost as if they fear where comics are heading. You can see their stance firmly on the policy of heroes killing. Each character they feature is done in a very mature and realistic way. Superman is shown as near invincible, but morally unsure and at times frightened of the choices that he must make with his new found authority. Wonder Woman is angry and bitter at the world and hell bound for war. Bruce Wayne as always is calm and reserved and age has only sharpened his mind. The characters that don’t get much time still make quite an impact. In fact one of my favorite moments in the book is when Superman and Wonder Woman confront Arthur Curry, who long since resigned the Aquaman title. I really enjoyed the way they have Captain Marvel as well in this story. Each character, whether they appear for the entire book, or in one page, is treated with the same level of care and respect. It truly is remarkable.
This is a definite must buy for any DC fan, and highly recommend for comic book fans in general. If every writer would treat their characters with half the respect that Mark Waid and Alex Ross do in this book we would see huge progress. I’ve read this at least 10 times and plan on reading it again soon. For a book that was written as an Elseworld series, this has had a huge impact, prompting not only a sequel/prequel, but it was even tied into the continuity of the then current DC Universe. It even has it’s own action figure line as well.