What is a superhero?
A man or woman whom is gifted with superpowers that makes a street, a city, or the world a better place. Ordinary citizens look up these heroes, to the point where they view them as gods. Instead of being an inspiring force, superheroes such as Superman and Wonder Woman are looked on as greater individuals. They are expected to 'save the day.' That is the problem, because superheroes are for the most part human, just with powers. Kingdom Come explores this and quite a few other things you don't see normally in comics. This story is over a decade old, but is still relevant, It will always be relevant. If you're a comic fan and haven't read Kingdom Come, go to your local store or buy it online. It is one of the greatest DC stories, wait, scratch that. It is one of the greatest stories of all time.
Kingdom Come can be looked at with different perspectives. One can view it as a question. What does it mean to be superhero? One can view it as a look at what happens when regard for human morals is thrown out the window. Or one can view it as an elseworlds look as the future world of the Justice League. The story is all that. Writer Mark Waid is no stranger to DC, easily one of the most well known and best writers in the comic world. From Tower of Babel to Superman: Birthright, he knows the characters well. The story takes place years into the future when the main heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman are no longer in business. There is no Justice League. Instead, new 'metahumans' run rampant, Unlike the heroes of old, they don't have much regard for human life. But where is Superman? After a big commotion with the metahuman Magog, he realized he wasn't truly wanted. Let's pause there. Superman's personal exile is played off well. Who is the most psychotic killer in all of comic land? The answer would be the Joker. (Though I'm sure Carnage fans will argue.) There are many that wonder why a superhero like Superman hasn't put an end to such a menace. The simple answer is that killing is wrong. But a lot of people don't see it that way. So when someone like Magog comes along and shows he's not afraid to step over that moral code, people rallied behind him when Superman brought him to court.
Batman on the other hand hasn't quite given up, on his city anyway. Now, the interesting part is that the story's main character is not one of the heroes, but a regular person. He is a pastor named Norman McCay who gets chosen by the Spectre to see the events which lead to armageddon. What I found intriguing is that according to the words he didn't believe God to have a face, rather as a force with many names. In that way he rediscovers Him in a whole new way. Back to the League part of the story, after an incident in Kansas with Magog, it's Wonder Woman that makes an attempt to convince Superman to back in action which in turn will inspire the other heroes. Superman has never been written like this before, passive and just completely absent. And soon after when he comes back he's put into position of being a world leader. Batman is much like his Dark Knight Returns counterpart. To see these heroes in such a state is truly interesting and needs to be seen by all.
Lex Luthor is still in business, using the situations of the world for his own benefit. You know things are wrong when Batman makes an alliance with Luthor. It's a truly unique thing to see, Batman gathering an army of young heroes working with Lex to combat Superman and the newly formed League. However, the most intriguing part of the story is Captain Marvel. He has a very strong presence later in the book. First off, it's an interesting thing to see Billy Batson fully grown, I don't think any story has shown us that. Secondly, it was very cool how strong Waid made him and how being Earth's Mightiest Mortal played a big part in the long run. His creepy smile was a very nice touch, since he had been brainwashed by Luthor. The fight between him and Superman doesn't disappoint. While it's fun to look at, the writing accompanying it is just as as amazing. Never before has a battle had such stakes and of course the fact that it's a fan favorite made it even more engaging.
While the writing is amazing done, (seriously, it reads like a novel) Alex Ross's majestic art was a key factor in the book's success. Never before has superheroes looked so awes-inspiring, which was appropriate. There's a really fantastic splash page (above) of Captain Marvel confronting Superman. Ross is an absolute genius when it comes to the brush, there's no way Kingdom Come would have been the same without his dynamic and realistic art. Seriously, it's almost like every panel is a high quality painting. I would recommend this book just to see how amazing the DC heroes can look. (It's also important to mention that Ross co-wrote the book with Waid.) There are virtually no complaints to be had with the story. Sure, I thought the whole League returning was slightly rushed. So when Superman came back everyone immediately sprang up to action? I would have liked to see him having a conversation with all of them. But, it doesn't hinder how majestic it is to see the League again for us and the people within the comic.
The League returning transformed the story into a more traditional adventure. Almost. The book never lets of go of prodding the reader to rethink the comic world. A scene that comes to mind is when Superman comes to the UN and tells the leaders that they're back and they're going to make things right. Usually that would be a good thing, but thanks to the narration we're left seeing something from the leaders' point if view. They are not truly in control, it's these heroes that call the shots when things get tough. Then later Superman has a prison built for metahumans that decide they don't want to follow his code of honor. This is interesting since there is no trial. If you don't follow Superman's way you're thrown into this detention center called Gulag. So despite the League being back, everything isn't as dandy as it should be. In the end, nuclear weapons are sent. Superman has the power to stop them, but he doesn't know if he should. Perhaps the missiles should hit, they would rid the Earth of superheroes and the planet would belong to humankind again. He leaves this decision to Captain Marvel, whom is both a god and a mortal. The dialogue is a little heavy handed here, but that's alright. In the end, rather than have a bittersweet or sad ending, it leaves us on a high note. The superheroes decide that's it time to work with humankind as opposed to above them. That is what Kingdom Come is about.
Kingdom Come isn't just another comic book. The amazing team of Mark Waid and Alex Rose see to that. It's a classic novel, looking at superheroes in a whole new way. Written in 1996, it will forever be relevant no matter how different comics become.