Happy Comics Release Day!
When I’m reading comics, particularly my favorites, finishing one story often inspires me to pick up another with the same characters or by the same writer. Over the last month, I’ve written about The Dark Knight Returns and Sandman Mystery Theatre.
They both led me to Kingdom Come.
Similar to The Dark Knight Returns, this story features an alternate future for the DC universe. It begins with the death of the elderly Wesley Dodds, the star of Sandman Mystery Theatre, passing his prophecy of seemingly inevitable world destruction to an ordinary man.
Kingdom Come is co-written by Mark Waid, whose other works I’ve reviewed in this column before.
But the best-known creator associated with the story is co-writer and artist Alex Ross. This may be his masterpiece.
The world is devolving into chaos as a new generation of superheroes use the Earth as their playground, uncaring of civilian casualties or in providing a good example. Think Paris Hilton with superpowers. They’ve moved into a gap left by Superman, who’s isolated himself after the death of Lois Lane and society’s subsequent sanction of the murder of her killer.
Readers travel along the story with Norman McCay, a pastor who receives Dodd’s powers of future perception, and The Spectre, a supernatural being who is the representation of the Angel of Death. After a horrific accident in America’s heartland kills over a million people, Superman is jolted back to the real world.
The superhumans then form three groups: Superman, mentally vital again and determined to bring order, a villain’s alliance determined to make sure they come out on top in this struggle, and Batman’s army. Bruce Wayne, using an exoskeleton for support, wants to find some middle road that doesn’t put humanity at the whim of those with superpowers.
What Kids Will Like About It:
It’s epic. I don’t know of any other way to describe the story. DC characters because are such perfect mythic archetypes. As much as I admire Marvels, a series about iconic Marvel Comics characters that featured Ross’s art, that is more grounded in the everyday and much more episodic than Kingdom Come.
The fact that the Bible’s Book of Revelations is used extensively throughout only underscores this epic feeling. The struggles feel earth-shaking, as in the Lord of the Rings.
There are many, many battles — which my kids loved. They also enjoyed seeing the new generation of heroes and reading the guy they call “cranky Bruce Wayne” from Batman Beyond. The Wayne in this book isn’t the same but he’s close enough that it didn’t matter to my kids.
What Parents Will Like About It:
If you loved superheroes when younger, this is the story for you. It serves as a counterpoint to the grim and realistic era of superheroes where being a hero seemed to count for very little. The concern about heroes becoming too powerful owes something to Watchmen but the message that heroes, particularly Superman, can inspire hope and change the world is definitely nothing like Watchmen.
For your inner geek, the book also has cameo appearances by nearly every DC hero who’s ever appeared plus all the new heroes that are sons and daughters of the familiar ones. Not to mention the cameos by creators, including Stan Lee.
Dick Grayson’s daughter is present, so is the daughter of Black Canary and Green Arrow, and they’re only two examples of many. The artwork is also filled with all kinds of Easter eggs and little asides that only comic fans will get.
Then there’s the art. I will confess I’m not a big fan of Alex Ross’s painted work. For me, It tends to rob the material of its suspension of disbelief because I find the more superheroes look like real life, the less my suspension of disbelief works to enter their imaginary world. In this story, that’s not a problem. Ross has outdone himself with the details, with the splash pages featuring a huge cast of characters, and with the genuinely frightening images of apocalypse. He also brings the story down to earth with wonderful facial expressions and small wordless moments between people.
It’s so hard to choose, they’re all so full of detail and perfection. I think maybe it’s the one where Clark Kent’s glasses finally show up, near the end. Among all the battles and destruction, it’s the small moments that stand out.
The regular trade edition of Kingdom Come can be purchased for under $15. DC released an Absolute Kingdom Come deluxe edition but it’s pricey and may set you back one hundred dollars or more. Some might consider the extras worth it. It’s completely annotated, has numerous sketches and drawings by Ross, and interviews with Waid and Ross. It would probably warm the hearts of comic geeks the most, if you can afford it.
About the Creators:
Ross’s father was a minister, which may account for the Biblical emphasis in the story. He first made a name in comics with Marvels. He developed his style of painting sequential art while at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Illinois.