Kingdom Come – a review

Of Sinning and Repenting

Back in the 1990s I started the decade buying lots of comics from lots of companies. For a while it was great fun collecting. I got all the variation covers and different packages in hopes of getting all the trading cards. I bought all the books with Big Gun toting armored mutants and disproportionally drawn characters. I flowed as Daredevil put on armor and Spidey put on black. I saw Bruce Wayne go on vacation and let a whack job turn Batman into another armored freak.

And around 1995 I quit. I stopped buying comics. I stopped collecting. I sold my collection of over 40,000 issues. The thing that I loved had changed. It had become a tool fueled by sales and only sales as casual readers were sucked into buying as an investment and not because they enjoyed reading the comics. It changed my view of comics and I quit.

Being an addictive personality type person I didn’t quit entirely. There were a few things I kept and a few things I still read.

Kingdom Come was one of the books I bought as it came out in 1996, all four issues. This book had the magic that brought me to comics in the first place.

I have repented my no comics sinning ways and am now firmly back in the fold. Kingdom Come helped me hold on to a spark of that faith in comics.

It’s clear in the re-reading of Kingdom Come that it was written and drawn by men who love comics. In his introduction Elliot S! Maggin says that he believes in heroes. It’s clear that Mark Waid and Alex Ross do too. They obviously also see heroes as fallible and all too human.

In case you are completely unaware of Kingdom Come, it’s a story set in the not so distant future and that future isn’t really a rosy happy place. New heroes have emerged, some are legacies of earlier heroes and some are new. The villains they fight are more violent and more willing to cause severe mayhem. The moral center is gone and they are ruining the planet.

It started with the death of Lois Lane at the hands of the Joker. A character introduced here named Gog steps in and kills Joker for his actions. Things eventually get out of hand and Captain Atom explodes over Kansas effectively destroying Superman’s heart and his home. Kal-el goes into seclusion. Things continue to get out of hand.

The government is trying to get things under control. Super villains are teaming up to claim their ultimate prize. Some Heroes, like Batman and Green Arrow and Black Canary are still fighting the good fight, but from the shadows. Eventually Superman comes back at the urging of Wonder Woman and with some true heroes they try to get things under control. Things eventually spiral out of control and all the scheming and planning comes to a head in an amazing climax causing many deaths.
The epilogue shows that there is still hope. And that’s important, especially at the time this was written in what was a rather dark attitude period for a lot of comics.

The whole story is seen transpiring through the eyes of an old man who has lost faith. Escorted by the Spectre , Norman McCay sees everything happening and while he can’t act, he is a witness to the escalating conflict. It’s through his dialog with the Spectre that we see the consequences and inevitable outcome.

What makes this so powerful is the fact that every character here is amped up to the nth level. Wonder Woman becomes the true warrior born she was trained to be. Asking no quarter and giving none. Bruce Wayne become the true dark knight, using his secret identity only as another throw away cover. Superman finally takes matters into his own hands and decides to step in and make the world a better place. All the other heroes, old and new get the same treatment. A look deep in to who they really could be.

When finishing this book you are left feeling that you’ve just read something epic. And it may well be. Originally set up to be an Elseworlds tale many aspects of this have come to pass and with the latest work at DC we see that these things did indeed transpire on an alternate Earth. The latest story arc in The Justice Society of America is proving to be a truly worthy sequel. And while there was a second chapter to this called The Kingdom, which I did enjoy, it just didn’t have the scope of this original series.

Kingdom Come brought me back to comics. I don’t collect any more. I buy what I like and enjoy and I’m building a library. I no longer have the need to have every issue and don’t agonize over missing an issue here or there. My new view is that comics are meant to be read an enjoyed, not saved and traded like a commodity. I buy books and comics by writers and artists who seem to share this view.

Comics of today seem to be a renaissance, the writing has volumes more substance, the art is incredible. And for the most part the fans seem to be treated with more respect, especially by companies like DC, Dark Horse, Top Cow and the new Image.

If I was to create a short list of ten or fifteen comics everyone should have to read Kingdom Come would be on that list. I read it once a year and will continue to do so. For me this is story telling up there with things like The Godfather movies and Michael Connelly’s best work.

The new edition has a beautiful wrap around cover by Alex Ross and some extras in the back, character sketches and the original covers with a graph of who’s who. And of course the introduction by Elliot S! Maggin is great reading.

This should be on every buy list for comics fans.