Mark Waid is one of the most talented writers working today. From Irredeemable to Incorruptible to Empire, Waid’s creator owned series are all masterpieces. Although I’ve never been a fan of the Flash, many people praise his eight year run on that book. He is a prolific author who has worked for Marvel, DC, smaller companies like Boom!, and even his own ill-fated Gorilla comics.
Kingdom Come is a four issue series that came out in 1996 depicting a dystopian future where the children and grandchildren of the original metahumans have grown up and become grittier versions of their parents. It’s hard not to see the book as a backlash against gritty comics with their amoral protagonists and reckless disregard for bystanders. The book seems to be almost a companion piece to Watchmen by questioning superheroes’ proper role in society, exploring how they are an authority unto themselves, and asking if they ultimately help or hinder mankind’s development by acting as our parent figures.
At the open of Kingdom Come, Superman has been in self-imposed exile for 10 years. A new breed of superhero has been embraced by society and Supes wants no part of it. He is only dragged back out of exile by a disaster of epic proportions. Gathering a team of O.G. superheroes, he brings the new generation to heel by persuasion when possible and force when necessary. The new generations, previously only warring amongst themselves for prestige, now have a common enemy in The Man of Steel and a potential war begins to brew.
The book has a solid story and doesn’t read as a simple Good vs. Evil tale. While the new generation is clearly petty and dangerous, the O.G. superheroes take several morally ambiguous steps to stop the chaos. While the implication is that without Superman good and evil have become relative, Superman shows that even he doesn’t have all the answers. It’s hard to imagine a book like this being written pre-2001, the themes of the book being prescient rather than derivative. The art is nothing short of epic.
On the other hand, the new generation is glossed over as a mob without a face. The one Gen X’er that has a name and a backstory turns out to be nothing more than exposition for Superman. It is clear that the enemy here is the conflict and disorder, not the new generation so saying the book doesn’t have a clear enemy is not fair but it also seems like a missed opportunity. Although often referred to as the children and grandchildren of the heroes we all know and love, there is no reference to any character having a familial relation to any other. Another lost opportunity to really convey the emotional punch of father hunting down son. The narration, although important to the book as written, could probably have been cut to allow us to investigate these other subplots more fully.
These criticisms of what-could-have-been aside, this is an excellent read that stands up to the best of what Waid has put out thus far. Those with a closer history with DC will probably find it even more enjoyable than I have, although only a cursory knowledge of the universe is necessary to follow the story. Kingdom Come is a must read for Waid fans, DC fans and comic fans alike.
By From the Booth‘s own Ken