Collects: Kingdom Come #1-4
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Alex Ross
By Doran Murphy
A predominant question in any form of writing that involves a hero is how far should a hero go to defend the people he protects? Does he merely subdue his opponents, or does he kill them? Will the hero accept minimal collateral damage for the good of the many? Furthermore, does a hero (or superhero) protect the people he wishes to protect as a shield, or does he work with them? Because if a superhero acts as a shield, then mankind is no longer in control of its own destiny. These are the fundamental questions evoked by Mark Waid's Kingdom Come.
The story begins with the passing of the Golden Age Sandman, whose only friends are Pastor Norman McCay, and his wife. We quickly learn that Superman has abandoned Earth, and retreated to the Fortress of Solitude, where he has lived the life of a farmer for the past decade. Without Superman to guide them, the Justice League fractured and all but disbanded, and a younger, more violent crop of superheroes have emerged.
There are several factions: the newly-reformed Justice League (with a largely expanded membership); the Mankind Liberation Front, comprised of several prominent humans and led by Lex Luthor; the United Nations; Batman's flock; and of course, Norman McCay and the Spectre.
All of these factions seek different goals through different means, and, of course, they conflict with the others. The Justice League seeks to gain more meta-humans (superhumans) to join their ranks. The Mankind Liberation Front wants to eliminate all of the superhumans. The United Nations seeks to control its own destiny. Batman's group fights to straighten out the world, not make it cower before them as the Justice League has done. And Norman McCay and the Spectre are there to observe the events that may end in the complete and utter annihilation humans or superhumans — or both.
Of course there's a brawl (this is a superhero comic, after all), and the majority of the DC universe turns out — even the B- and C-level characters show up for good measure. (Those that don't have their absences conveniently explained.) However, the problem here is that there are too many smalltime characters going through the revolving door, and this can become rather confusing for those who aren't really up to snuff on the DC Universe.
And Alex Ross' artwork makes its presence felt. More often than not his paintings resemble photographs but this has two effects. For one, it makes some characters, such as Superman and Wonder Woman larger than life — amazing to say the least, and it isn't farfetched to call them godlike. On the other hand, some characters, such as Green Lantern and the Flash, tend to look ridiculous — unbelievable even, especially when compared to the previous two examples.
Kingdom Come is an enthralling book that seamlessly melds biblical imagery (and ideology) and modern day fiction in a way not seen before — or since. And in a story with so many superpowered beings (Captain Marvel and Superman), gods (Orion and Wonder Woman), and angels (Spectre), it is Norman McCay — the human — who serves the most important role and decides the fate of the world. His presence promotes the idea that one man can make a difference — if he is motivated to do so.