Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be talking about the comic Kingdom Come. I’ll be reviewing it as well as analyzing some of the philosophical points brought up in this 4-book mini series.
There are going to be 2 parts. The first part is a review and summary of what happens in the comics and the second part, I will be analyzing and discussing themes and answering questions about the series.
So let’s get started!
Kingdom Come was published in 1996 by DC comics. It was written by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Ross also did the illustrating and I have to say, it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s painted in gouache style, so it’s watercolor-ey and very detailed. Each frame really looks to be a work of art in itself, and it blows my mind how talented Ross is.
This series starts off with a very old and dying Wesley Dodds (whom, we later find out, was the former super hero called The Sandman) . He is talking to a minister named Norman McCay about the old days of heroes and how the new world is doomed. He is also having prophetic visions regarding the gruesome and depressing fate of humankind on this planet. After Dodds’ passing, Norman is then gifted with these visions himself. He is then united with The Spectre, who is a spirit-like entity that takes Norman on this quest to pass judgement on the world. Norman is the narrator and no one else can see him in this “void” but he gets to see this meta-human conflict that is going on from all sides.
The first thing The Spectre shows Norman is a metahuman battle going down with The Parasite, who is scared and pleading for help. He is getting attacked by Captain Atom and their fighting causes a nuclear explosion that kills millions of people in Kansas. This completely eviscerated the crops for a large portion of the country. The villain more or less responsible for this is Magog.
After this, we are taken to a simple farm where we see an old and very alone superman. For the past 10 years, he has “retired” and has been living in isolation as a farmer in the “Fortress of Solitude”. (Also this is what I call my bedroom) The reason for this exile is because of The Joker incident. The Joker gasses up the Daily Planet, killing 93 men and 1 woman- Lois Lane. Despite the loss of his love, Superman wanted to bring the joker in and have him arrested, since he doesn’t believe in killing anyone. However, Magog kills the joker in broad daylight and the people of the world rejoice and decide Magog would make a better protector than Superman. The loss of Lois was heartbreaking, but what really got him down was the fact that the people would rather have a murderous hero instead of one fighting for truth and justice.
10 years later, Wonder Woman tracks him down and convinces him to help the world again and so superman reforms the Justice League. There are a lot of metahumans now, some good, some not so much. A lot of them no longer fight for the preservation of life, more so for their own personal issues. Many (as well as Batman) are claiming that things are different now and Superman’s idealistic tendencies are too old school and do not apply in the modern day and age.
Superman tries to recruit Batman but he holds a grudge against Superman for his “exile”. Batman’s true identity was uncovered and his mansion was destroyed by Bane and Two-Face, causing him to retreat to the Batcave. He still manages to kick ass and even has his own team of heroes called the “Outsiders.” Gotham is basically a police state, which Superman doesn’t agree with. Batman thinks he can help more people by playing along and having a strategic political infrastructure instead of using force.
While old relationships are unfolding, Lex Luthor has organized a villainous group of powerful metahumans called the “Mankind Liberation Front.” (or the MLF for short) Lex luthor, as well as the riddler, catwoman, vandal savage, and other 3rd generation villains want to get rid of the Justice League.
With all of the uncooperative metahumans needing a place to be kept, Superman decides to make a prison. This however, ends up being a bad idea since it instead turns into a hotbox of anger and rebellion. A riot breaks out, releasing all this building tension leading towards certain DOOM!
Batman fake joins the MLF to really find out about their plans. He finds out that their wildcard is Billy Batson (AKA Shazam! Aka Captain Marvel) and he has been brainwashed by Luthor. He is the only one that can really match Superman. Luthor wants to break the inmates free as Batman takes down the MLF but not before Shazam gets away.
There is another party in this whole ordeal: THE HUMANS. The humans of the U.N have come to fear these metahumans and feel like their own destiny is not in their hands anymore. Instead they have to rely on these “gods”. They decide it’s in their best interest to nuke all the metahumans altogether. Since they are all fighting in one place, why not kill ALL the metahumans? They send 3 special meta-nukes to take them down.
Shazam and Superman have a conflict, and Superman is able to convince Shazam to come to his senses, which he does then he blows himself up (while taking out the final bomb that superman wasn’t able to detonate in time.) It kills many of the metahumans on both sides, however there are survivors. Superman doesn’t know about the survivors so he freaks out and almost destroys the U.N.
At this point, the Narrator is able to pop into the real world and convince superman not to kill them. Doing so would only prove their point that metahumans are something to be feared. Superman calms down and talks to the UN and they all decide to work together more politically and use his knowledge to guide instead of lead the world. He puts up Shazam’s cape on a flagpole and they work towards a united world.
And they all lived happily ever after! (sorry this was so long, I seriously tried to cut this short but so much is going on in this series and it’s all pretty important to the story.)
So, with all this out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty in the next section!
Part 2! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
There are a lot of deep issues in this series, so now I am going to address some of the questions left open to interpretation and I’ll try to reflect on what it means in relation to the real human world.
With the Narrator being a minister and many quotes from the book of revelations floating around, it’s hard not to see the tone of impending apocalypse. But It brings forth a lot of questions:
What is a hero? Who gets to decide if what a hero does is right or wrong? Where is the government? “Who is watching the watchmen” as they say? Does the idea of a hero change with the times? Do morals change with the times? Do humans NEED metahumans? Are we so frail that we have to constantly be protected by them? If so, does that make them godlike?
What I think: I think a hero is someone who more or less, tries to preserve life to their fullest extent. By helping other people and putting themselves at risk in any way, someone can be a hero. With this being said, even Norman is a hero. He puts his life at risk when he talks to an enraged superman. He is also one of the few religious characters in any form of media that isn’t portrayed as an extremist or completely dull and closed-minded. He stands by the values of Christianity at the very core. He isn’t the narrator by accident, he is mature and fully developed. He explores the depths of hope, faith, courage, and even doubt. Without him, there would most certainly have been the end of times. So, thank you Norman for that.
SUPERheroes have a lot of responsibility and have to deal with those pesky laws that humans have. They do and should still apply to those with superpowers, to a major extent. The cool and horrible thing about having superpowers is that morals still apply. This is a deep philosophical argument that humans have debated for hundreds of centuries. What is right or wrong is always open to interpretation. But even with the justice league having ultimate power over most of the world, it doesn’t mean that they can or should control it. The government, in an ideal world, should “know what is best” and in the end, utilizes the metahumans to guide them in the right direction. Though everyone knows that the government doesn’t always have our best interests in mind, so that is a whole other can of radioactive worms right there.
What happened with the Joker made superman question the justice system. The humans would rather have a killer than someone who is doing the “right” thing. But what is right and what isn’t? Is preservation of life really essential when that person is a homicidal maniac? It seems to relate to the death sentence debates. For those that have killed hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions, do their lives really matter? Especially if they have no remorse or regrets for the death they have caused. Is superman’s thinking too old school in this situation? I think yes, and no. There is always the threat that they will escape, which they usually seem to do, and honestly it seems like a waste of time to try to keep them imprisoned. However, I (and sometimes superman) are vegetarians, so I can see his view that all life is precious.
Another point this series brings up is traditional hero vs new hero. The new aged people are more brash, violent, willing to kill and strike first, ask questions later. They are usually more selfishly motivated as well. Traditional heroes always seem to work for bettering mankind, and act with a pureness that conjures up superman’s image. There are even oldschool heroes that are adopting the newer way of doing things, such as wonder woman and her willingness to kill those that stand in her way. This change in viewpoint is what made superman abandon his ways. There used to be a definitive line between right and wrong, but that line has all but disappeared.
Another interesting point with this is new school vs old school heroes. Superman’s traditional values are put to the test. He is pushed to his breaking point again and again. His values have been questioned. Superheroes are supposed to inspire humans to be their best, not belittle them or rule over them with an iron fist. This seems to go back to the “live long enough to see yourself become the villain” thing that almost all heroes have to deal with at some point.
Batman and Superman both want to help people, just in vastly different ways. They also fear each other’s way of doing things. Batman fears the totalitarian way of the JL and superman dislikes bruce’s police state. What they both have in common, however, is that they both refuse to take human life. This is what makes a “hero”.
This scenario is dark and all too real. The message of these comics is that there is hope, peace can be made and justice will prevail. Even at the brink of armageddon, life must be preserved and respected. ALL LIFE. even those of the villains. Overall, the darkness of this series is necessary to show how the power of hope in humanity will always be stronger than despair.
On another note, I would definitely be an anti-hero if I had powers. Being a hero seems way too complicated. It seems more fun that way but maybe I’m just a little selfish.
So let me know what you guys think in the comment section below! Do you think the Joker’s death by Magog was justifiable? Or should he have been left in the hands of the justice system? What side would you be on if you had superpowers? What series would you like me to talk about next time?
Thanks for being supportive and reading this whole bit.
Keep your claws sharp and I will catch you next time!