I’ve always heard of Alex Ross/Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come in hushed whispers of awe. It’s supposed to be one of the best graphic novels ever. Right? Maybe it’s age or time or context, but I just didn’t like this book at all. It felt slow, heavy-handed, and…like a DC movie, actually. Huge characters, epic look, and kind of senseless. I hate typing all of this out because Alex Ross’ artwork is always amazing to look at it, and Mark Waid has had great runs on many characters over the decades. But, there it is.
Kingdom Come was written in the mid-90s as a response to what many felt was the dumbing down and bro-ing out of comics in the 1990s. Image had just started and had this gauche, dark, thick style of artwork that oozed violence and steroids. Also, so many pouches. Ross and Waid really didn’t like Rob Liefeld art in particular. They also didn’t like the nihilism of the “heroes” in books. They didn’t really stand FOR anything. KC is a response to that nihilism using the DC Trinity and, indeed, the whole DC pantheon of characters. (Young Mark Waid got the writing job because of his encyclopedic knowledge of DC lore).
Superman is looking old and in a sort of self-imposed exile. A catastrophic accident has taken him out of the world for all meaningful purposes. He works a farm and wears overalls. His hair is long. A new breed of young “heroes” has taken over the cities. With no real crime to fight, metahumans just fight other metahumans and cause a lot of damage. (Does this sound like Civil War from a decade later?) Wonder Woman draws Superman out of retirement and they decide that enough is enough. They’re going to crack down on unruly heroes and crime once and for all. They demand compliance, or else. (Does this sound like Injustice from the 2010s?) Batman is suspect of these metahumans and their demands. Sides are chosen, battles happen, and maybe some realizations are made.
In one sense, it’s hard to pick on KC because so many major comic events are kind of the spiritual children of this story. However, I just didn’t like this one. The only thing I did like, besides Batman always being awesome, was a weary preacher character carrying out a Revelation-like role of prophecy throughout the book. It’s kind of a cool idea to tell the story from this semi-involved average Joe POV (and not that different from Ross’ Marvels, which came out a couple years prior).