Ricky Church continues his countdown to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with Kingdom Come…
One of the most exciting factors regarding Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice isn’t just the first meeting of Batman and Superman in live action, but their first meeting with Wonder Woman as well. Earlier this week I recommended Trinity, a story about their interactions early on in each of their crime fighting careers. My next recommendation will fast forward several years in Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ fantastic Kingdom Come.
Much like The Dark Knight Returns, Superman has been retired for ten years due to a personal and philosophical loss, even retreating from any form of public life. His absence has led to a more violent breed of heroes, ones who are willing to kill and cause just as much damage and loss of life as the villains they face. After a terrible tragedy involving countless civilian deaths, Wonder Woman convinces Superman to come out of hiding to re-stabilize the world, unknowingly setting off a chain of events that could lead to an apocalypse.
Superman’s return brings the old guard of the Justice League back into the fold, renewing the hope of some. However, his return also signals what many people have long feared: humanity’s destiny is no longer theirs to control, but is in the hands of super-powered beings, many of whom cannot be trusted with their own power. As Superman and Wonder Woman attempt to put rogue metahumans in line, Lex Luthor builds off the paranoia surrounding metahumans, possibly recruiting an elderly Batman to his cause.
The journey each member of DC’s trinity takes examines their humanity and the symbols of hope each represents. As tensions rise within the metahuman community, Superman’s resolve still wavers as he continues to doubt his role as a leader while Wonder Woman becomes increasingly more aggressive. Batman builds his own army of regular heroes like himself as well as legacy heroes to battle Superman and/or Luthor. In one telling scene, Superman reveals why he’s counted on Bruce so much and what he really fights for: beneath that stern persona, when you take away everything that is Batman, what you’re left with is someone who simply doesn’t want to see anyone else die.
Waid excellently tells Kingdom Come as he examines the themes of hope, humanity and faith through the eyes of Norman McCay, a priest plucked from the street to bear witness to these significant events. He perfectly captures each character’s personality and weariness in the face of a new generation of heroes, making them reflect upon what kind of legacy they want to leave behind. Alex Ross’ art is also stunning to behold as he illustrates the characters as life-like as possible, hand painting the artwork himself. The themes reflected in this, as well as Luthor’s manipulations, bear some resemblance to what we know about Batman v Superman so far. Kingdom Come is a landmark book for the graphic novel genre as it tells a mature, heartfelt and beautifully styled story involving many of DC’s greatest heroes.