Of all the mainstream comics heralded as legendary – Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and so on – I find it interesting that Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come is rarely spotlighted in quite the same way. As a perceptive interpretation of the DC Universe’s future and as a reaction to the ever-burgeoning ranks of the Nineties’ comic book superheroes, it’s a thrilling piece of fiction, essential for anyone even remotely interested in the DC Universe.
Although billed as an Elseworlds title, Kingdom Come was consistent with current DC continuity at the time of its release. The story, depicting a future in which superheroes are swelling by the numbers, causing the world to be more unsafe as they battle across the planet, is a masterstroke of imaginative storytelling. At its core, Kingdom Come is a Superman story – this is a future where Kansas has been destroyed and Superman has essentially retired. As the story unfolds, Superman and the original ‘real’ superheroes, including Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash, return to action in order to prevent the world from getting any further out of control.
It’s as much a dystopian piece of fiction as it is a superhero comic book. Almost every character – even the ancillary cast – are re-imagined in fascinating ways. The Green Lantern has merged with the lantern, for example, while The Flash lives between moments, remaining a guardian blur to Keystone City.
Kingdom Come is expertly paced. The narrative has a sense of foreboding that comes to such a satisfying head, and it’s one of the most entertaining comics I’ve ever experienced. It’s simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic – celebrating the classic superheroes for what they are, but decrying the notion that more new superheroes equals better comic books.
I think it’s easily as worthy of praise as The Dark Knight Returns, V For Vendetta or Watchmen – Alex Ross’s magnificent art is put to its best possible use. Every page of Kingdom Come looks stunning, a validating tribute to the DC Universe and its iconic characters.
Kingdom Come is available from Titan Comics in the UK and DC Comics in the US.