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Kingdom Come (comic)

From Academic Kids

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KingdomCome.jpg
Promotional art for Kingdom Come. Clockwise from top: The Ray, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Power Girl, Rev. Norman McCay and the Spectre (in background), Green Lantern

Kingdom Come is a comic book miniseries published by DC Comics, written by Mark Waid and painted by Alex Ross. It concerns the efforts of Superman and the Justice League in the near future to control the growing population of new superheroes. Alex Ross painted each page of the comic using watercolors.

The story

The narrator of the story is a minister named Norman McCay, suffering from a crisis of faith, who is approached by the Spectre to observe and pass judgement on the approaching superhero apocalypse. In the near future, Superman has abandoned his never-ending battle for truth and justice, causing many other heroes of his generation to withdraw from the world at large, leaving a power vacuum that is soon filled by a new generation of heroes. These new heroes battle openly, using lethal force against each other without concern for collateral damage.

This comes to a head when the Justice Battalion, led by a golden-helmed cyborg named Magog, attacks the Parasite, who manages to tear Captain Atom open and release the nuclear force within him, obliterating Kansas and parts of the surrounding states.

With coaxing from Wonder Woman, Superman decides to return to Metropolis and reform the Justice League of America. He manages to collect former heroes (including Alan Scott's Green Lantern, the Flash, and Hawkman, among others) and reformed "new heroes" (Brainiac's Daughter, Nightstar), but one man refuses to join Superman's crusade: the Batman.

Lex Luthor and his Mankind Liberation Front (a group of Silver Age villains) work to wrest control of the world away from the new heroes, and he claims to have an ace in the hole, a man the Spectre calls "the captain of the lightning and the thunder."

With the Justice League gaining more captives than converts, they have to hold them somewhere, and end up building a penal colony called the Gulag in the Kansas wastelands, filling it to capacity faster than they built it. With hostile villains like 666, Kabuki Kommando, and Von Bach locked up together, the pressure builds.

The MLF ally with Batman and his cadre of heroes (Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and a group of second- and third-generation superheroes), and Norman McCay's apocalyptic visions continue to increase in intensity. When the Gulag's inmates start rioting, Batman and Luthor's forces clash, and Luthor's ace, a severely brain-scrambled Captain Marvel, speaks his word of power to carry out the mission Luthor had for him: bust open the Gulag and unleash the prisoners.

When the Gulag breaks open, the Justice League clashes with the bloodthirsty inmates, while Superman and Captain Marvel battle (Marvel wounding him by saying his magic word--"Shazam!"--and dodging the magic lightning bolt), and the Spectre and Norman watch, helpless (or unwilling) to do anything.

As the conditions worsen, the United Nations Secretary General Wyrmwood authorizes the deployment of three tactical nuclear warheads, hardened against metahuman powers, to save the world from their uncontrollable powers.

Batman and Wonder Woman clash in the middle of the warzone, taking to the skies, where they see the incoming nukes. They manage to stop two of them, but the third slips past and drops from its carrier. Superman is being beaten by Marvel, who is saying his word of power, the name of the wizard Shazam. This summons lightning from the skies but he avoids it with the speed of Mercury so the lightning strikes the magic-vulnerable Superman instead. However, as Marvel says the name again, Superman grabs him and the lighting finds its mark; Marvel turns back into Billy Batson. Superman tells Batson that he is going to stop the nuke, and Batson must make an important choice: either stop Superman and allow the nuke to kill all the metahumans, or let Superman stop the bomb and allow the metahumans' war to engulf the world. Superman releases him and flies off to stop the incoming bomb. Batson, his mind now clear, says the name, turns into Marvel, flies past Superman, and takes hold of the bomb. Marvel says "Shazam!" three more times, and the lightning sets the nuke off.

Most of the metahumans are obliterated in the explosion, but because Captain Marvel detonated it far above the ground (which was his exact intent), a few survive beneath Jade's green energy field, and Superman is virtually untouched. Enraged, he flies to the UN Building and started bringing it down. The surviving metahumans arrive, but Norman McCay is the one who talks him down. Superman produces Captain Marvel's cape and tells the UN representatives that they will use his wisdom to guide, rather than lead, humankind.

Later, Waid and Ross developed a epilogue for the trade paperback collection of the series. The epilogue features Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman (in their secret identities) eating at Planet Krypton, a theme restaurant based on super heroes. It is revealed that Superman and Wonder Woman are expecting a child, with Batman accepting the role of godfather and mentor of the child.

Behind the story

Kingdom Come is interpreted by many as a clash between the Silver Age of comics and the "modern age," (1994), highlighted by the Image Comics revolution in two-dimensional stereotypical anti-heroes, laden with excess muscle and guns, committing graphic violence for its own sake. The League's replacements, the Justice Battalion, is comprised mostly of superheroes from Charlton Comics, several of which -- Captain Atom, Peacemaker and Nightshade -- were the basis for Alan Moore's Watchmen, the story many find to be a major influence for the "modern age" style of storytelling.

The iconic leader of KC's "new heroes," Magog, is an amalgamation of the Biblical Golden Calf and Marvel Comics's Cable, considered to be the prototype of the Image style. Superman is a Christ-like figure, depicted as a carpenter, walking on water (in Batman's flooded Batcave), and when he returns, a reporter refers to it as "the Second Coming of Superman". The Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic imagery heavily influence the story.

The artist, Alex Ross, took the opportunity to insert many visual references in the story: Norman McCay is based on his own father, and the bar/nightclub features many "washed-up" Silver Age figures and a stage performance by the Beatles, among countless other features. Ross also threw in a couple of references to the cartoon series Super Friends: the United Nations' new headquarters resembles the Justice League's Hall of Justice, while the superhuman gulag is styled as the Legion of Doom's Darth Vader-helmet shaped dome. Marvin, a supporting character created for the early seasons of that series, also appears in a couple of panels -- one in his familiar appearance, and another in his current, older appearance, apparently emulating Lobo's clothing and drinking habits.

A novelization of the comic book was written by Elliot S! Maggin and published in 1999.

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