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Title: Kingdom Come
Author: Mark Wade
Artist: Alex Ross
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
In this Elseworlds story, Superman and the Justice League abandon their roles as superheroes after the rise and strong public support of a superhero named Magog, who has no qualms about killing—notably the Joker, on his way to trial for the mass murder of the Daily Planet staff, including Lois Lane. In the ensuing years, a newer generation of superpowered metahumans arise; they engage each other in destructive battles with little distinction between “heroes” and “villains.” The narrator, a minister named Norman McCay, receives apocalyptic visions of the future from a dying Wesley Dodds. The Spectre appears to McCay and recruits him to help pass judgment on the approaching superhuman apocalypse.
An attack on the Parasite, led by Magog, goes awry when Parasite tears open Captain Atom. As a result, much of the American Midwest is irradiated, killing millions and destroying a large portion of the United States’s food production. Coaxed back into action by Wonder Woman, Superman returns to Metropolis and re-forms the Justice League.
He recruits new heroes along with older ones. The most prominent exception is the Batman, who resents Superman for leaving the world 10 years ago. Batman warns Superman that his idealist notions are outdated and his interference will only exacerbate the world’s problems, insisting that strategy is required, not force. In response to Superman’s Justice League, Batman activates his network of agents called the “Outsiders”, made up largely of the younger second and third-generation heroes, while trusted veterans, such as Green Arrow and Blue Beetle, are chosen as lieutenants. Lex Luthor has organized the “Mankind Liberation Front”. The MLF is secretly a group of Golden Age villains, including Catwoman, the Riddler, and Vandal Savage, as well as third-generation villains like Ra’s al Ghul’s successor, Ibn al Xu’ffasch, who is Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul’s son. The MLF works to take control of the world from the heroes.
Superman’s Justice League gathers more captives than converts, and his prison (nicknamed “the Gulag”) is filled to capacity almost as soon as it is built. Superman works to persuade the inmates that their methods are wrong-headed and dangerous, but his entreaties fall upon deaf ears. With hostile heroes and villains locked up together, pressure builds. Meanwhile, Superman learns that Wonder Woman’s ardent militant stance may be influenced by her recent exile from Paradise Island: in the eyes of the Amazons, her mission to bring peace to the outside world has failed, and she has thus been stripped of her royalty. Batman and his Outsiders seem to enter into an alliance with the MLF as a united front against the Justice League. Luthor plans to exacerbate the conflict between the League and the inmates of the Gulag; the ensuing chaos will afford Luthor an opportunity to seize power. Batman uses the Martian Manhunter to discover that an adult Billy Batson is under Luthor’s control. Batson, as Captain Marvel, is the only metahuman capable of matching Superman’s power. When the Gulag’s inmates riot and kill Captain Comet, Luthor unwittingly reveals to Batman he intends to use the brainwashed Batson to break open the Gulag. Batman’s forces ambush Luthor and his conspirators, but they are unable to restrain Batson, who transforms into Marvel and flies off. While Wonder Woman leads the Justice League to the superhuman prison riot, Superman confronts Batman. Batman tries to justify inaction, saying the world would be better off if all the metahumans destroyed each other. Superman points out that if all human life is sacred, then logically that includes superhuman life. Superman knows that Batman will act, because his entire crimefighting life is based upon the desire to prevent the loss of human life.
Moved by Superman’s sentiments, Batman tells Superman that Captain Marvel is under Luthor’s control and is on the way to the Gulag. Superman races to the Gulag, but upon arrival is struck down by Captain Marvel. The Gulag is breached, freeing the population, and inciting war between Wonder Woman’s Justice League and the metahuman prisoners. The Spectre and Norman look on as Wonder Woman’s League engages with the prisoners and Superman is kept at bay by Captain Marvel. Batman’s army arrives on site as an intervening third party. Batman is unable to stop Wonder Woman from killing the supervillain Von Bach, which increases the fury of the riot.
As conditions worsen, United Nations Secretary General Wyrmwood authorizes the deployment of three tactical nuclear warheads, hardened against metahuman powers. In the middle of their fight, Batman and Wonder Woman see the incoming stealth bombers piloted by the Blackhawk Squadron. They break off fighting and manage to stop two bombs, but miss the third. Captain Marvel uses his magic lightning bolt as a weapon against Superman. Superman manages to grab Marvel and allow the bolt to transform him into Billy. Holding Batson’s mouth shut, Superman tells him he is going to stop the remaining bomb, and Batson must make a choice: either stop Superman and allow the warhead to kill all the metahumans, or let Superman stop the bomb and allow the metahumans’ war to engulf the world. Superman tells Batson he must be the one to make this decision, as he is the only one who lives in both worlds: a man (as Batson) and a god (as Marvel). Batson, his mind now clear of Luthor’s influence, turns back into Captain Marvel. He flings Superman to the ground and flies after the missile. Marvel intercepts the missile and shouts “Shazam!” three times in rapid succession, detonating the bomb prematurely, and killing Batson in the process.
Despite Marvel’s sacrifice, most of the metahumans are obliterated in the explosion. Superman is unharmed, but does not realize that there are any other survivors. Enraged at the tremendous loss of life, Superman flies to the U.N. Building and threatens to bring it down atop the delegates as punishment for the massacre. The surviving metahumans arrive, but McCay is the one who talks him down, pointing out how his appearance and behavior are exactly the sort of reasons that normal humans fear the superpowered. Superman immediately ceases his rampage. He is handed Captain Marvel’s cape, and tells the U.N. that he will use his wisdom to guide, rather than lead, humankind. Superman ties Captain Marvel’s cape to a flagpole and raises it among the flags of the member nations of the U.N., suggesting that this role of guidance will be more political and global in nature than the classic crime-busting vigilantism of the past. In the epilogue, the heroes strive to become fully integrated members of the communities. Wonder Woman’s exile from Paradise Island ends, and she becomes an ambassador for super-humanity, taking the survivors of the Gulag to Paradise Island for rehabilitation. Batman abandons his crusade and becomes a healer, rebuilding his mansion as a hospital to care for those wounded by the destruction of the Gulag. He reconciles with both Dick Grayson/Red Robin and his son, Ibn al Xu’ffasch. Superman begins the task of restoring the Midwestern farmlands devastated in Magog’s attempt to capture the Parasite. He comes to terms with his past as Clark Kent by accepting a pair of glasses from Wonder Woman, and shares a kiss with her before she returns to Paradise Island. Norman McCay resumes pastorship of his congregation, preaching a message of hope for humanity. Among the congregation is Jim Corrigan, the Spectre’s human host.
Where do I start? I liked the idea and the presentation.
But the damnably perverted and shallow philosophy absolutely killed this for me. I knew this wasn’t going to go well right from the introduction by Elliot Maggin when he starts talking about us all being modern gods and how he takes inspiration from Gandhi saying he would be a Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian or Buddhist, the idea being that he would do anything to advance his generic ideals even to the profanation of the very religions he’s claiming to want to represent.
Then we get the main narrator, a Christian pastor. Unfortunately, this “pastor” is of the God is just a name and simply represents a higher power to help us become better” variety. He’s not a Christian, he’s a Unitarian. Not once was the name of Christ mentioned. Even during the many, many, MANY out of context quotes from the book of Revelation (which by the way is the Revelation of Jesus Christ) God as a Force was what was shoved down the readers’ throats. I am finding that the older I get, the less patience I have for misrepresentations of Christianity. I’m not talking about differences of opinion of a hard to interpret Scripture, but blatant misuses of Scripture to forward a storyline while claiming TO represent Christianity. Sadly, most of these misrepresentations come from real life people doing the misrepresentation. Can anyone say Jim Bakker or Joel Osteen?
Next, you have Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman. All are portrayed as having been broken by the events of a new world. One thing that really stuck out was the various stances shown on superheroes taking lives. Superman and Batman are known for their stance on not taking lives. It is one of the defining characteristics of who they are. The authors here use that and the new heroes willingness to take lives at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, killing, for any reason, even by the lawful authorities is show as something evil. One of the villains, Magog, killed the Joker in the past and that is portrayed on the same level as him killing Captain Atom and pretty much nuking the American midwest and killing MILLIONS of people. Things are just not that simplistic and I HATE when something serious is portrayed so unreasonably. This got into Message Territory instead of good story telling.
Then the ending. Everyone pretty much just agrees to get along. Pollyana much? I mean, the whole freaking story wouldn’t have happened if the characters had acted in the beginning like they did at the end. But there was no real mechanism to propel their changes.
Everything, from beginning to end, got my goat. This was an Elseworlds story that could have been great, could have been fantastic but completely failed in its execution and was completely bogged down by Message Politics.
You know what is really funny though? I read a review of this on another site where the person went off the rails because they were convinced this was all right wing politics, because it featured a “Christian” main character, had Superman, Batman and Wonderwomen as the good guys. They also claimed it was pro-gun, pro-life and pro-death sentence. Oh, oh, they also stated that from this they figured Wade was a Republican and thus this was a complete piece of garbage. Isn’t that awesome? I have no idea how they came to the conclusions they did but it made me do a little happy dance inside. Call me sick, but seeing someone else being miserable just made my day.
Just so you can get an alternate take, ie, a more positive one, feel free to visit’s Lashaan Review.