Monday, March 31, 2014

Review # 105: "Kingdom Come"

There is no better artist than Alex Ross when it comes to depicting larger-than-life superheroes and supervillains as interpreted by the normal human. A few people may criticize his style of painting over photo-referencing, but he clearly gets the job done. Two of my favourite drawings of all time come from Ross' work on "Marvels" where he shows Giant Man towering over photographer Phil Sheldon, then later as Phil looks up to witness the arrival of Galactus on earth. That shot of Galactus is scary as hell based on sheer magnitude. Definitive Fantastic Four artists Jack Kirby and John Byrne were taken to school by that page.

So it should come as so surprise that Ross was able to do the same with the DC universe. Trading out author Kurt Busiek for the also incredible Mark Waid, their mid-90s work "Kingdom Come" is ranked among the greatest comic stories of all time, earning mention in the same breath as the likes of "Watchmen." "Kingdom Come" draws some inspiration from that comic along from the likes of the aforementioned "Marvels" and "The Dark Knight Returns." And if you can combine those successfully, you have brilliance on your hands.

Set in a future time, "Kingdom Come" has a scenario that is almost opposite of "TDKR" and "Watchmen." Instead of a near-complete disappearance of heroes, they are in abundance. However, the (not literal) offspring of the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern are out of control. With no crime left to fight, they fight each other not caring whatsoever about the innocent people in their way. Humanity, it seems, is no longer in control of its own destiny. Instead, their lives are in the hands of a bunch of overpowered brats who couldn't care either way.

The levee breaks when a careless act kills millions in Kansas, poisoning a large chunk of North America's food supply in the process. Disgusted with what his successors have been up to, Superman decides to come out of retirement and teach the new heroes "respect." Things do not go as well as he'd hoped, putting him at odds with Batman and Wonder Woman in a rapidly-approaching seeming Armageddon.

All this is witnessed through the eyes of a minister named Norman McCay, spirited from place to place by the ghostly Spectre. While his addition is a bit forced in my opinion, it aides Ross in his ability to create big moments with his art. Superman becomes more valiant while others become much more frightening. Tension mounts leading to a knock-down, drag-out battle. One of the best ever.

This book offers so much to comic fans. Deep character analysis on major heroes, including angles that hadn't really been touched before. Team-ups you wouldn't expect. The ever-popular "Batman has a plan" motif. It's an excellent examination of the superhero mythos and a must-read collection.

Rating: 10/10

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