What happens when superheroes stop caring about the protection of human life?
Kingdom Come, an otherworlds story written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Alex Ross, imagines a possible future in which superheroes of old have gone into retirement, while a new crop of metahumans runs rampant across the globe. These new characters show no concern for the human population, and battle one another all across earth, with no regard for how many innocent lives they might take.
The story is told through an elderly pastor names Norman Mccray who, along with The Spectre, must bear witness to the ultimate battle between metahumans, a battle that will determine the fate of all of humanity.
We’re given a glimpse into many of the old heroes’ lives. Batman’s secret identity has been revealed, but he still protects Gotham through a series of robotic sentinals. Wonder Woman, deemed a failure at her task of improving man’s world, has been stripped of her royal title and forbidden to return to Paradise Island. Worst off is Superman, who after losing his parents as well as Lois, has fled into a self-imposed exile, ignoring the catastrophes occurring in the world around him.
Wonder Woman lures him out of hiding after the recklessness of other metahumans has caused the deaths of over a million people in the midwest. Feeling guilty for turning his back on humanity for so long, Superman vows to stop this new generation of super humans.
Superman, ever the optimist, believes this can be done mostly peacefully, and thinks he will be able to subdue the majority of offenders easily enough. Bruce, however, takes a hardened, more realistic view of the matter, questioning if perhaps a war is supposed to happen, so as to bring about an end to super humans.
A clear divide is created, with half the metahuman heroes siding with Superman, and the others siding with Batman. Both are up against the metahumans who side with neither and don’t love being imprisoned by Superman.
It’s a three-way battle that could very well spell the end of humanity.
At this point we’re graced with a sub-plot involving Lex Luthor brainwashing Catptain Marvel to serve as his agent of destruction. It pained me to see Marvel being used this way, and my entire thought process at this point essentially boiled down to: “Luthor you jerk, leave my poor, sweet Billy Batson alone.”
Sadly, Luthor ‘s plot is successful, with Captain Marvel freeing all of Superman’s prisoners, inciting a massive riot. Seeing no other recourse, the U.N. decides to launch not one but three nukes at the battle.
Superman sees the missile coming before anyone, and in a rather poignant scene finally gets through to Billy and tells him that he must ultimately make the decision. Captain Marvel, knowing the life of a human and a god, is the only one who can decide if the metahumans should be destroyed, or allowed to continue fighting.
Marvel sacrifices himself and detonates the bomb above the battle, leaving Superman alone in a field of decimated corpses.
Wanting revenge, Superman attacks the U.N., planning on killing those responsible for his friends’ deaths. Norman Mccray and Spectre reappear once more, with Norman convincing Superman that this is not the way. Discovering that other heroes survived the blast, Superman calms himself, and the remaining heroes agree to put an end to their oppressive treatment of humanity.
A truce is reached, and the remaining metahumans can work beside the humans to help build a better tomorrow.
Overall I enjoyed this story of a possible future for our heroes. The artwork is absolutely beautiful, but then I’ve always been a fan of the painterly style of comic art. It’s a less than ideal scenario for our future, but then it also seems entirely possible.
Each character has adapted and changed to a certain degree, none moreso than Wonder Woman. Once a staunch advocate of peace, Diana has not started to believe that war is a necessity, and that killing is justified given the circumstances. This seems a far cry from the princess of Themysicra that we’re all so familiar with, yet it pinpoints just how drastically the world has changed. If even heroes like Wonder Woman and Superman have lost hope, what chance does the world have?
The only scene I found particularly odd was the epilogue, in which our three main heroes meet. Diana and Clark decide to tell Bruce that they’re expecting a child, a secret the world’s greatest detective has already uncovered for himself. In a twist, Diana asks Bruce to be the godfather, believing that he can offer a grounding “human” influence that Diana and Clark never could. Bruce agrees, and the three happily leave arm in arm to plan the future.
The idea of Diana and Clark ushering in a new age of superheroes with their own child was a sweet touch, but the ending felt a bit too treacly. I suppose it was meant to show that they had all regained their humanity and that there was once again hope for the world, but it just would up seeming a bit too perfect for my liking. After all the chaos and destruction, all the lives lost, it felt out of place.
Nevertheless, the story was well-written, albeit perhaps a bit short. There were so many characters featured that few were given their own moment in the spotlight, and many were hardly alluded to at all. I would have liked to see this as a longer mini-series, with more time allotted to what the superheroes had been up to in these chaotic times, as well as more information on the newer generation of metahumans (shockingly little information is given about any of them.) Overall though, it was an interesting cautionary tale of what might happen when superheroes lose their way.
Their choices, be they good or bad, have such a strong impact on the rest of the world. It is only by humbling themselves and working with the rest of humanity that they can hope to bring about any sort of positive, everlasting change.