Kingdom Come (Comic Review)

Written by: Mark Waid and Alex Ross.

Painted by : Alex Ross.

Lettered by: Todd Klein.

There’s an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes, you get it.” That’s essentially what the graphic novel Kingdom Come is about. The story of a world where the heroes of old–Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern–have retired, and a new, less responsible, generation of vigilantes have taken up the mantle, the book basically serves as Alex Ross’s answer to the common fan querie, “If the villains are always going to escape, why don’t the heroes just kill them?” This is why. These new vigilantes are absolutely awful. They cause massive amounts of property damage, kill people at the first sign of trouble, and never bother to check and see if they’re injuring the civilian population. The story actually opens with several of these newer heroes, led by the Golden Avenger Magog, causing a nuclear explosion in Kansas, because they were too careless to recognize their surroundings. This disaster draws Superman out of his self-imposed exile, and he, along with the newly re-formed Justice league, set about trying to put things right again. They arrest the vigilantes who have committed horrible crimes, they recruit the ones who actually have moral fiber, and construct a massive prison in the wasteland that was Kansas, where the bad super beings can hopefully get reformed. But, of course, nothing goes according to plan. Batman refuses to help Superman, and actually sides with Lex Luthor, who’s whole scheme is to exacerbate tensions between humans and super beings, and eventually use the public’s hatred of Superman to take over the world. The book climaxes with a giant battle in front of the prison in Kansas, with Superman and the Justice League on one side, and Batman and all the imprisoned super beings on the other. The UN decides that if this battle between superheroes continues, it will spread, and eventually engulf the world. To avoid that, they shoot a nuclear missile at Kansas, hoping to kill all the belligerents there. In the end, Captain Marvel sacrifices himself, and even though some heroes die, there are enough left to rebuild. Superman and the Justice League then set up formal relations with the UN, he and Wonder Woman have a child together, and the story ends with them asking Batman to be their baby’s godfather.

For the most part, I really enjoyed Kingdom Come. The story highlights a lot of the things I’ve written about regarding Superman; like how his refusal to kill is actually a sign of great strength, and how his unyielding morality and optimism will carry people much further than swift, ruthless justice. On top of this, the artwork is just plain beautiful. All the characters are painted with gouache, which gives the images an almost ethereal air. Looking at the panels, I feel more like I’m staring at a Renaissance painting, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, than a comic book. I also thought it was a very good idea to have the narrator of this whole story be a regular person. Yeah, in case I didn’t mention, this graphic novel is narrated by a non-superhero, and pastor, named Norman McCay. He witnesses the civil war among the superheroes from afar, and then, at the climax, intervenes; convincing Superman not to destroy the UN, even though they launched a nuke at him. Having Norman be the narrator and de facto protagonist was a really smart choice in my mind, because it helps ground the story. You’re dealing with fantastic characters who can fly and pick up buildings here. You need someone normal, with normal problems, like leaky faucets and food stuck between their teeth, to make the scenario seem more plausible. Norman does this, and all while being a very likable character. So, yeah. There’s a lot to admire in Kingdom Come.

There’s also a few things not to like. One is the artwork. Yeah, as much as I praised it earlier, I do have one gripe with it. It’s not a big thing, but, most of the characters have the same angry, constipated expression on their faces the whole time. it just gets annoying to look at after a while. Another thing I don’t quite like is the ending. Yes, it’s hopeful and optimistic, and I usually love that stuff, but it just feels out of place here. Batman basically stabbed Superman and Wonder Woman in the back. He sided with Superman’s greatest enemy. Why would they want him to help raise their child? And that leads me to my biggest problem with the book; Batman. He just comes off as a hypocritical asshole. Like I said earlier, he refuses to help Superman because the latter retired after the death of Lois, and because he believes Clark will become a dictator, blah, blah, blah. This whole scenario is just so played out, and that wouldn’t necessarily bother me, if not for the fact that, within this story, Batman being afraid of Superman becoming a dictator is completely hypocritical. When we’re introduced to Batman in Kingdom Come, we see that he’s turned Gotham into a police state. He has Bat Robots patrolling the streets, taking down anyone he sees as a threat. He’s an actual dictator, actually subjugating people. But no one ever calls him on that. They just sit back, and let him lecture them on how they’re too powerful, and how they need to be reigned in. What about you, Bruce? You’re an actual dictator! There’s nothing theoretical or hypothetical about it. You are actually oppressing people. Don’t you need to be stopped? No? Ugh. And it’s not just this comic, it’s a trend in most stories involving Batman and Superman. Whether it’s Frank Miller writing The Dark Knight Returns, or Bruce Timm writing Justice League Unlimited, creators love to have Superman be the dangerous alien who can’t be trusted, and Batman be the wise, grounded realist who can always be relied on. What they never seem to acknowledge is that, with his virtually unlimited wealth and resources, and his refusal to compromise with anyone who disagrees with him, Batman is just as dangerous, if not more so, than Superman. True, he can’t flatten the globe with his fists, but he can do all the horrible things that the excessively wealthy can do in the real world, and most of them don’t have military grade weaponry at their disposal. Just saying.

But, in the end, I would recommend Kingdom Come to you all. The artwork is glorious, the story is epic, and the manner in which the narrative unfolds is engaging. It’s an 8 out of 10. If you’re a comic reader, buy it. If you’re not a comic reader, I still think you’d enjoy it. So, buy it.

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Gotham

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game!

And it’s official–DC Comics should just stick to television!

What? You think that statement requires an explanation? Well, all right. I’ll do my best to provide you with one.

So, in case you’ve been living under a rock you’re whole life, there are two major comic book companies in the United States, DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Brothers, and Marvel Comics, which is owned by Disney. DC is famous for such characters as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and the most notorious villain of all time, the Joker. Marvel is known for characters like Spider Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Wolverine. The two companies have been rivals, basically since the day they were established, and have sought to out due each other in everything from comic book sales to movie profits. Now, as far as live-action films go, Marvel has been far more financially successful in recent years, with the company’s cinematic universe–consisting of The Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America movies–raking in absurd amounts of dough. DC, by contrast, has been a bit less fortunate. Yes, they’ve had some critical and financial hits–like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and V For Vendetta–but, overall, their track record has been a bit less consistent in terms of greatness. This, of course, is excluding their TV shows.

DC Comics has produced some of the longest-running, most critically-acclaimed TV shows, both animated and live-action, to ever hit the screen. Do the names Smallville, Arrow, Justice League, and Batman: The Animated Series ring any bells? Of course they do! They’re classics! But, that’s not the point. The point is, DC has a more or less perfect track record when it comes to television, and this record has, in my opinion, been upheld by the small screen adaptation of the Batman legend, Gotham.

First airing in 2014, and continuing to run up till this day, Gotham takes the characters and places of the Batman comics, and puts them in a cop show. Since it’s set right after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and doesn’t skip ahead to the time when he’s Batman, no actual superhero-ing occurs in this series. You won’t find any gadgets, explosions, or caped crusaders dealing out justice here. What you will find is a dark, twisted, thoroughly gripping police procedural that positively oozes style and atmosphere. The basic premise is that Detective James Gordon has been assigned to find the man who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, and in so doing, he finds himself getting pulled into a world of corruption, violence and intrigue.

There’s a lot to admire with this series. As I stated earlier, the style and aesthetic of the show are just fantastic. Every set and environment has a specific color scheme. All blacks, grays, and whites. No primary colors here. On top of that, all the buildings you see in the background have a very run-down feel to them, which is appropriate, seeing as Gotham is supposed to be a corrupt, crime-ridden hell hole. And finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the show is very dark, very violent, and very twisted. Those are three things that a Batman story should always be. The creators of the Batman Universe, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, always intended for Batman to be a darker, more mature comic book character. I actually got a chance to meet the late Mr Robinson before his passing, and he told me as much in person. “Gotham is supposed to be a dark, hellish version of New York,” he said. And, well, if you ask me, this series has captured that vision PERFECTLY with regards to its tone, plot and aesthetic.

Now, of course, no series ever created was without its share of flaws, and Gotham certainly has a few. Some of the acting–particularly that of Donal Logue and Jada Pinkett Smith–is hammy and over-the-top. In addition, the plot of the show starts off as fairly straight forward–the Wayne’s get murdered, Gordon has to find out who did it–but then becomes rather convoluted and hard to follow as the series progresses. And, as much as I admire Gotham for maintaining the dark tone and gritty violence of its source material, those things can also serve to alienate some people. But, if you don’t mind that, or are simply a die hard Batman fan, I still think you’ll enjoy the series. In my opinion, its a 7 out of 10. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.