DC has picked up quite a reputation over the past few years for their films’ darker portrayal of the superhero genre. However, this gritty façade didn’t just appear out of the ether. DC’s history actually has a long lexicon of dark stories. The need to challenge and dissect the comic book industry’s long-established cultural norms has been a trend in the wake of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and has been a tradition seen in DC in such stories like The Dark Knight Returns, Identity Crises, and, of course, Mark Waid’s and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come. Kingdom Come has come to be known as one of DC’s darkest stories as well as one of the company’s most critically acclaimed comics. It’s definitely one of the heavier series in mainstream comics; and for anyone thinking of jumping into the abyss, here are ten things to know about Kingdom Come’s world.
10 Told From The Perspective Of The Spectre
Not enough comic book writers implement narrative frames in their stories; but when Mark Waid and Alex Ross decide to do so, it certainly sets the tone for Kingdom Come. As a great disaster draws nearer for DC’s heroes among constant conflict and political tensions, the Spectre sees fit to cast judgment on whoever is responsible for ruining everything. You know, instead of actually doing something himself. However, DC’s personification of vengeance and punishment finds himself unable to make a reliable and unbiased decision, so he decides to get the second opinion of someone who could, Norman McCay, a priest so disillusioned with the world that he can’t even finish his sermons. The story from here is seen from these two, as they examine the roles of different characters and the consequences of their actions.
9 It’s About Fears And Responsibilities
Kingdom Come is a DC Elseworld series that tells of a bleak future for the Justice League, where heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman have become old and disillusioned and a new crop of grittier, more violent superheroes have come onto the scene. The bigger narrative surrounding Kingdom Come centers on the old and current generations failing to properly prepare and educate for the future, leaving the next generation with all of the privileges of their powers and organization but none of the heart and responsibilities of the past. As such, the Justice League’s successors are arrogant and irresponsible, choosing to taking the more lateral, bloodier path when handling crimes, subsequently creating fear and distrust amongt regular citizens. It’s both a slight commentary on comic’s and the media’s shift to grittier content, as well as a call to action for the people of today to take responsibility for the future.
8 The Justice Battalion, Led By Magog, “The New Man of Tomorrow.”
Acting as the foil to the more traditional Superman and his Justice League is the Extreme Ghostbusters rebranding that is Magog and his Justice Battalion. He and his group have been the world’s mainstay for heroes for the past ten years in Kingdom Come’s continuity, and they have wreaked havoc on the world ever since, using their powers and excessive force to get the job done. Such controversial actions on their part have included killing the Joker and brutally beating the Parasite. While just in their view, the Justice Battalion’s methods are in stark contrast to the Justice League’s moral philosophies.
As much as killing and excessive non-lethal force can be big no-no’s for Superman, the more personal consequence of the Justice Battalion’s actions and the pivotal point in Kingdom Come’s history is the Kansas incident. As discussed earlier, the Justice Battalion was pretty violent when handling the Parasite. So much so that in retaliation/self-defense, Parasite would send out an energy attack that would split Captain Atom, DC’s walking, talking nuclear warhead. Once Captain Atom splits, he creates a massive explosion that wipes out all of Kansas, leaving only a couple of superpowered survivors like Magog. Besides his literal hometown, other casualties include Superman’s parents and his wife Lois Lane. The consequences of Kansas loom over the entirety of the story and directly impact the decisions and character of this world’s fearful Superman.
6 Superman Creates A Super Jail
Superman eventually decides to don the old cape and give the new generation a good talking to. In their bid to fix everything, Superman and Wonder Woman round up a few of their old super friends and decide to handle the Justice Battalion using the language that the Battalion knows best: force.
Not only do they take over the young heroes, but Superman also decides to imprison villains and any detractors to his new campaign within a giant prison, a facility that’s meant to embody a non-lethal yet slightly more totalitarian response to the Justice Battalion’s killing.
5 Another Superman-Wonder Woman Ship.
As much as the New 52 has made people despise the ship and the Justice League animated series creating a large fandom for Batman x Wonder Woman, there are quite a few DC continuities where Clark Kent and Princess Diana actually end up together. Kingdom Come is one such world that includes plenty of screen time on Superman and Wonder Woman together. After the loss of Lois Lane and extended alone time together in their campaign to improve the world, Superman and Wonder Woman begin a budding relationship that eventually results in Wonder Woman becoming pregnant, their child becoming a new metaphor for their world’s unknown future.
4 Gotham Becomes A Police State
In a world full of rebellious, out of control superheroes, what has become of powerless and now old and decrepit Batman? Well, in so many words, he’s actually doing fine. While the world has become unstable, Gotham City is one of the only ones that has actually maintained control and is relatively safe compared to the unstable turmoil of the outside. This is because Batman took a page out of Age of Ultron and 1984 and built an army of giant robots to monitor, protect, and police Gotham City. In this future, the Hammers of Justice are replaced with the Jackhammers of Totalitarianism.
3 Batman Sides With The Villains.
Despite ruling over Gotham with an Orwellian eye, Batman is still looking out for justice and peace through rightful means. As such, it should come to no one’s surprise that the Caped Crusader doesn’t see eye to eye with Superman imprisoning people. In Batman’s own words, Superman has created a “gulag.”
Wanting to side with a regiment that could look out for more mortal/non-metahuman interests, Batman actually partners with Lex Luthor’s new Mankind Liberation Front, an association comprised of old enemies of the Justice League who have created ventures to oppose the rise of metahuman forces. While this group is filled with ill intent and methods, Batman still decides to enlist their help, alongside a few other of his old friends, to oppose Superman’s new campaign.
2 The Government Has Nuclear Missiles Especially For Superheroes.
With superpowered gods fighting in one faction and rich, influential vigilantes and villains fighting in another, where exactly does that leave the law-abiding, average Joe? Well, they’re pretty much cowering in the middle. But, at the very least, they’re left with a gun. As tensions rise in the ensuing conflict between superheroes, villains, and the Mankind Liberation Front, it’s revealed that the government has been stockpiling a contingency plan. They’ve designed nuclear warheads specifically made to deter metahumans in case of the event that regular citizens would otherwise be left defenseless during their conflict.
1 There’s A Restaurant Called “Planet Krypton.”
Kingdom Come is not just a wide commentary on the shifting tones of its generation’s media. It also has a few jabs at commercialism. In a spoof of Planet Hollywood and its exploitation and dilution of film, Waid and Ross created Planet Krypton, a superhero-themed family restaurant full of cheap masks and wall-to-wall merchandising. It’s probably worse than Planet Hollywood too, as this novelty show has its waitstaff in skin-tight suits. In a world filled with deep political, religious, and philosophical commentary, it’s fun to know that there’s at least a laugh thrown in.