Kingdom Come: a superhero crucible of nostalgia (comic-book retrospective).

Once in a blue Kryptonian moon, a comic series comes along that flips the traditional superhero paradigm on its head, injecting profound depth and moral ambiguity into a genre rife with super-powered punches and quippy one-liners. Cue the seminal Kingdom Come, a comic series by Mark Waid and Alex Ross that was as cerebral as it was visually striking. This was not just a battle of fists and laser beams; it was a battle of ideals, a cross-generational debate about what it truly means to be a superhero. So, in this issue of SFcrowsnest, we don our capes and cowl for an analytical dive into this epochal comic book series.

Kingdom Come, for the uninitiated, serves up a dystopian future where moral absolutism has faded faster than Superman’s underpants over his trousers look. This is a world where the new breed of heroes wouldn’t bat an eyelid before delivering a death blow, and the general populace applauds them. It’s as if Batman’s ‘one rule’ was shoved into a rocket and fired off into deep space. In this climate, the old guard, personified by the Justice League, is compelled to come out of retirement to show these upstarts how superheroing is really done.

This is not a light-hearted romp through a bright metropolis. It’s a grand opera painted in gouache, with a heavy sense of melancholy and nostalgia hanging over it like a grey cloud over Gotham. The line between hero and villain is blurred as our beloved superheroes navigate a world that has outgrown their antiquated code of ethics. It’s like seeing your grandparents struggle to use an iPhone, except the iPhone is public opinion and the grandparents can punch through a wall.

To explain Kingdom Come’s brilliance is akin to explaining why a perfect cup of coffee is so invigorating. It’s not just one thing, it’s the combination of flavors, the balance of bitterness and sweetness, the scent that tickles your senses, and the warmth that makes you feel at home. The plot is a slow-burning powder keg, an explosion of narrative brilliance that challenges your preconceived notions about heroes and their role in society.

The story is compelling, but the presentation is what really makes this series legendary. Alex Ross, with his awe-inspiring, almost photorealistic painting style, breathes life into this world. It’s like someone turned a Norman Rockwell painting into a comic book, then added capes and tights. The result is a piece of art that is beautiful and, at times, deeply unsettling.

In the 27 years since Kingdom Come’s release, it continues to stand tall among its peers. In an industry where every new title tries to be the next Watchmen, Kingdom Come doesn’t strive to imitate anything. It tells a story that is as timeless as its characters, exploring the depths of what it means to be a hero in a world that doesn’t want you anymore. It’s a poignant exploration of hope, legacy, and the enduring power of ideals.

Kingdom Come is a series that shows the truth of what it means to be a hero in all its heartbreaking glory. It’s a mature take on our childhood icons, a tale filled with hard choices and grim outcomes. It’s a journey that every self-respecting fan of superheroes needs to take, not because it’s fun, but because it challenges you, breaks you, and ultimately rebuilds you, much like the heroes it portrays.

So, dear readers of SFcrowsnest, when you next pick up a comic book, remember the complex landscape of Kingdom Come. Let it remind you of the potent power of storytelling, even in a medium often dismissed for its flashy costumes and spectacle. And maybe, just maybe, the next time you see a hero make a tough choice, you’ll think back to Kingdom Come, and understand the true weight of what it means to be a hero.


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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