I bought the novelisation ‘Kingdom Come’ by Elliott S. Maggin based on the graphic novel by writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross’ back in 2004 and its been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. Reviewing books does that and I’m slowly working through my own backlog bought books from time to time.
I read the ‘Kingdom Come’ graphic novel and the primary reason I pulled the Maggin novel was because Alex Ross had done some black and white chapter introductions and four paintings for it and the cover. I haven’t read the GN in some time neither so it does allow myself to be reminded of the story again.
Aging priest Norman McCay is chosen by the Spectre to observe the reaction of the old heroes when some of the new ‘heroes’ devastate Kansas, as in wiping it out. Hardly an heroic action. They continue to do bad things irrespective of the damage and death to normal human beings. It is the old guard that have to sort things out led by Wonder Woman, Superman and the Alan Scott Green Lantern, strongly suggesting that this is Earth-2, although in the GNs, this is thought to be an ‘Elseworlds’ alternative reality.
I’m being careful what I say here because so much is spoiler. Oddly, the ending where Superman and Wonder Woman get together has had repercussions in other 52 realities. In some respects, you do have to wonder why the old guard retired, considering what they did here. Superman was the only one who had reason to retire, even if it does illustrate (sic) that he does have an emotional weakness.
It would be impossible to read this book without drawing some comparison to the graphic novel. You do get a lot more about the origins of the various characters and the various events that happened before the Kansas devastation. The real problem is doing super-hero battles. In that respect, a picture saves a thousand words but can also simultaneously show the action.
Maggin focuses on what is important in the action, reporting the rest but is quite effective, more so when Superman faces Billy Batson/Captain Marvel and comes off second-best against a ‘magic’ based being simply because that’s another weakness he had. You would have to ask why Black Adam never took this option against other super-heroes who have a similar weakness with magical ability.
Although, given the choice, I would always go for the graphic novel version, the novelisation version does actually work. Maggin had previous written two super-hero novels as well as comicbooks in general so knew what he was about. If you like Alex Ross’ paintings then you would certainly need to add this book to your collection.
Availability of ‘Kingdom Come’ might be a problem as there is a limit to how many copies of the hardback are currently out there and its 1998 age, let alone the price. If all else fails and you’re after the Alex Ross art, then there’s always the original graphic novel.
(pub: Warner Books, 1998. 339 page illustrated hardback. Price: I pulled a copy back in 2004 for £15.00 (UK). Today, the cheapest is about £20.00 (U). ISBN: 0-446-52234-1)