Imagine a future where a new generation of super-heroes conduct themselves no better than super-villains. Imagine a future where the line between good and evil is blurred beyond distinction. Imagine a future where the old guard is pushed aside, and chaos reigns supreme. Imagine a future where an aging preacher's prophetic visions can lead to the world's apocalyptic destruction or its ultimate salvation.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross' chef-d'oeuvre moves forward 20 years from the present, into the time where Superman and his colleagues have either turned their backs at the world or operate under the cloak of subterfuge. In their stead, a new generation of super-heroes emerge, more violent and heavy-handed than their predecessors ever were. Wonder Woman coaxes a tragedy-laden Superman out of retirement to lead the restoration of peace and order throughout the world. Slowly, with the help of their now-aged colleagues and protegees, they keep the new batch of super-heroes and super villains in line by literally muscling their way through.
Unfortunately, their totalitarian approach is viewed with much suspicion by both non-powered colleagues and villains. The faction led by Batman insists that the methodology of Superman's Justice League is no different than what he is battling against. Luthor and his cohorts, on the other hand, prepare to counter the Justice League with their most formidable weapon: a Mr. Mind-controlled Captain Marvel.
The great battle meets head-on as Luthor unleashes Captain Marvel on the Gulag, the fort where the Justice League has incarcerated the super-villains. In the escalating melee, the head of the United Nations decides to aim a nuclear warhead to obliterate the meta-humans --- heroes and villains alike --- once and for all. It is only through the valiant self-sacrifice of Captain Marvel that some meta-humans survive the outcome of the great holocaust.
An enraged Superman returns to the United Nations, followed the surviving meta-humans. He is then made to realize the complex situation of masked crusading: that they cannot live in the world and live above and apart from it. In the ensuing epilogue, poignant scenes are depicted on how they fully integrate themselves as members of a kinder and better human/meta-human society.
The Kingdom Come whole saga is complex, rich, and multi-layered in its approach to narration. Waid frames it within the perspective of Norman McCay, an aging minister plagued with prophetic visions of a catastrophic future. He is guided through the story by the Specter, who acts both as a commentator and judge to the unfolding events. But the Biblical allusions do not stop with the avenging angel imagery. The entire narrative is replete with Biblical references, specifically to those of the Book of Revelations. It's hard press to miss the symbolism of Superman as the militant Messiah, the savior who shall bring war in order to make peace.
Equally stupendous is Ross' contribution to the series. His painted artwork gives a stunning feel to the series' visual design. Each panel was of photo-realistic quality; reading through series is akin to viewing a very gorgeous album. It was my first encounter with Alex Ross' work, and I've been a fan ever since.
All in all, the series is certainly a worthwhile read, both as a comic book series and as a literary work of fiction. It most surely will stand the test of time because of the relevant themes and situations presented. Perhaps this what really classic comic story lines are: they still remain pertinent to the reader's experience years after they were written.