As we descend into the rich mythology of comic books, some stories stand out in the vastness of the genre. One such narrative is Kingdom Come—an opus beyond mere escapism, into the realms of deep introspection on what it really means to be a superhero.
In the near future, the moral imperatives of justice have been compromised, and Superman, the paragon of virtue, is forced out of his self-imposed exile. Written by Mark Waid and painted by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come doesn’t hold back—it bombards you with a cacophony of characters, each more intricately detailed than the last. The narrative’s ecosystem is a marvel, as old heroes and new face off in a struggle where it’s not just powers clashing, but ideologies.
The world-building here is not just vast, it’s dense. Each symbol, image, and side-character carries meaning. It’s a comic that doesn’t just tell but shows. Shows the passage of time on a worn Batman, shows the familial relation of Wonder Woman, and shows the intensity of Superman’s convictions. It’s storytelling at its visual and narrative peak. The near-photographic illustrations by the legendary Alex Ross make the DC Universe seem palpable. His painted style is magical realism on paper; it’s as if every frame could be frozen and placed on a gallery wall.
Alex Ross’s art is more than photorealistic—it’s an epitome of comics as a visual medium. Each character is treated with the reverence of a masterpiece; their worn-down capes and battlefield scars are badges of honor in this tale of age and wisdom versus youth and fervor. Some may find the extreme detail overwhelming, but in Kingdom Come, every line is a story. A story of sacrifice, a story of conflict, and a story of the passage of time.
Ross’s intricate panels don’t just illustrate the story—they overwhelm the reader with sensory input. It’s a bombardment of ‘wow’ moments that elevate the tale to mythic proportions. And the collected edition screams ‘epic’ from the bookshelf. It’s a comics not just to be read, but to be experienced.
Kingdom Come isn’t satisfied with the surface; it delves headfirst into the murky depths of heroism. The story isn’t about the battles—it’s about the consequence, it’s about responsibility, about fathers and sons, and about what it means to be a symbol in this chaotic world. It’s a deconstruction of the superhero narrative, exploring the cracks in these idols and questioning the very nature of ‘hero’.
Any comic that wins an Eisner (Best Production Design) is bound to make waves, but Kingdom Come did more than that—it affected the tide. It wasn’t just another reason why Superman is so important in the pantheon of comics; it was a thesis on why the very idea of ‘super’ is so enduring. It affected the way we look at shared universes, at consequences, and at deconstructions.
The tale continues to ripple through the comic book industry, with its tones echoed in works like Injustice. It inspired a generation of writers and artists to look at comics not just as a medium for fantastical tales, but for intricate, hard-hitting morality plays
The legacy of Kingdom Come is clear—it’s an enduring testament to the power of sequential storytelling, of visual art, and to the form of comics itself. It’s a timeless masterpiece not just because of its content, but because of its ability to transport the reader to a world that feels alive and relevant, no matter the age. It’s a powerhouse of narrative about that most human of struggles: the fight to do good, and the understanding that sometimes, the greatest foes are from within.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross did more than craft a graphic novel—they created a lasting legacy that tugs at the heartstrings and engages the mind. Kingdom Come is a story that will continue to captivate and inspire for generations to come, and for that, it etches itself as a masterpiece in the collective comic book consciousness.
We read the trade paperback as part of the Galactic Comics Book Club.
The collected edition of Kingdom Come including more than 150 pages of behind-the-scenes material, including sketches, annotations and the never-before-published original proposal, series treatment, series outline, issue #1 outline and issue #1 script is available at bookstores and comic book stores everywhere!