Kingdom Come

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"According to the word of God, the meek would someday inherit the earth. Someday. But God never accounted for the mighty."
Norman McCay

A DC Universe & Elseworlds graphic novel, published in 1996. Written by Mark Waid and beautifully painted by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come depicts a dystopian future in which Superman has retired due to the public's preference for heroes who will use lethal force. The Silver Age superheroes followed him, in some cases retiring completely, in others sticking to their own small areas.

Until a tragedy strikes in Kansas. The death of Captain Atom causes a nuclear explosion which destroys most of the Midwest of the USA. This loosens the last bounds of restraint among the new generation of metahumans, who begin to fight one another with abandon. Superman returns, reassembles the Justice League and tries to take back control, with dire consequences.

Through it all, a simple pastor named Norman McCay is guided by apocalyptic imagery drawn from the Book of Revelation and by The Spectre. He must decide the fate of humanity - whether to allow the metahumans to be killed en masse and save the rest of humanity, or to allow them to survive, but doom the world.

See also Justice, a similar miniseries also painted by Alex Ross that attempts to reconstruct The Golden Age of Comic Books and The Silver Age of Comic Books after this series deconstructed The Dark Age of Comic Books.


Tropes used in Kingdom Come include:
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Wonder Woman's Sword of Hephaestus. It can even cut Superman - it's remarked that it's because magic is one of the few things that Supes isn't invulnerable to.
    • Wonder Woman states it can carve the electrons off an atom. Unless she was making a hyperbole, she failed physics class.
  • Abstract Apotheosis: One of the least noted Re-Power, yet one of the most insane, is the one which took its toll on The Flash (said to be Wally West); in this continuity Wally became the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Speed Force, becoming a force in perpetual motion, attaining omnipresence by running that fast.
    • Blessed with Suck: Wally achieving godhood had its sacrifices, as noted above he is in perpetual motion, he can't stop moving ever. The times where he seems to be still is just Wally moving in a short space while circling through... well, everywhere else at the same time, basically an illusion. It forces him to cut ties with everyone he knows, since no one can keep up with him to even comunicate with the guy. Superman is the only one who can talk with Wally, and that by processing what Wally says some time later the actual talking.
  • Actor Allusion: In a one-panel cameo, The Joker looks just like Jack Nicholson in the Tim Burton Batman movie.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Power Woman is Power Girl when depicted as muscular Up to Eleven.
  • Anticlimax: The anticipated fight between Superman and Magog never happens because of the latter's Villainous Breakdown.
    • Wouldn't have been much of a fight anyway as Magog lashes out and Superman just takes it, more surprised than hurt. Its in keeping with the relative power levels of Dark Age characters versus Silver Age ones.
  • Anti-Hero: Magog and his cronies are these. A large part of the book hinges on the difference between antiheroes and traditional heroes, to the point where the whole thing can be seen as a metaphor for The Dark Age of Comic Books with the rise of the Nineties Anti-Hero and the decline in popularity of the Silver Age super heroes and the coinciding loss of morality in comics, and the eventual need to bring those ideals back.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Edward Nygma, who is now Selina Kyle's lover - though "boy toy" is a better description - loves to do this, highlighted by asking Lex what he plans to do about Superman. It's the only time Lex is completely out of control.
  • As the Good Book Says...: All over the place. Quotations from the Book of Revelation bookend at least two chapters, and biblical apocalyptic imagery is heavily used throughout.
  • The Atoner: Magog.
  • Badass Beard: Aquaman, and how.
  • Badass Grandpa: Batman is so old and battered he needs machines to help him walk, but he's still as sharp as ever, able to execute a classic Batman Gambit and then has the guts to punch Captain Marvel.
    • Again, Aquaman. Even Superman treats him with kid gloves.
  • Badass Normal: Oliver Queen. Played up in the Novelization.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Titans Tower has become one of these. Though granted, it's more of a Nineties Anti-Hero Bar.
  • Batman Gambit: Batman is a major character. Is anyone surprised?
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The current status quo came about partly because regular civilians rejected the traditional heroes, who wouldn't kill their enemies no matter what, and demanded heroes who would kill. They got what they wanted.
  • Beware the Superman: Boy, is he pissed after the climax!
    • In general, the series focuses on both the catastrophic damage and the morale-depleting effects that having entire races of godlike beings positioned so far above humanity that they can essentially do whatever they want without consequence can have. Although the younger generation of anti-heroes are the most obvious example of this, the story takes pains to point out that the older, more traditional generation aren't without blame either.
  • Big No: Wonder Woman after Captain Comet is killed.
  • Blind Idiot Translation: The scene where Superman attempts to destroy the UN building and kill everyone inside results in this due to the multinational nature of the organization. For example, the Filipino delegate says "PAPATAYIN SIYA ANG ULO!". The intent appears to be "He's going to collapse the roof!". What it actually translates as is "He's going to kill the head!"
    • "Nandiyan na ang siva ulo! Papatay in niya ulo!" translates closer to "There is (or 'here comes') (the face of) death! He has death in his head (or "on his mind")!"
  • Brought to You by The Letter "S": Well, this is the DCU after all...
    • But still, look for a cameo by our old pal Marvin from Superfriends, who still wears a shirt emblazoned with the letter "M".
  • Calling the Old Man Out: All of the original Teen Titans' children are on the side of the anti-heroes in defiance of their parents.
  • Call to Agriculture: After retirement, Clark Kent is living in an artificial farm.
  • The Cameo: Many, especially in the bar scene—keep an eye out for Rorschach.
  • Captain Ersatz: Many:
  • Canon Immigrant: The version of Superman introduced in Kingdom Come was later incorporated into the main DC continuity and interacted with the Justice Society. The Kingdom Come-verse is officially Earth-22 of the post-Infinite Crisis multiverse.
    • Versions of a number of Kingdom Come characters also ended up in the Main DCU's JSA, including Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and even Magog himself.
    • Alloy showed up in in Batman: The Brave And The Bold. Then again, the Metal Men combining is just too good an idea not to use...
    • In a reversal of this, Rorschach shows up twice in the bar scene... at one point talking to the character he's an Expy of, The Question.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Bruce Wayne's appearance is partially based on Gregory Peck.
  • Cool Old Guy: Norman McCay. One of the failures of The Kingdom was putting him on a bus.
  • Cruel Mercy
  • Dark Age of Supernames: The new generation of anti-heroes-villains names.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: For the sake of exploring the moral and philosophical differences between the Silver Age and Dark Age ideals of hero. Although it's generally considered primarily a deconstruction of the latter, the former don't escape unscathed either.
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Deus Ex Nukina: Subverted in that Captain Marvel destroys it with his magic lightning, so that a few metahumans might still live.
  • Doing It for the Art
  • Elseworld
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: What Norman McCay's visions tell him will happen. In the end not quite everybody dies, but the final battle gets a massive nuke dropped on it. Only a few survive.
  • Fetish Fuel Station Attendant: Trix.
  • Fun with Acronyms: NIL8. Say each letter and number individually.
  • Genre Relaunch: Of Silver Age era super hero comics.
  • Going Critical: Captain Atom.
  • Green Lantern Ring: The obvious, in that there are a number of the various green lanterns around, but also Captain Marvel's use of his own magical lightning, as mentioned on the page.
  • Heel Face Turn. Magog. Also, to some degree, Captain Marvel.
  • Heroic RROD. Wonder Woman. Examined closer in the Novelization.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Captain Marvel. Also, the Blackhawk jet fighters who were to deliver the nukes. According to the Novelization, they weren't expected to survive the blasts.
    • Alloy (which was a literal amalgam of the Metal Men) protects Magog from dying from a nuclear blast. Magog wasn't completely protected, as he shows signs of radiation sickness.
  • Hero Insurance. Explained in the Novelization, in which heroes tend to be impoverished and unaccountable. Auto insurance makes it impossible to own a car, damaged public property goes unrepaired (like the Statue of Liberty), and so forth.
  • H. R. Giger: One of the rogue metahumans, Trix, was clearly designed based on Giger's artwork. She's described as "a morphing biomechanism" and is one of the few survivors of the Gulag.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A minor example; at one point in the fight, after Batman has pissed Wonder Woman off a little too far, she yells "You aristocratic bastard!" at him and starts whaling into him. This is Princess Diana speaking, let's not forget.
    • Fridge Brilliance: Not really hypocritical. If anything, Wonder Woman was calling out Batman for being hypocritical. Her shout was a retort to Batman telling her that she wouldn't regain her royal status by overcompensating for her lack of violence.
  • Joker Immunity: Averted. In fact, averting this is what pushes Superman into retirement.
  • Karma Houdini: It's a little unsatisfying that Swastika is among the few to survive the nuke. Yes, technically he doesn't do much notable bad stuff, but on the other hand he's a flagrant neo-Nazi with a swastika tattooed across his entire body. Of course, killing him off just because the audience dislikes him would rather missing the point of the story.
    • Vandal Savage, as viewed by The Spectre. The Spectre would do anything to punish Savage - except for the fact Savage is immortal, and out of Spectre's purview.
  • Kick the Dog: All over the place.
  • Kill the Poor: A brief scene sees one Anti-Hero, The Americommando, and his cronies declare war on meager immigrants, claiming "the poor, tired, huddled masses camping on our shores, begging citizenship" are the biggest foreign threat to the United States after the disaster in Kansas, though it's suggested that he's under Mind Control.
  • Knight Templar: Wonder Woman crosses the line.
  • Large Ham: Lampshaded when Vandal Savage Kicks The Dog.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Lex Luthor and his "Mankind Liberation Front" (a collection of Silver Age villains) attempted to exploit the metahuman war and Take Over the World. They end up being forced to work by Batman in his makeshift hospital for the casualties of the civil war.

Batman: "Shazam."
Lex: "Shut up."

  • Legacy Character: Again, all over the place. Its setting is helpful in allowing such characters to see a lot of use. They really come to the fore in the sequel, though.
  • Literary Allusion Title: not only Kingdom Come itself a literary allusion (to either Matthew 6:10 or Luke 11:2 from the Bible), but each chapter title ('Strange Visitr', 'Truth and Justice', 'Up in the Sky' and 'Never-Ending Battle') is an allusion to the classic Superman introduction.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: We've got the original "Silver Age" DCU heroes, their children, the rogue antiheroes, the former supervillains, and a number of ordinary "humans" (mostly politicians).
  • Monster Modesty: Many characters due to the large cast but most notably the Spectre who wears nothing but a single cape and Hawkman, who is now a humanoid bird and wears very little.
  • More Than Mind Control: Billy Batson
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Superman refuses to be called "Clark Kent" after Lois is killed. It's part of his divorce from the rest of humanity. Even Batman calls him Clark just to press his buttons. He reclaims the name Clark Kent after he realizes he was wrong to flee humanity when they needed him most. In fact, Superman becomes the mask Clark wears by the end.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Word of God says the character of Von Bach comes from stories from The Golden Age of Comic Books where superheroes would fight Hitler, or thinly veiled Hitler Captain Ersatz dictators. He even speaks in German, and is covered in tattoos of far right German symbols.
    • And the fact that the design for Swastika, whose tattoos form a giant swastika across his entire body, was originally designed as Von Bach, confirms this.
  • The Mole: Batman refuses to rejoin Superman, and instead he and his "Outsiders" infiltrate Lex Luthor's "Mankind Liberation Front" and stop them from exploiting the metahuman civil war for their own ends.
    • Ibn al Xuffasch is the actual mole in the MLF. Bruce suspected Ibn was his biological son, but it wasn't confirmed til the very end.
  • Neck Snap: Vandal Savage, one-handed. "I said TWO sugars!"
  • News Monopoly: Superman sees multiple reports of the Kansas disaster in the Fortress of Solitude.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Numerous characters, primary and secondary. And since Mark Waid and Alex Ross are Golden Age/Silver Age fans, they push the Nineties Anti-Hero to the logical maximum: a bunch of superpowered gangs fighting each other for no apparent reason, personified by Magog.
    • The reason is given: they killed all the supervillains and are simply bored and resorting to gang rumbles.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Averted, big time. The damage these heroes do are far-reaching and visceral.
  • Novelization: Elliot S! Maggin's novel is arguably better than the miniseries.
  • Oh Crap: Norman's reaction to Superman's return, which initially seemed like a Crowning Moment of Awesome but he realized was the Shadow of Impending Doom.

 Norman: He had not turned his back at us. He stands in the sky... faith rewarded. {vision of screaming Superman, which changes Norman's mood and reaction) ... dear God. The threat of Armageddon hasn't ended. It's just begun...

  • Person of Mass Destruction: "The Parasite has torn Captain Atom open! He's torn him ope--"
  • Pet the Dog: Magog saving Tokyo Rose from a nuclear blast. "Keep your shorts on, Rosie..."
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Norman is merely an invisible spectator for most of the story, but the Flash demonstrates that he's not completely undetectable.
  • Powered Armour: Batman needs an exoskeleton to move about, he's so battered from 60-odd years of superheroing. When he goes into combat, he does it in flying power armour. A number of other characters do as well.
  • Reconstruction: Of everything that was great about the Golden and Silver Ages, to the degree that the publication of Kingdom Come has been retrospectively labeled the end of the Dark Age (Dork Age?).
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning. Superman is none too pleased after the nuke is detonated.
  • Re-Power: Lots of the Golden Agers get big power boosts as Waid draws their abilities to the logical conclusion. Especially The Flash, who has become one with the Speed Force and now exists as a living blur in constant, never-ending motion.
    • Superman's power level in general is boosted and he becomes immune to kryptonite due to all those years soaking up the sun.
    • Alan Scott (a Green Lantern) has fused his power battery into his chest.
      • Unlike Superman, however, he still retains his original weakness - to wood. While he's effectively invincible otherwise, Oliver Queen is able to punch right through his Powered Armor with regular arrows. On the other hand, Alan Scott survives the nuke while Oliver Queen doesn't.
    • Batman uses powered armor and keeps his city safe with robotic drones.
    • Doctor Mid-Nite (now called simply "Midnight"), who once used smoke bombs, now exists as a living smoke cloud that fills out his costume's cape.
    • Garfield Logan—once called "Beast Boy" and "Changeling", now called "Menagerie"—can only shapeshift into fictitious creatures, such as the Jabberwock from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Supergirl and Superboy leave the present when the rise of the anti-heroes leads to Superman retiring, and join the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 30th Century.
  • Second Coming: Superman's return from his self-imposed exile to deal with Magog and his generation of heroes was first seen as this by McCay. However, the visions McCay has seen reveal that Superman's presence would catalyze the coming doom, not avert it.
  • Secret Identity Identity: The revelation of Bruce Wayne being Batman leads to Wayne Manor being wrecked by Two Face and Bane, and Bruce, of course, no longer keeping up the pretense. Superman also drops the Clark identity. Indeed the ending shows all the surviving supers de-masking, and seems to be showing the end of the Secret Identity Identity for this universe.
  • Shazam
  • Sherlock Scan: Batman does this to Diana to find out that she is pregnant.
    • May be Averted: one of the last few panels shows a curious bug-like device.
  • Shout-Out: Full of them. Shouts out to, among others, Watchmen and numerous Golden and Silver age comics. Most of them are explained in the Absolute Kingdom Come hardcover edition. This comic has the Fantom of the Fair and Powerman in it, for chrissakes.
    • An early panel shows Hollis Mason's autobiography in a shop window.
      • "Who watches the Watchmen?"
    • And Kingdom Come has been subject to a frankly ridiculous amount of Shouts Out from the main DCU ever since. So many elements were just taken directly from this.
      • Keep an eye out for the superpowered Village People.
      • Fat Albert and his gang arrested by Batman's robot drones.
        • Speaking of, Batman's robot drones are inspired by Patlabor.
          • And speaking of Batman himself, the arms and upper torso of the armor he wears does resemble RoboCop.
      • The cybernetically enhanced son of Jack-in-the-box shows up among the anti-heroes.
      • The Title Card for Tenchi Muyo! shows up as graffiti early on.
      • During a metahuman fight in Tokyo, Astro Boy can be seen on a building.
  • Shown Their Work
  • Shut Up, Kirk: When Superman expresses concern about Wonder Woman's sword, she snaps back that not everyone has heat vision.
  • Slasher Smile: Captain Marvel, unnervingly.
  • Space Station: Green Lantern's Emerald City.
  • Split-Screen Reaction: When Magog blasted Superman.
  • Standard Royal Court: Taken to the extreme with Atlantis, though its only seen for two pages.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: Batman, of course.
    • Lampshaded when Superman pulls the same thing on Bruce when hearing Captain Marvel was involved in Luthor's plot.

 Bruce: (smiling wryly) So that's what it feels like.

 Spectre: After ten years, he has finally let free a wrath that would cower Satan himself. How can any man calm the fury he feels towards his persecutors?

Norman McKay: I can reach behind it. Do you really think he's mad at them? He's raging at himself. Let me talk to him. Now.

  • Throwaway Country: Kansas, and parts of the surrounding states. Twice!
  • The Voiceless: A lot of characters have no speaking parts, but two really stand out - Hawkman, who (according to Word of God) is mute, since he's very anthropomorphised, and The Flash, who was (again according to Word of God) only meant to be audible to Superman, but ended up simply without speaking lines.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension : Superman and Wonder Woman. Eventually gets resolved.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Subverted. After the nuke, Reverend McCay manages to talk Superman down from destroying the United Nations building and killing everyone inside.
  • Values Dissonance: Used in-story. It's problems with values dissonance that cause Superman to retire in the first place because he cannot reconcile his values with those of the younger generation of heroes and, more importantly, the public that supports them.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Magog. He goes down without Superman touching him. He just collapses to his knees at the weight of the guilt of the destruction of Kansas.

  Magog:They chose the hero who would kill over the hero who wouldn't. And now they're dead. A million ghosts. Punish me. Lock me away. Kill me. Just make the ghosts go away.

    • The fact that he's an Anti-Hero instead of a true villain no doubt contributes to this. He really was trying to be a hero and do the right thing, and he genuinely cares about all the innocents who suffered for his recklessness.
    • Luthor also has a mild one part way through the story; for most of it, he's smug and in control, but when one of his confederates raises the question of whether he's concerned about Superman's return his immediate response is to violently scream that Superman will not get near him before he calms down.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Though he may have benefited from the aforementioned Re-Power, Alan Scott and his constructs are still vulnerable to wood. Explains why Oliver Queen was able to put so many arrows in him during the final battle.
  • What Could Have Been: The sequel was originally planned to be a prequel which takes place between the "present" main continuity and the "future" in Kingdom Come. Another source say the sequel would reveal the Kingdom Come universe to be the post-Crisis version of Earth-Two, which was altered rather than erased from existence.
    • If it's true, then they changed their minds so late that they couldn't completely remove that plot thread from the story as The Kingdom is bookended with Superman of Earth-2 pounding on the walls of reality.
  • What Is This Thing You Call Love?: In the Novelization, Spectre is baffled by Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship. Norman explains that theirs is a relationship of maturity: he needs an independent woman, or he needs no one else, and she needs a strong man, or she needs no one else. Spectre notes that Norman's experience as a minister is exactly what he lacks, having been separated so long from his mortal life, and no longer can comprehend human relationships. At the end, Norman is teaching Spectre to be Jim Corrigan again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Batman to Wonder Woman when she kills Von Bach.
    • Norm McCay to Spectre when it seems the Spectre is going to allow Superman to wreak his revenge on the United Nations.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: While the whole world burns with the question of what to do with the superhumans, the "Mankind Liberation Front" (led by Lex Luthor and his gang of Silver Age villains) are plotting to exploit the events to wrest all power from the superhumans. For this reason Lex manipulated Billy Batson to do his bidding. Not if Batman has anything to say about it.
    • Luthor even states that Superman's unexpected return accelerated his plans.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The younger "Dark Age" style heroes have names like "Genosyde."