Twenty years of Kingdom Come and what have we learned? by Jonathan Evans

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The best pieces of work are born  from a reaction of the time they’re created on but have themes and morals that transcend and will always be relevant. Though Dr. Strangelove was created through nuclear terror it will always be watchable because of the laughs and the way it paints a portrait of the craziness of life. 1984 was written at a time where totalitarianism was seemingly taking over, yet we continue to adsorb the material because we still have those fears and worries.

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Kingdom Come is an Elsewhere miniseries from DC comics. It tells the story of years later from the regular status quo where the age of the heroes that we all know has passed and a new breed of heroes have taken their place. Heroes that kill their enemies and care nothing for collateral damage on the city they’re fighting in nor the civilians caught in-between. But eventually Superman Batman and Wonder Woman can stand back no longer and must return, but they face the question, does their brand of justice still work?

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In 1992 the comic company Image was formed. It’s founding members were Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarland, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino and Marc Silvestri. It’s main policy was that creators could create properties without censoring restrictions or having to give-up their copyrights to their characters. This allowed the artists to create without any of the usual restrictions they would face from the “Big Two” (DC and MARVEL) but with that freedom came flatulent indulgence in their more base instinct and lack of inhibition. The characters were barely original, plots were thin and this was clearly a case of artist being given the heavy task of writing without possessing that talent. What we had were books where the heroes are heroes in name only. Because they killed willy-nilly and are just plain unpleasant people that you wouldn’t want to be around in real life, let alone pay money to read about them. But yet people did. The early Image titles sold well and changed the coarse of comics forever. They clearly tapped into the pulse of the youths at that time. Five splash pages every issue protagonist that drink, are sloppy and the stories were as thin as the paper they’re printed on. They picked them up, some people got rich, nobody got smarter and they were dropped and never picked up again.

But Alex Ross, now one of the biggest names in comics saw what was happening and needed an answer to it. He came up with the base concept of the book but it was only pieces, he was given Mark Waid a living comic encyclopaedia and equal lover of the true blue heroes and it was with their combination that  it really took form.  Kingdom Come was conceived in the wake of this terrible age but it came out when they were actually getting back on track, 1996. Titles like Grant Morrison’s Justice League, James Robinson’s Starman were things that reignited the feel of what the superhero ere should be. Riveting, imagination filled stories with a sense of hope.

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In the year 2013 we got the new cinematic Superman for this generation, Man of Steel. The image of the technology was sharper and denser, the costume was more elaborate and the color was absent. It ended in a battle which the writer of Kingdom Come himself described as “destruction porn.” A battle between two super-beings that results in dozens of square miles of property damage, definitely over a thousand people dead and no attempt on our “heroes” part to move the fight to a less populated area, finally ending with him killing his enemy.

That part alone was the start of so much debate. Should he? Should he not? Is not killing outdated? Beyond the fact that I don’t believe that Superman would ever do this, it goes against his ideals, both him as a character and his point. To always find a better way. That and there were at least a half doze ways he could have not killed him in that moment.

But lets address the question as to why shouldn’t he kill. Well at the base of everything Superman is an ideal, a fully fleshed-out character yes, but that is the point of him. He is meant to embody the hope and optimism that we should strive for. And he is meant for children first and foremost, yes adults can enjoy him too and can be used for more sophisticated stories but you must never loose that child demographic. If he kills then he is saying that life is worthless, if he takes a life then where does it end? He does not kill because all life is sacred and no one is lesser than him. In the sequel Batman v Superman the Man of Steel meets with The Dark Knight. The colours continue to get darker, Batman is a hypocrite because he himself is a mass murderer and we have no contrast between the two characters because they’re both dark, brooding men that have forgotten how to smile. It’s been twenty years and DC has forgotten the lessons that should never have been forgotten. Ironically though MARVEL keeps the lessons true to form.

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However in the MARVEL movies they do seem to understand the morals and lesson of the book. In Age of Ultron, a fight ensues between Iron Man and the Hulk. While it’s going on Iron Man tries to take Hulk out of the city but fails. At least there was an effort. Later in the movie, right before the big action climax, they use Scarlett Witch to evacuate all he people they can out so they can fight with no civilian casualties. They don’t evacuate everyone, and there was civilian life lost. But they tried and succeeded in taking out the villain and the death toll was as low as it could possible be.

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In the most recent movie Civil War the point that separates out heroes is that the Sacovia Accord. It was created because of the collateral damage that has arisen from these battles of super-people. Early on in the movie a bomb is about to go off and Scarlett Witch shoots it into the air. Yes, they have not saved everyone, because there’s no such thing as a perfect victory with these things. But they know that they need to save as many people as they can. Later in the movie Black Panther confronts that man responsible for his fathers, as well as numerous other peoples deaths. He lost his wife and child in the battle with Ultron, but in his quest to tear the Avengers apart he has found no happiness and others have been dragged into his misery. Black Panther then sees that vengeance will not grant him self satisfaction and it will corrupt everyone around him. So he takes him in alive saying such true words “The living are not done with you yet.”

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We were in a time where juvenile, popular creators were given free reign to craft stories where heroes were only heroes because their names were on the titles of the book. Kingdom Come taught us that even though there may no be perfect victories our heroes should still strive to do what they can for the people that they have taken a vow to protect the people.

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