Saturday, September 02, 2006

When did you read Kingdom Come?

There are a number of ‘Superhero’ comics that people have placed on the pedestal as ‘classic reading’, and I usually pride myself on the fact that I have read these and can offer my opinion in a conversation. I read Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight Returns and loved them, but there is a forth that is usually placed in this categories that I have avoided for a long time, and it’s Kingdom Come.

What do you mean how could I have not read it?

It’s not due to the writing I can tell you that, I love me some Mark Waid, I’m a lover of his Impulse, I enjoyed all of his fantastic four run that have filtered through to me over the years. It’s not down to the writer that I avoided it; it’s been down to Alex Ross. I know a lot of people out there love him, but to me I have always seen his art as a lot of lifeless wax work models

I mean I see no difference between this, and this

Note: That’s a wax work of Williams there, that was not a general statement about my opinion of his music, thought in that respect it wasn’t far off

I know I shouldn’t let it, but Ross’s art has put me off reading a few comics. But it really is about time I sat and read Kingdom Come; I mean the medium may be a joint work but a generalised look at an artists work shouldn’t put me off reading a ‘must read’. And it’s got that fact that this is supposed to be some of Ross’s best work going for it too; maybe the art’s better in this than the bits I’ve seen so far.

As of right now I know nothing about what its really about except for the vague fact that it was an Elseworld set in the future of the DC universe.


And three hours later (with time used for snacking and making notes) after I started I’m done.
So what did I think of it?

I’m not completely sure, bear with me and I’ll try to explain as best I can, there’s a lot of thoughts swimming around my head about it.

I really should have gotten around to reading this sooner you know, not that this is ‘so fantastic how could I not of read it?’, but that in this story Ross’s art isn’t that bad. There I said it. It fits the story, this higher concept story with its religious imagery and parallels. In that respect it’s just like Arkham Asylum, the style of the images enhances the content.

And I do have a couple of favourite scenes due to Ross’s art, but these fall in two categories, scenes in the dinner, where we see that superhero costumes really don’t work, hardly anyone can wear a lycra suit and make it work, and the scenes in the Batcave –who doesn’t want to see a painted Batcave?

The layout of the pages? Now they were fantastic, with lots of ironic moments with its juxtaposition against the words. I mean we have the sentence ‘They are after all our protectors’ Placed between a superhero with nipple piercings connected to chains, and a crying child. This comic is fantastic in places, just looking back through pages you pick up visual references you missed.

On the whole the piece is well dialogued, we have plenty of hooks for you to try and figure out before we are told explicitly, and I really enjoyed that. Like the death of Lois and trying to figure out how it had happened, then never being told but hinted at through the Joker’s murderous killings of 92 men and 1 woman at the daily planet.

As for the story? Well I think I could possibly have appreciated this more if I had known all the characters, sure I’m a big DC fan, but I’m learning all the time, how the hell do I know who most of these people are. And due to the style and changes in costumes I often got characters confused, but then I guess a few years down the line I’ll come back and a lot of these characters will click. The first time I read the Dark Knight Returns I didn’t know who the Green Arrow was, no doubt when I come back to read this again in a few years, which I plan on doing, some of it will make a lot more sense.

In the story itself we have this whole Superman making up for the damage his self imposed exile had done thing going on, and that was great. Hell the thing was so good that it’s being done again at the moment in sorts by Black Adam in 52 ( hopefully it turns out better this time. I mean Black Adam’s jumped up to step 5, no prison for the remedial violent super folks for him, just a good tearing in half) I can follow that, this whole thing is supposed to be about the Super folks who’ve either over stepped the mark, or abandoned what they should have been enforcing.

And I know I probably wasn’t supposed to, but I spent my time siding with Luther in the whole scale of this. I mean when you think about it he really was fighting the human fight, the classic superheroes had failed people for 10 years. And now they come back and try to put everything right in a matter of days? Humanity really was depicted as being too reliant on these ‘gods’.

In fact the only character I was on side totally with was Batman, this guy stayed to fight the good fight, and sure Gotham was blown up, but it got rebuilt, and in its rebuilding Batman has become the protector he always should have been. I really wanted Batman and Luther to win. I guess they did in sorts, but certainly not the way I wanted. I really wanted to see the end of the superhero, is it to cynical to think that the whole thing was written with a sequel in mind?

But then we get Luther’s big evil reveal, but I was still with him on it, maybe not through his actions but through his intentions. It may be because I don’t like Captain Marvel that much, he’s never clicked with me, but his superhero form left him as a grown man child. I think without Luther’s help he would have become resentful of Superman. This man could fly with the gods, but now it’s been taken away due to big blue’s cowardice at a changing humanity. Luther was an idiot, I think he could have done what he did without putting Yeerks in Captain Marvels ear, or did I miss interpret that?

I hated the point where Batman double crossed him, but at least Waid made me care, even though I seemed to be caring for the wrong side. And that’s the most important think with reading this, it made me want to read on, the first time I felt like that in a while with a Superhero comic.

I can understand why this is seen as a classic story, I mean we have your background imagery, along with your whole host of characters fitted into the weaving plot and on top of this we have some high concept religious ideas but I don’t know, it’s probably due to the age I am and where I came into reading comics.

When this came out it could possibly have been this whole new spin on an idea, Superman isn’t infallible. Yet with any good idea it’s imitated and its aspects are found in the many stories that come after. I mean this came out in the mid nineties, and placed in that context this is a miraculous story, and if I had read it then this would probably be one of my favourite team stories. I mean place this alongside the X-Men titles of the time and this was a gift from up on high.
I read this 10 years later though. I can recognise it for the originality it must have had, but the ideas are not as fresh to me due to it. This shaped the modern status of DC’s superheroes and was present even a year and a half ago, we had a Superman who wimped out on his responsibility to man kind, a bit of a paranoid asshole of a Batman and a violent Wonder woman willing to take the fight that extra step, the characterisations found in a lot of the build up in the first 3 parts became the main aspects of characters in stories I was only reading a year and a bit ago.

Kingdom Come is a good comic, I have no issues with that, it’s the origin of the genre change over the past 10 years. But I think I would have appreciated it so much more if I had read it then first hand, this wasn’t a breath of fresh air to me, it just showed the origin of the changes that it introduced.
When did you read it?

But at least now I can say, Alex Ross was alright on Kingdom Come, but I find that in the main, he draws lifeless wax work models, well maybe until I get around to reading Marvels.


Sid said...

There's a lot I could say about Kingdom come, but it would be mainly a reiteration of your points. But to hit a few:
I am not a massive fan of Alex Ross, I think Marvels and KC were ace, and his covers do the job nicely (especially Astro city) but by and large, nah, not for me.
I love the story, and it was one of the first I can remember that highlights Supes weakness other than Kryptonite / magic, and that is naivette. He genuinely had no idea what a knock on effect him retiring would have. He should be someone you could rally behind and follow into hell, but he would never ask it of you if he wouldn't do it (basically, the ultimate general), supes should always be an inspiration, which is why as much as Superman returns entertained me, I couldn't follow Braddon Routh into a baguette store.
LOVE what Bats did with Gotham.
I love the fact the story doesn't spell out EVERYTHINg for you, you have to make little leaps here and there.

When I read KC was when it was first released. I was a Marvel / Star Wars kid at that point, very green with comics and had no idea about DC at all. It is quite literally the comic that drew me into DC. Every 3 years or so I re-read the comic and always find something new, because over the years I have learnt more and more about the DCU.
I fucking love Kingdom come, and my favourite thing about it I cannot explain. There is a sense of ...soemthing I get when I read the book, as if I am reading something bigger and more important than a superhero comic, but as soon as I stop reading the comic it goes, and I am just left with a damn fine comic.
I am half way through the re-read of my third copy of KC, maybe I can pin down the feeling.

Sid said...

More to the point though, Mark Waid. He is fucking awesome.
Have you read Empire, Ryan? If not, do it! Everyone should.

I can't remember a book of Waid's I have read and not enjoyed, unless he did any of that "The Kingdom" crap, that was arse.

Ryan said...

Empire? Nope haven't heard of it, but I'll add it to my read list.
And yeah, he wrote all of The Kingdom, another book I haven't read.
My read list gets longer by the day

Parsley Words said...

If you haven't read "Marvels" you should run out and do so RIGHT NOW! Ross's artwork is superb in his breakout story and the imagry is iconic.

The title is very appropriate since this book is a "Marvel" of its time.

addison said...

It's a decent book, but not that great. I used to be a big Alex Ross fan early in college. Then as a fine art student, I got access to a myriad array of styles and disciplines in art. It was by then that hyper-realism by the likes of Norman Rockwell and Alex Ross lost their luster to me. I'm still a big fan of Andrew Wyeth's work though.

Onto the comics, except for the epilogue added in the trades (where I geeked out for Batman's detective skills), I consider this as one of Waid's weaker works. Mind you, the fact that he butchered my native language of Tagalog in the UN scene when Superman was rampaging has nothing to do with it ;)

I'll elaborate more later if you want me. Sorry to cut this short.

addison said...

I wanted to add, one of the weakness of Ross' art in KC was it ended too polish. I prefer when he was bit more raw like in Marvels, where I felt the artwork was more organic. Though Marvels was not as raw as the Miracle Man Apocrypha issue he did earlier. I guess we should also take into consideration the reproduction process involved as said works were done in different periods of time, but that's another topic now.

Ryan said...

I guess I better get around to reading Marvels. I really liked the end scene between Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, I didn't know it was added for trade though.

I'm just not a massive Alex Ross fan all in all. How is the writing in Marvels? It's not just another book that is sold as great off the art is it?

addison said...

I think it's better because it's not really much of a superhero story. It's the life story of a photo journalist who witnessed the history of the Marvel Universe. How he saw them. A look into the views of an ordinary human being at how "The Marvels" arrived in the world and how they affected it. It's the percursor for Astro City

Ryan said...

Nice, well as soon as I have the money again I'll get around to reading it, I still haven't got to read Pride of Baghdad due to money saving.

And I guess Astro City now, because I've been recommended it a few times too.