Sunday, April 13, 2014

His Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come is a labor of love. A sort of sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, many of the elements will feel familiar and supremely satisfying. At its core, Kingdom Come goes beyond the TDKR's Batman/Superman rivalry to tell a true story of the entire Justice League - and then some.
Kingdom Come might easily have been titled The Man of Steel Returns - in many ways, it is a mirror story to TDKR. It has been ten years since Superman was chased out of Metropolis by Magog, a more "modern" superhero who has no qualms about killing villains. As in TDKR, the Justice League has long since retired, too. A legion of rowdy young super-punks has taken over the world - doing a lot of damage in the process.
This is a classic tale of how the old cowboys come back to settle down the youngsters, only to quickly find themselves grappling with moral dilemmas. In this beautiful little scene, Superman and Wonder Woman tangle over how to lead and whether might makes right.
Batman shows a tenderness in Kingdom Come which is I believe what Frank Miller intended in some of his scenes in TDKR. Notice Alex Ross' mastery of the human facial expression in these lovingly drawn panels - and a touch of humor - as Superman rouses Bats to reunite the World's Finest.
As its title suggests, Kingdom Come also features a Biblical theme. It's narrated by a Spectre-paired pastor, whose calling is to bear witness, and ultimately to judge. Here, the pastor watches in horror as Armageddon finally arrives. 

There's a healthy dose of nuclear war thrown in there, too. It's almost too much to handle, but Ross et al. pull it together nicely in the end. One senses somehow that this story is personal, that it's the author-artist's childhood which he is turning real on the page. Kingdom Come is a fitting tribute to a legion of Superheroes which inspired great stories - and a reminder that they are never past their prime.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ten Nights of the Beast

Ten Nights of the Beast is the original KGBeast story. The cover grabbed me.
The Beast! What a great name. What a great enemy. A renegade Soviet terrorist who could go toe-to-toe with Batman. The story? Brutal. The Beast walks in, part 4/4 of the miniseries, and he's already lost a hand. The Beast's target is Ronald Reagan, who was at the time President of the United States and had already survived one attempted assassination. This was intense, realistic stuff and I was scared for Batman.

Jim Aparo's art is controlled, focused, and meticulously executed - just like his Batman. Jim Starlin's memorable script conveys a gravitas which fits the high stakes perfectly. Here, a CIA agent delicately asks whether Batman's oath never to kill might, under these circumstances, be counterproductive.
The Beast and Batman's mano-a-mano ultimately leads to the sewers beneath Gotham. It is a close match, the ultimate confrontation between capitalist hero and communist villain. Mutual destruction is practically assured... when suddenly, Batman reveals an unexpected resolution.
The Beast is a serious villain, and this Batman is serious enough to lock him in a cul-de-sac. It's a fantastic ending, leaving the reader as stunned as the Beast. Note the parallel between this scene and Batman's confrontations with the Mutant Leader in The Dark Knight Returns. In both cases, Batman must choose between "testing himself like a young man" and using his intelligence to gain an unfair advantage.

Batman has vowed never to kill, and technically he's still within his rights. But he does not tell the CIA agent that he's locked the KGBeast in a cul-de-sac without food or water. Sometimes you have to ignore the rules... I'm not in this business to protect the rules. I serve justice. On the limo ride home, there's not a lot of room for humor.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Earth Moved

Wonder Woman never appears in The Dark Knight Returns, unless you count the abuse of Selina Kyle. We are told that after the JLA disbanded, Diana went back to her people.

Fifteen years after The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller and Lynn Varley teamed up to write a sequel, entitled The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Whatever fans were expecting, it's safe to say DK2 took them by surprise. In this fun scene, we witness date night between an Amazonian and a Kryptonian.