Kingdom Come by Elliot S. Maggin

(No Series)

It is the early years of the Twenty-First Century. Without the guidance and values long championed by the old guard -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- a younger generation of super heroes is ravaging the world. But when the Man of Steel returns from self-imposed exile, his very presence could be the catalyst that pushes us all into Armageddon. Seen through the eyes of Norman McCay, an aging minister who embarks on a disturbing odyssey of revelation with an angel known as the Spectre to guide him, "Kingdom Come" is the story of what defines a hero in a world spinning inexorably out of control...of the heroes who adapted to that changing world, and those who couldn't...of personal battles fought with inner demons, and the final war that would determine the fate of our planet.

This is such a confusing book/review for me. Everything is here that should make me really like or love this book - great reviews and high rating, creative writing, bleakness, a focus on Superman and he's in his full power, interesting storyline - so what was the issue? It was hard to stay focused, easy to put down, and I was happy to have it finished. It's a future story of the dark days ahead of the DC Universe, which should have been difficult for me to put down.

The story is told through the narration of Norman McCay, a small time but wise pastor, but I think an issue was the lag before getting to the meat and heart of the story, taking too long to propel my interest. At first I was willing to ride in his head, but eventually I was eager for something to start happening. He's a likeable character, but the prophetic speaking grew tiresome. Religion plays in this book a lot; it's a blend of the Revelation as told by John and the Superheroes and world at stake.

The main base is the three largest characters - Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman - what they have been doing during a 10 year hiatus, and how their differing views clash when they must come together again to save the world from an appending destruction. Superman has one of the more tragic tales, after losing those closest to him through death, he turns his back on the city he vowed to protect after they refused to listen to him. Coming back is awkward, as he's trying to fit his consistent views in a world that's moved on its own without him, even if the world doing that is not possible and leaving was the worst thing he could have done. Wonder Woman and her people consider her a failure and she is struggling to make the right decisions based on past errors. And finally Batman has grown more jaded and cynical, wanting the best but having less faith in the old system of the Justice League being the way to do it.

I think it was around page 70 or so before we finally glimpse Superman and the mains in their present day; while it was a full-strength scene, by this point I was a little bored. When Superman is shown, it's glorious, although he has long donned the Clark Kent persona. Even Kryptonite can barely touch him at this point. Batman is intriguing in his future state, physically broken down but he's overcome that through intellect, in his power and in control of Gotham. The mere scene with Arthur in Atlantis was especially interesting. I'm not a fan of Wonder Woman, although she's here a lot, and her scenes were well done.

I like future stories that are realistic with the heroes and found that part fascinating. Of course there is a taint of sadness shadowing this. Maggin's writes well, poetically, but sometimes too dry and distant for this telling. The battle was climactic, the build-up interesting, the moral lessons of the story potent - how long will the world survive without the justice league, and how much damage can it accidentally cause with its existence?

Between the pauses through Norman's point of view, which give a distant emotion, a lot of hopping around to almost every character imaginable, some tiredness with the lagging between story lines, it just failed to hold my interest enough to get a higher rating, despite being a powerful and well done story. As I figured, the last quarter was the best part of the book.

There were some surprisingly twisted, tragic ends to beloved characters. You can't write a bleak future without bleakness, though, and that carried strong impact. There's a relationship that changes to a closer level between two mains, too, which I'm rather meh about but know some fans root for.

I haven't read the graphic novel version of this; that is also highly rated. I may bond with that one more.