As you may recall (either from this earlier blog post or from me talking excitedly about it for all of 2014 so far) one of Brett and I’s marital goals for the year is to read one book a month of the other’s choosing. This month, Brett had me read a graphic novel. So unexpected.
No, really. I thought he was going to hand me a theological book by Tim Keller because he’s getting back into all of that, but instead, one evening while I’m sitting in bed comfortably watching Mad Men, he hands me this book with glossy pages and says, “The art in this is amazing.” Well alright then. I can appreciate some art.
So here is my book report (with outline questions borrowed from here).
1. Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross; copyright 1996 by DC Comics; Graphic novel.
2. Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
Things are looking pretty grim for humankind and superhumankind, and throughout the book they just get worse. It’s set some 50 (?) years past what I assume is the golden age of the Justice Leage, Superman has banished himself after an incident with a foe that destroyed all of Kansas, and the rest of the DC comic heroes are either gone completely or being aloof. Guardians of Earth Lite, if you will.
However, there are generations of superhumans spawned from all the original super heroes and villains from way back when. They’re kind of adolescent and uncontrolled. They constantly fight one another, with a growing apathy for the human life that gets in their way.
Resulting from this are many points of conflict. There’s Superman’s internal conflict when he’s approached by other Justice League members and asked to help them resolve the problem of the uncontrolled superhumans. Will he forgive himself for what happened years ago and come out of hiding? And how will he then handle the situation? There’s the conflict between humans and heroes – if the superhumans continue to fight, another disaster like what happened with Superman in Kansas could happen. World leaders in the UN have to decide whether to fight back, basically starting a war with superhumans. There’s conflict among the old members of the Justice League concerning how to handle the younger generation of superhumans. If they refuse to comply with the old rules, which prioritized preserving human and superhuman life above delegating justice and capital punishment on their own terms, should they be punished? And to what extent?
3. What did you think of the main character?
The main character was Superman. At points in the novel, he was much less like the typical boy-scout idea of Superman, and more like a dictator who laid down the rules and was unwilling to change his ways for any reason. He’s very arrogant through the whole thing. But is he right? Probably. At least, you’re supposed to think he is. But the questions raised in the center of the plot are pretty deep.
4. Which character could you relate to best?
Superman’s character was really torn and experienced the most conflict. I think this makes him the most relatable. He’s dealing with really intense moral issues about life and death, capital punishment, and how much restraint he and the other superheroes should show, even when trying to protect humanity.
I don’t know why I relate to this. Probably because of my super powers.
5. Were there any other especially interesting characters?
At one point, Wonder Woman and Superman go visit Aquaman in the middle of the ocean to try to enlist his help, and he’s all like, I got my own problems. I take care of like, 70% of the world. (I don’t know if that’s accurate. I’m not a scientist.) You take care of your above-sea-level issues.
That’s totally respectable, in my opinion. I mean, it’s not that Aquaman is lazy and doing nothing, but he literally says he won’t help with their problem, and it’s not like he shows up to save the day at the last minute anyway. He’s got a really good point.
6. From whose point of view is the story told?
A priest named Norman experiences visions of all the different things that happen in the novel. It’s how we get to skip from one event to another so quickly. An “angel” guides Norman through his visions and explains what is happening. It’s very A Christmas Carol. Only instead of a terrible Christmas it’s the apocalypse caused by neglectful superheroes.
7. Were the characters and their problems believable?
Well, yes, as far as superheroes go. What the story does best is show the hardest issues superheroes would have do deal with if superheroes were real.
Except for Batman. He is real.
8. How did the main character change during the novel?
Superman didn’t change as much as most of the other characters. In true Superman fashion, everyone else is supposed to conform to his moral standards, not the other way around. The story really is geared to reach the good ol’ American in all of us. That’s why all the superheroes have aged and look like a conglomerate of upstanding members of the GOP.
Anyway, Superman does come out of hiding. So he changes a bit. He lets go of his guilt.
9. What was the book’s central question, and how was it answered?
The book’s central question is whether the sanctity of superhuman life is more or less sacred than the lives of the regular humans that the super humans are meant to protect. (Answer: they are equally important, but by equally they mean less.) Or maybe the question is whether super humans really ARE meant to protect humans. (Answer: Superman says they are, so they must be.) I think the book had more of a central theme than a central question. The theme, like most superhero stories, is about responsibility. What are the responsibilities of superheroes? How much power should they exert?
10. Did you learn something new from the book?
I learned who Captain Marvel was. (I thought this was a DC comic?)
11. Was the book different from what you expected?
Based off… the cover? I didn’t really have any expectations.
12. Was location important to the story?
It was set in the USA for the most part, but this is only important because it’s about American ideals.
13. Was the time period important to the story?
I’m not sure what year it was supposed to be set in. It looked like present-day, but it was about the end of the world.
14. What alternative title would you choose for this book?
Your Favorite Superheroes Get Old And Feel Threatened By The Younger Generation And Try To Control Them Instead Of Handling The Situation Properly And Everyone Dies
15. Share a quote or two from the book.
“The Gulag’s ready to blow.” -Superman, to Batman
16. Share a favorite scene from the book.
The scene with Aquaman that I described above.
17. Did you like the way the book ended?
Not really. After all the really intense life and death/end of the world stuff, the scene falls on Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman hanging out in a coffee shop where all the staff dresses in gaudy superhero costumes. (Clearly the golden age of superheroes is long ended and they’re just laughable now.) Batman uses his crime-fighting deduction skills to predict that Wonder Woman is pregnant with Superman’s child. (Can that even happen? I mean, not because they’re super human, but because they’re like, fifty?) Everyone, even Norman and his parish, lives happily ever after.
It was just kind of sappy.
18. What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
I was impressed by the deep moral struggles in the novel, but all in all, it wasn’t my favorite. And the ending was laughable.
19. What did you think of the cover?
20. Would you recommend this book? How would you rate it?
I wouldn’t recommend it except to someone who really likes graphic novels. Even though I thought it was disappointing, the art was good, and it doesn’t take too long to read. So even if you don’t like it very much, if you like graphic novels it could be worth your time. I give it a 4.5/10.