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by Russell T. Burlingame

THE KINGDOM EVENT

THE KINGDOM #1 - ****1/2 (with an extra half-star for what we find out about Jonathan Kent II)

The opening to DC's biggest event since "The Crisis on Infinite Earths" leaves a lot to imagination, while still telling us more than we expected to find out. Besides finding that Superman himself is being killed over and over again in the future, we find that The Quintessence-the group of godlike beings that awarded Gog his power-may or may not have had the loftiest of goals in mind. The Phantom Stranger, Hunter, and the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman of the "Kingdom Come" generation guide us through an issue of revelation, as well as some of the most incredible battle scenes in recent memory. Gog is enormously powerful-without thinking, he kills Superman time after time, and barely bats an eyebrow as he takes on the heroes of a generation hence and kidnaps the child of Superman and Wonder Woman-whose destiny is etched in stone and irony when…ah, but that would be telling. Let's just say that Gog makes the book, and that the writing of Mark Waid makes Gog. The art in this book is alright-better, actually, than the cover lets on-but we all knew when this started that Waid was going to be the real draw of the book, and it would be his work on "The Kingdom" that determined whether or not it was truly worthy of "Kingdom Come."

"The Kingdom" #1 starts off the storyline with a LOUD bang, and serves its purpose of creating tension and anticipation as to what happens next-and how the future will react to the news that its greatest heroes have left it in search of a villain who may well cause history to change, irrevocably preventing their own existence.

NIGHTSTAR #1 - *****

The daughter of Dick Grayson is just as exciting as her son, as this book will show. Waid really outdid himself on this one, as well as the book about Nightstar's boyfriend (we'll get into that later). The art is surprisingly good on this title, and Nightstar's character is fleshed out as something that we might not have expected her to be-a leader of her generation. Upon hearing that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have traveled back to the past, and that her reality is threatened to pass out of existence, Nightstar begins to rally some of her counterparts, in the vain hope of saving the world she's fought to protect. Even while her father accepts the hopelessness of it all, Nightstar perseveres and decides to find a way to save her life-her very world-from passing out of existence.

The character of Dick Grayson plays out pretty well, besides the fact that it seems like he's giving up too easy. He shrugs and watches while his world comes to and end, which seems unnatural but somewhat believable, seeing as the League had decided at the time that it was for the "greater good" that they were sacrificing their world. Dick as Concerned Father was interesting-his concerns about who his daughter was dating (he tried to prevent her from dating Ibn Al Xu'ffasch after learning his parentage) was less than touching, and reminded you somewhat of Batman's concern for Robin's well being in last summer's abhorrent mess of a movie, "Batman and Robin." Overall, Dick's daughter is a story of hope-even in the face of superhuman odds and superhuman might, time has not yet run out for humanity.

SON OF THE BAT #1 ****1/2

This guy's different-a villain during KINGDOM COME, his love of a good woman and knowledge of his parentage brought him around to the right side of justice. Ibn Al Xu'ffasch, the son of Bruce Wayne and grandson of Ra's Al Ghul, has been raised in a different manner than most children. He's used to dealing with things in a rather unorthodox way, and so it's not too surprising when we see him working with Lex Luthor, trying to figure out a plan to save the earth. What IS surprising, to this writer, is that Ibn brought Braniac (who, according to both "Kingdom Come" and this issue was scattered from Argo to Clark Kent's pulitzer) and his grandfather back from the dead to help him. He couldn't lose anything, I suppose, and the method makes sense for someone raised by the League of Assassins. Ibn is a true representation of his father's spirit-despite his upbringing, or perhaps because of it, he never gives up on the world he knows or the woman he loves. "I'll always love you," he tells Nightstar at the opening of the story, and then goes on to try and save the world in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. His allies can find no hope for their world, and so Ibn goes to join his lover-not to die with her, but to see what she has found to save their mutual reality. He, too, represents hope, but his unorthodox methods remind less of a brightly-clad champion of justice and more of a…caped crusader?

THE OFFSPRING #1****

Son of Plastic Man, The Offspring is a character who, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect. Even his wife has nothing but complaints about their life, as she complains that he's "too much like his father" and that he doesn't take anything seriously. The relationship between Offspring and Plas is played up throughout the book, as we learn that he's neither proud nor terribly fond of his father, but he's too shy to say anything. We can sympathize with Offspring the way that we've been able to sympathize with such everyman characters as the 1960s Spiderman and the 1970s Green Arrow (having lost his fortune, etc).

When his quest to be taken seriously takes him to Nightstar's side, the Offspring realizes that the world is over if he can't give it hope. Nightstar and her boyfriend are gathering a team of heroes, he learns, to save our reality from the doom it faces when the older heroes change history. Before he goes, though, Offspring does one thing that will touch every fan-he makes peace with his father and his father's destiny. A conversation with Offspring's wife sobers Plastic Man a bit, and the older hero discusses the future-or lack thereof-with his son and the conversation yields some surprising results. Offspring, Plastic Man and the DC Universe will never be the same.

KID FLASH #1*****

Kid Flash was perhaps the most naturally-told "Kingdom" book, given Mark Waid's experience with her father, the Flash. Struggling to be accepted by her father in much the same way that Wally West struggled at first to be accepted by the superhero community, Kid Flash spends what seems like every moment of her life in either a fight for justice, or a fight against her older brother's apathy. Barry West was the chosen recipient of the Flash mantle who shocked his father by telling him that he wasn't interested, though his sister was. Wally gave up on passing the name on, though, and continued coldly about his own never-ending battle with a renewed fervor.

When the world is about to end, Wally and his daughter finally come together in a common goal-making sure that no one will die this day. The noble Flashes work hard while Barry uses his speed to go out for a tattoo, and Wally West is, in the end, forced to face not only his own hypocrisy and his own mistakes, but the fact that he may well never have the chance to say goodbye to the daughter that so admired him. His reaction is surprising but heroic as he continues about his battle to save the day, if not the world.

PLANET KRYPTON #1 *****

Booster Gold's recently-opened theme restaurant provides the staging ground for the only one of the "Kingdom" books that takes place in the present. A homeless employee, thinking she's seeing ghosts at night, is actually gazing into what appears to the comics reader to be other realities. All around her she sees Pre-Crisis DC characters, Tangent characters and characters from the other books in "The Kingdom" and "Kingdom Come." The art is exquisite-Kitson and Waid are an incredible teaming, as they were in "JLA: Year One," and Kitson brings us back to the days of yore by including some of the best forgotten characters in comics, including (among others) the Pre-Crisis Supergirl and Katma Tui (the wife of John Stewart).

"Planet Krypton" is also the book that gives us the most to work with in terms of figuring out what the great secret is that the Quintessence is so preoccupied with protecting. Our modern day Batman arrives to tell the girl to go find herself someplace to go, and to explain to her that these "ghosts" are probably more likely to be intrusions of other realities onto ours. A chilling diagnosis, Dr. Wayne…and one which may be lent some creedence in the near future.

THE KINGDOM #2 *****

The conclusion of "The Kingdom" is as shocking as any other revelation since we learned the identity of "Zero Hour's" architect (for those of us nil- endowed in the cranium, it was Parallax). Massive nuclear destruction in Kansas implicates Superman in a roundabout way, and Gog is, of course the reason. The year is 1998, and Superman travels to investigate the mass-murder of thousands of Americans and the destruction of much of America's breadbasket. Faced with an incredible, powerful evil, Superman is nervous. When Gog produces a piece of Kryptonite, Superman is even scared…and when the battle knocks Superman into the arms of…SUPERMAN?!…the Man of Steel is downright confused.

The Last Son of Krypton faces the Man of Tomorrow and his comrades-obviously the Batman and Wonder Woman to match this strange new Superman. The three encourage him to call in the Justice League, and the younger versions of Wonder Woman and Batman join into the fight. When Hunter the Linear Man brings the battle to the Planet Krypton, the greatest secret in the universe is exposed, the destiny of Superman's son is revealed and Mark Waid's promise is fulfilled: it's an ending you'll never forget, and "if you think that 'The Kingdom' is going to bring back the familiar DC Multiverse, you're thinking too small."

All characters are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Russell T. Burlingame

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