A Tribute to the of

So here we are faithful readers. Edition #300 of the Silver Age Sage is now before you. Frankly, I wasn't sure it would ever go this far. Furthermore, I wasn't completely sure what to do to mark the occasion. Yeah, so much for the writer's imagination, eh? So, I decided to consult the webmaster and he suggested reviewing the book that reignited my interest in comics.

One of the webmaster's many talents that I truly envy is his remarkable memory. He can recount precise dates for things and while I may vividly recall the event, I'd be very hard pressed to give you the year it happened, let alone the date. For people like me it's very important to write things down and luckily I tend to be in the habit, so it saves me some grief.

I use that as a bit of a preamble for the notion that there are those who can tell you precisely what their first comic was and when they got it. Granted, many of those events were at a spinner rack someplace and of course publication dates, despite being printed before the cover dates will give you a pretty good idea of timeframes. Well, when I was a kid, I got a lot of my books through wheeling and dealing. I didn't buy all that many from those fabled racks. Consequently I'd have a hard time telling you just when I got my first books or even precisely how. I'm a huge fan of DC Silver Age comics, even though I wasn't really reading them until the Bronze Age. That was primarily due to the fact that the webmaster has an older brother who did buy a lot of them when they were still twelve cents and when he lost interest, we jumped into his collection with both feet. We also got some of the newer titles, so I feel comfortable in the Bronze Age as well, even though my major interest goes to pre-1970 titles.

One thing I can share is a short version of how this all came about. Like many, I put the books down at some point, feeling they were kind of childish for a sophisticated teenager. Well, that and there was a little incident that deprived me of my collection, but I won't go into that here. A handful survived and I kept them (still got 'em), but they were stored away in my closet for a number of years.

Fast forward and the webmaster discovered the incredible "Kingdom Come" and shared it with me. Suddenly, my interest in the old four color wonders was back with full force. I began to rebuild my collection with the help of eBay and supplemented it with issues I'd wanted from the old house ads, but that seemed impossibly out of reach. Then the Silver Lantern was conceived by the webmaster and shortly after I jumped in with the reviews and of course in 2007 the interviews began and then this last year I sold my first piece to BACK ISSUE and it's just been the most thrilling joyride now for well over a decade.

So, it seems only appropriate at this time to cover that wondrous tome by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, with lettering by Todd Klein. Behold the amazing Kingdom Come:

Considering my audience, this is likely unnecessary, but just in case, the setting for Kingdom Come is down the road a piece, where the heroes we know so well and love are well into middle age and in some cases beyond. The majority have retired or gone into their own specialized niche. In some ways it reminds me of where the Justice Society of America was when that first crossover with the JLA occurred. Of particular significance is the fact that the heroes have had children of their own, endowed with superpowers and they've chosen different pathways from their parents.

The story begins in a hospital. Pastor Norman McCay is visiting one of his flock and the elderly gentleman, Wesley Dodds, is quoting passages from the book of Revelation. He's obviously agitated and the staff comes in to sedate him while Norman tries to calm the ailing Sandman with other quotes from the Bible. In the background, metahumans are seen flying through the twilight skies among the city skyscrapers.

Soon the Pastor finds himself at Wesley's funeral, considering what the world has become and how Wesley Dodds had begun more and more to question how the concept of human achievement had departed. McCay lunches at Planet Krypton, probably based loosely on the Hard Rock Café with the help dressed up as superheroes and plenty of associated memorabilia for decoration and atmosphere.

Still contemplative, the good Pastor walks the city streets when we are shown just what the next generations of "heroes" have become. A handful are engaged in a "rumble," battling one another and making a general mess of things, so oblivious to the carnage they're causing that Norman McCay finds himself saving a young girl from the flying debris. They are interrupted only when a news bulletin crosses the massive screen on what appears to be the Times Square building, riveting the attention of everyone.

Segue then to McCay's church where he is extensively quoting Revelation to a stunned congregation. He abruptly comes out of his seeming trance, apologizes and sees them out of the chapel. Alone, he realizes that the visions and quoting from the apocalyptic book by Wesley Dodds now appear to be transferred to him. Then, incredibly, the Spectre appears in dramatic fashion, emerging from the wall and he explains to the stunned Pastor that he has need of him as he fulfills his mission to punish the responsible parties for the coming evil. The astral avenger further explains that together they must witness the events that will lead to Armageddon.

The first stop is a farm surrounded by fields of wheat. A farmer is making repairs to a barn roof, sans tools and he soon leaps down and carries a tractor inside. The bearded, graying man is, of course, Clark Kent in bib overalls. The Spectre and McCay are invisible to those around them and they see a visitor in the form of Wonder Woman, who encourages Kal-El to not isolate himself. We learn from their conversation that his wife has died and that for a decade he's been in self-imposed exile at the aptly named Fortress of Solitude, with a simulated farm but with real animals and fields. Diana has come to tell him that something very bad has happened involving an unnamed man they both seem to know.

Entering another room, Superman views multiple news feed screens that are covering the disaster and he speaks one word: "Magog." The story continues to unfold that Magog, leading the Justice Battalion had descended upon the Parasite in a Kansas wheat field. Pleading to be left alone, the villain was ignored and forced to fight, ultimately retaliating against Captain Atom and splitting him open, unleashing untold nuclear radiation for hundreds of kilometers, destroying all living things within the zone. Diana begs him to take the leadership role he always has, but he rebuffs her request and she leaves.

Norman asks the Spectre about what has transpired and he explains that Superman's departure from his mission caused huge ripples among his contemporaries, sparking some retirements and some to work in greatly diminished capacities. One by one McCay is shown a relentlessly patrolling Flash in Keystone City; a winged avenger in the Pacific Northwest named Hawkman; the orbiting green emerald city containing Green Lantern, along with glimpses of Atlantis and Paradise Island. Finally Gotham City flashes past Norman's consciousness, where the Batman has huge robot Batknights on patrol.

In the next few moments, Norman is seeing the metahuman rumbles beginning anew. With no real foes to face them this seems to be their only outlet and just as more collateral damage appears imminent with a loaded sky tram being knocked from its wires, there is a powerful wind followed by a waterspout that deposits the tram onto the bridge and then Superman appears with some of the rumblers in his grasp. The onlookers are in pure awe, but Norman McCay sees another apocalyptic vision and he is convinced that the threat of Armageddon has just begun.

Chapter Two begins at Ellis Island where the Americommando and his Minutemen are threatening to stop all immigration and are threatening those who have recently arrived when out of the skies come a newly reformed Justice League including Superman, Wonder Woman, the Ray, Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman, Red Robin and Power Woman. Quickly they stabilize the situation and just as quickly depart.

Soon they descend upon the United Nations building for an impromptu press conference where Superman announces that they will teach the new breed of metahuman the meaning of truth and justice and that they will restore order and make things right. When questioned about Magog, Wonder Woman states that if he should appear, he will be dealt with, unlikely as that may be in the Kansas aftermath that he spearheaded. They then depart and in their wake the U.N. panel is uneasy to say the least.

Soon Superman is making a visit to a wrecked Wayne Manor, finding Bruce in the Batcave, directing his Batknights and explaining the carnage above was wrought by Bane and Two Face after his Bruce Wayne identity was exposed. Further, the prisons like Arkham Asylum and Blackgate have been destroyed along with all those held within the walls. Bruce flatly refuses to join Superman's reformed Justice League, comparing his plan to a totalitarian "solution."

After the departure of the Man of Steel, Oliver Queen, Dinah Lance, and Ted Kord emerge. They briefly discuss their alternate plan and images of their team appear on the Batcave's multiple monitors.

As the days roll forth, the Justice League moves across the globe to meet with the metahumans and to recruit them. Some agree, but others are reluctant or defiant and while Wonder Woman moves with a certain degree of overzealousness when a battle ensues, Superman reminds her of the sanctity of life and tries to provide a leavening influence.

Elsewhere, inevitably the underworld takes an interest in events and an alliance is building at the behest of Lex Luthor. Vandal Savage, King of the Royal Flush Gang, Selina Kyle, Edward Nigma, Kobra and others have gathered to form the Mankind Liberation Front. When questioned about how they will handle Superman, Luthor replies he has a plan and refers to his valet, who looks an awful lot like a grown-up Billy Batson.

The League uses Green Lantern's New Oa as their satellite headquarters and they continue their inexorable march across the globe, often encountering stiff resistance and with it comes the realization that they must find a way to contain those metahumans who are outright rogues. They explore using Atlantis, but the Sea King refuses and during the meeting it is disclosed that Diana has been stripped of her title as Princess of the Amazons due to a failure to be an effective liaison to the humans.

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, Magog is discovered, still lingering in the wasteland that was Kansas. When the league arrives, it is the long overdue confrontation between Superman and Magog. The Man of Tomorrow confronts Magog, telling him that his actions led to the deaths of over a million innocent souls. Magog retorts that Superman is at fault because he had refused to pass the torch. Magog recounts how the Joker had come to Metropolis and used a powerful toxin to kill 92 men and one woman at the Daily Planet and when Magog found him, he meted out swift and sure justice, blasting the life from the Clown Prince of Crime through his scepter. When Magog was brought to trial, Superman himself testified against him, but the metahuman was acquitted by the jury and a disenchanted Superman began his self-exile after refusing Magog's challenge to a "title bout."

To illustrate his frustration, Magog fires a burst of power at Superman, damaging his uniform, but leaving him standing. Magog then falls to his knees, stating that the world changed, but Superman didn't and that he, the man who would kill, was chosen by the people. He desires now only to be locked away or punished, just so the voices of the ghosts will depart.

Superman's next visit is to Apokolips to meet with Orion and Scott Free. Orion offers to use his wretched world as a place to hold the rogue metahumans, but Superman has another idea and brings the former Mister Miracle back to the obliterated Kansas to begin construction of a massive holding facility designed by the master escape artist.

Elsewhere, the Mankind Liberation Front is joined by an unlikely group led by Batman and an uneasy alliance is formed under the auspices of keeping mankind free of the potential oppression of the Justice League.

Chapter Three shows the completion of the Gulag, which is already filled to overcapacity and the attempts by Superman to rehabilitate the inhabitants with holographic lessons, explaining their obligation to use their great powers for uplifting and helping mankind rather than terrifying and intimidating them. Many of the inmates are openly hostile with some insisting that through their efforts, the super villains of the past have been eradicated, thus saving lives. Lex Luthor, it seems, has managed to create a monitoring system keeping him abreast of the happenings inside the walls of the prison and he is pleased with the unrest. The Spectre confirms to Norman McCay that Luthor's valet is Captain Marvel in his human guise and that his role is currently unclear, but the duo is soon at a cosmic gathering of eternals who are debating that very issue, including Shazam himself, Ganthet of the Guradians of the Universe, High Father and the Phantom Stranger. Deadman then arrives to fill Norman McCay in a bit more about his ghostly escort.

At the headquarters of the Mankind Liberation Front, Luthor and Batman confer and the Dark Knight introduces his allies, who are also second and third generation metahumans.

Simultaneously, the Justice League at New Oa monitor things on earth when the Fastest Man Alive suddenly spots Norman McCay and drags him into that reality. When questioned by Superman he finds himself quoting from Revelation again, to the puzzlement of the Man of Might, but before matters can go much further, it is discovered that a full scale riot is going on in the Gulag. Wonder Woman dispatches Flash, Green Lantern and Power Woman to take control. Superman interjects that they must use peaceful means, but the Amazon states that they must use whatever means necessary. Superman is unhappy with his authority being undermined, but Diana insists she was showing true leadership in a crisis. Their next stop is the United Nations, where they receive a rather unhappy audience. They are aware of the Gulag and that they must take some action and decide their own fate.

Luthor, enthralled with the unfolding of events, is ready to take advantage of the growing pandemonium and is about to unleash Captain Marvel when Batman and his charges intervene. Batson escapes from Batman's grip and as he pursues, Bruce Wayne tries to talk Billy into listening to him, explaining how Luthor has twisted and infiltrated Batson's mind, using worms laced with psychoactive chemicals to aid the process. It's all for naught, though, when Billy utters, for the first time in many years, the magic, transforming word: "Shazam!"

Preparations continue on New Oa and Superman and Wonder Woman continue to argue about methodology when an urgent message arrives from Green Lantern, informing them the battle at the Gulag is going badly and that in fact, Captain Atom has been killed. Wonder Woman leads the League to the battle while Superman takes another direction, speeding to the Batcave and pleading for Bruce's help. Batman again refuses, but divulges that Captain Marvel is now part of things and has been severely brainwashed by Luthor. Superman leaves at top speed for the Gulag, where the walls have been breached and the fight is reaching a full crescendo when he is stopped by Captain Marvel

Chapter Four opens with complete and utter bedlam as the metahumans battle one another with abandon. Superman is rendered ineffective by the intervention of the World's Mightiest Mortal.

Back at the U.N. a vote is taken for drastic action: A nuclear strike that will take out the growing threat of the metahumans.

At the scene of the battle, Batman arrives with his troops, granting renewed hope for the Justice League, but in the heat of battle, Wonder Woman uses an enchanted sword to kill one of the most powerful prisoners, enraging the rogue metahumans. Batman calls her out on it and the enraged Amazon turns on him as they argue up into the atmosphere. It is then that they realize to their horror that heavily armed planes are coming their way.

On the ground, a frustrated Superman is trying to talk sense into Captain Marvel, but the only words coming from his foe are "Shazam!" He then steps away, allowing the magical lightning to strike the Man of Steel. Magic, of course, is one of Superman's few weaknesses and the multiple strikes are taking their toll.

Back above the surface, Wonder Woman disables one of the ships and Batman the other, but there is a third bomb with a determined Blackhawk pilot at the controls.

Superman finally declares "enough," and rushes Captain Marvel when he next speaks his word, causing Billy Batson to reappear. A powerful hand is clamped over Billy's mouth and while this drama unfolds the Spectre informs Norman McCay that it is time for him to pass judgment. McCay observes the interaction between the Man of Tomorrow and Billy Batson while Superman informs him that he alone, as both god and mortal, is qualified to make the decision as to whether to stop the bomb or let it fall. As he gives Billy the charge, he flies up to try and intercept the nuke. Billy invokes "Shazam!" Captain Marvel overtakes Superman, hurls him back earthward and intercepts the bomb, repeatedly shouting "Shazam!" The enchanted lightning strikes, the bomb detonates in the atmosphere and the Spectre declares, "Judgment."

Superman cries out from his kneeling position amid multiple skeletal remains around the site of the holocaust. His eyes glow red and he blasts into the sky while Norman spies a handful of survivors beneath an emerald bubble. The Spectre bids McCay farewell, but the Pastor is unwilling to accept it, insisting he be taken immediately to the U.N. where a new kind of carnage is happening. An enraged Superman is about to demolish the building on the heads of all those within. McCay instructs the Spectre to allow him to speak to Clark and with wisdom and experience he tells the Man of Might to consider what he's doing, to forgive himself and to never let the Super subsume the Man.

The survivors then arrive and Superman is glad to see them, though Batman instructs him that enough have survived that the inherent conflicts and problems will continue. Superman then addresses the U.N., explaining that they will work together to put things back together. As he speaks, symbolically, the heroes remove their masks and Superman states that they will no longer impose their will upon mankind, but will earn their trust and behave as equals. In another powerful act of symbolism and tribute, he takes the lost cape of Captain Marvel and places it on a flagpole outside the U.N. headquarters to represent the superheroes.

The epilogue has Wayne Manor converted to a hospital to help rehabilitate the injured survivors while Clark erects a graveyard in the ground of Kansas and with the help of the Ray, restoring America's breadbasket by removing the radiation and employing a huge plow. Even the Spectre doffs his hood, revealing Jim Corrigan and leaving Norman with these words: "Be well, Norman McCay. You have watched the titans walk the earth…and you have kept stride. Perhaps you are more like then than you realize."

Norman McCay returns to his congregation with renewed hope and faith and this volume has a final short chapter opening with "One Year Later…"

Clark and Diana meet Bruce Wayne for lunch at Planet Krypton and after a toast to past friends, the announcement they have for Bruce is pre-empted when he states simply to Diana, "You're pregnant." The observation skills of the World's Greatest Detective remain formidable, but he is still uncertain about the purpose behind the meeting. It is then that Clark and Diana explain that they want him for a godfather, to teach their child the things only a mortal man can. They then depart with a new optimism about the future unfolding before them.

And that, my friends, is perhaps an overdone synopsis of a little over 200 pages of stunning graphic novel excellence. Obviously Alex Ross' artistic skills are something not to be missed and I was especially impressed with his abilities to render such realism, but also to so accurately portray our favorite characters at a later stage in their lives. There were also numerous "Easter eggs" throughout, including one of the final scenes at the U.N. HQ where the primary characters were shown with men in the background who were modeled on each characters creators, such as Mart Nodell, Jerry Sigel and Joe Shuster and William Moulton Marston. Obviously you cannot have such a magnificent tale without imaginative scripting by the incomparable Mark Waid. I am pleased to report that I had a rare and wonderful opportunity recently to thank him for this work and he acknowledged by simply saying thank you, that it was nice of me to say. One day, maybe I can tell Alex Ross the same.

Thanks to the generosity of the webmaster, I have a beautiful hardcover copy of Kingdom Come, signed by Alex, along with Elliot S! Maggin's novelized version and even an audio edition that I've enjoyed time and again. This story is and ever shall be a major touchstone for me and I hope for others as well. I suppose you could call it a big part of my "secret origin."

The webmaster and I appreciate your indulgence and it's awesome to me to think that this endeavor has gone for 300 installments. I intend to continue as long as it remains enjoyable, as long as the Silver Lantern maintains a presence on the World Wide Web and that there are still some interested readers. So, please do return on the first and while it may not be as epic as this, there will be something new here for your reading pleasure.

In the interim, I'm just an e-mail away: professor_the@hotmail.com . I welcome your feedback.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S

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