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Off The Page: The Kingdom

By Patrick McNair Nov 21, 2016 - 5:12 PM print

DC Comics has had a long and often muddled history with its own fictional continuity. As a company, DC started publication in the late 1930s and as time passed, it became exceedingly difficult to conform decades’ worth of stories into a coherent timeline. The splitting of the golden and silver age into the parallel worlds of Earth one (Golden) and Earth two (Silver) was a novel way of unburdening the heavy load of continuity, with its multitude of characters, but even this wasn't enough. 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths was the company's first reboot, resetting the histories of the major characters, while removing minor ones. A further attempt to provide a "soft" reboot occurred in 1994's Zero Hour , retconning certain events in a character’s history (e.g. Batman never confronts his parents’ killer). DC hit the reset switch again with 2011's The New 52, before public backlash and low sales forced the company to create the DC Universe Rebirth storyline in 2016. With a company as old as DC, it's no wonder executives have had a very difficult time in restructuring the fictional history of the DC universe, since it became a complete nightmare to keep track of. In 1999, Mark Waid (most known for writing the Wally West era of The Flash ) published The Kingdom , the follow-up to 1996’s Kingdom Come , invoking a creative approach to the many continuity discrepancies throughout DC history.

The Setup:
Twenty years after the events of Kingdom Come , Superman is killed repeatedly throughout history by a mysterious assailant known only as Gog. The following incursion results in multiple time paradoxes, forcing time traveller Rip Hunter to embark on a desperate mission before time is destroyed.

The Players:
Clark Kent/Superman
Kid Flash
Bruce Wayne/Batman
Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Rip Hunter
Ibn al Xu'ffasch

The Breakdown:
As a sequel to Kingdom Come , The Kingdom is also an Elseworlds story, separate from mainstream DC Comics continuity. Following the success of Kingdom Come , Mark Waid and Alex Ross began working on a sequel, but after disagreeing on several key concepts (e.g. Gog being an alien and Magog revealed as the son of Superman and Wonder Woman), Ross left the project and as such, The Kingdom does not feature Ross’ visually distinctive artwork. In his absence, the comic was drawn by Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck, with traditional, hand drawn comic book illustrations.

When Superman awakens in the "afterlife" following his death, he is shocked to learn that he is one of numerous Supermen who have been killed throughout history by the crazed individual Gog. One of the Supermen reveals that Gog was once a young man called William, who was the only survivor of the Kansas nuclear event in Kingdom Come and became a minister that worshiped Superman in an effort to make sense of the devastation. Once Superman informed William that the Kansas disaster was his fault (he had gone into a self-imposed exile), William vowed revenge against Superman and was manipulated by a group of cosmic entities known as the Quintessence, giving William the name "Gog" and imbuing him with superpowers of his own to carry out his mission. Gog kills Superman in the year 2040 and then travels back in time a day before to kill him again. Gog repeats this pattern, continuing his never-ending slaughter against Superman as Gog travels closer to the present day. The resulting damage to the timeline causes multiple time paradoxes, which deeply distresses Rip Hunter and the rest of the Linear Men as Superman is dead in the 21st century yet somehow alive in 853rd century, with their instruments recording no error. As time unravels, Hunter attempts to stop Gog by travelling back to the day Superman and Wonder Woman's son, Jonathan was born, but is unsuccessful and Gog escapes with the child, whom he plans to raise and name Magog (in reference to the main antagonist from Kingdom Come ). Desperate to save their child and Gog's danger to the timeline, Hunter agrees to take them back through time to confront Gog in the past (where he plans to ignite the Kansas Holocaust). Hunter warns the heroes that interference with their past will erase their present, meaning that Jonathan might never be born. Understanding their sacrifice, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman travel back to 1998, teaming up with their younger selves to fight Gog. The madman easily thwarts the six heroes, yet manage to save Jonathan, who much to their parents’ horror disappears before their eyes. Before Gog is able to inflict the final blow, Hunter pulls them through a portal to a place (a "Planet Kypton" restaurant) outside of time, where he has recruited some of the children of the heroes from the Kingdom Come era to aid in the fight.

It's at this point that Rip Hunter reveals the ultimate secret of the universe: Hypertime, a multidimensional contract that allows for the existence of infinite, parallel timelines to exist. Hunter kept the existence of Hypertime a secret from the Linear Men as it contradicted their ordered and rigid approach to time. Using weapons gathered from various points in Hypertime, the heroes engage Gog in a final confrontation, with the younger Superman delivering the fatal blow to the tyrant. As Gog is defeated, the future of Kingdom Come will no longer be the future of the mainstream DC universe, with everyone being returned to their proper place in time. Before they leave, the older Superman and Wonder Woman briefly meet an alternate version of Jonathan, who has the power to travel through Hypertime and are then reunited with their young son (who instinctively retreated into Hypertime earlier). The Quintessence recognise their arrogance and cruelty in having manipulated Gog and at Wonder Woman's behest, repair the damage they had inflicted on William as they muse on humanity’s potential.

The Kingdom is a unique and thought-provoking sequel to one of the most impactful comics DC produced in the 1990s. Those missing Alex Ross’ painted artwork from Kingdom Come , may find Olivetti and Zeck’s illustrations a poor substitute, but the significant differences between the two styles is unavoidable. Hypertime was a novel and innovative concept to explain away the myriad continuity errors and inevitable contradictions as a result of decades of publication. What makes the concept work is that it's extremely simple: it's all true, in other words, all alternate timelines exist in parallel to each other, thus one never supersedes the other as official "canon." This was in stark contrast to the previous approach to continuity, where only the currently used version was considered valid, rendering all previous stories apocryphal. Hypertime even allowed characters of different continuities to interact with each other, as alternate timeline "tributaries" could flow together for a brief time before departing. Unfortunately, Hypertime was infrequently used after The Kingdom and was disowned by then DC Executive Editor, Dan DiDio in 2005. Instead, the comic, Infinite Crisis resolved the continuity errors another way, explaining it as a result of reality changing "continuity waves", generated by Superboy-Prime from punching the walls of his prison in that story. The Kingdom is an interesting, "what if" follow-up to Kingdom Come . The story is a more intimate affair, has fewer characters and with a greater emphasis on the character development of the "Trinity", as opposed to the world shattering events of Kingdom Come .

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