As much as The Dark Knight Rises takes a flawed premise and creates a great story, Kingdom Come takes the perfect foundations and somehow crafts a story that is less than the sum of its parts.
Kingdom Come is a painted mini series that was published by DC Comics in 1996 and written by Mark Waid. The real driving force behind it, however, is Alex Ross. Alex Ross is primarily influenced by Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis, and crafts superheroes that look real in worlds that are believable. He can sell you on almost any idea and has created some truly incredible art over the years (especially with his covers).
Kingdom Come features a large ensemble cast but is really about Superman. His limitations and his failure. Rejected by a population that finds him out of touch and ineffectual, he retreats from the outside world that has taken more pragmatic and final heroes to its bosom and rejected what it sees as temporary solutions. However, Batman has remained committed to his mission because Gotham needs him.
Batman has had his back broken, his secret identity made public and his home destroyed. None of this matters to a man with a single minded purpose. Throughout the comic he is proven right, time and time again. He is also the real victor, whose aims are most clearly realised by the eventual climax of the comic. It’s a Batman I have absolutely no problem recognising and believing in. He feels so utterly right.
Superman, too, is close to where I believe he should be: a being of great power who somehow never managed to make real or lasting change. More useful as an icon and symbol than a leader or decision maker. Able to change the course of a mighty river but carried along by the merest of tides. He’s the anti thesis of the Batman and truly lost at the start of the book. He also makes a series of poor decisions, exacerbating the very situation he tries to avert.
The climax of the comic is a pitched battle between different factions, with Batman coming in to prevent and contain the battle rather than to anoint a victor. It’s also heavy on biblical imagery (as is the whole story) and features a really, really strong moment that Ross and Waid sell perfectly. And the immediate aftermath is one of the great pieces of Superman imagery.
Overall, though, Kingdom Come is a comic that has too many characters and probably features the wrong character as its protagonist. The real hero is the Batman, and arguably Superman is as great a villain as any other within the pages. But it looks beautiful and has some great sequences.