Kingdom Come

“There were voices… and thunderings and lightnings…and an earthquake.” Thus opens Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, an apocalyptic superhero tale which follows the preacher Norman McCay as he witnesses the events surrounding the punishment of the earth.  Containing an engaging narrative by Mark Waid and sporting gorgeous pages of artwork by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come is a contemporary comic that offers excellent reading.

PLOT

The story opens after Superman and his fellow heroes of yesteryear have largely withdrawn from society and relinquished the reins of justice to their children and the new generation of heroes. However, the story quickly makes apparent that the new generation does not share the values that the older generation held. The destruction caused by this “new” generation forces Superman and his fellow heroes to come out of retirement and repair the mistakes that they have left unfixed. Mark Waid tells his story with finesse and he uses the situations of his characters to make social commentary and expound his views all within the framework of a superhero story.

MESSAGE

The story addresses many problems and ideas that are relevant to modern Americans and even Christians. Through the mouth of a character called Wesley, Waid talks about how modern people have lost initiative and the desire to excel, and instead, “asked a new breed to face the future for them”(17).  Also, throughout the entire narrative, Mark Waid uses the old/new superhero dichotomy to show the shortsightedness displayed whenever current problems are dumped on future generations who have not been raised responsibly and yet are expected to make things better. Mark Waid also addresses pride and its consequences; as well as how whenever a person loses touch with their own humanity they lose their moral compass and good judgment. Despite having fairly evident societal messages, Waid does not become preachy, but tells a pure superhero story about good versus evil that is engaging and entertaining. Mark Waid rises close to the pinnacle of storytelling in Kingdom Come, combining a great superhero story and at the same time unobtrusively making an accurate statement about modern American culture.

As far as inappropriate content in Kingdom Come, there is not much to mention. Since this is a superhero comic there is obviously violence, and though there is some blood it is kept to a minimum. There is a small amount of swearing in the dialogue, mainly comprised of only one or two uses of three words. Overall, I foundKingdom Come very refreshing to read because it has so little in the way of objectionable content.

ARTWORK

Finally, the artwork by Alex Ross is jaw dropping to say the least. He has a very painterly style that he uses to beautifully and realistically render all of Mark Waid’s characters and settings.  This is the first comic book I have read that has this style of art, and it is a joy to look at. Alex Ross does an excellent job of portraying all kinds of action, and some of the panels in the comic book are so complex that it boggles the mind how anyone could render everything so clearly and effectively.  The panels in the comic book are well laid out and are easy to follow without getting lost.

CLOSING REMARKS

Kingdom Come offers a great read to those interested in the superhero genre or anyone who just wants a fun and clean story. The story is very well told, and the artwork is nigh impossible to surpass. By far this is the best comic that I have read in a while. I highly recommend it, and close with the words of Mark Waid’s character Norman McCay:

Note: Due to being in the middle of finals (only two days left to go!!), this is a reposting of an article that I wrote for another blog. The original post can be found here.

A Mid-year Excerpt

From winter’s grasp the children came, with booksacks cast asunder,

Taken from their newest game by reality’s harsh thunder.

An awkward age, all would admit, but now begins the growing

Into adulthood and none too soon — there’s much they should be knowing.

These are the leaders of the coming day, a prospect rather leery;

To be ruled by those who refuse to think would be a future dreary.

And so we strive to direct and shape young minds throughout the day

To give them each what they deserve — they can’t all get an ‘A’!

And so, it seems, we begin again. We re-learn how to learn,

And hope to make the most of each day. We have none left to burn.

Bone: Epic Fantasy

Bone, by Jeff Smith, is epic not only in length but also storytelling. Running 1,332 pages, and telling a story of friendship, loyalty, duty, and sacrifice, Bone is a story that can be read and enjoyed by a wide range of readers.

Bone follows the adventures of three cousins: Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone. After being run out of their hometown and crossing a vast desert, they discover a valley wherein the greatest adventure of their lives will take place. Jeff Smith tells his story with wit and plenty of humor as he follows the cousins’ many adventures. Though character change does not really take place in any of the three main characters in the story, their actions and attitudes are portrayed in such a way as to cause the reader to desire the traits of some over others. For example, Phoney Bone is constantly trying to defraud people and get himself rich. However, over and over throughout the story his schemes for money only end in pain and financial failure. So, although Phoney never changes, Jeff Smith is able to communicate that love of money above all other things is bad and will only end in ruin.  In contrast, characters like Fone Bone who display loyalty and a sense of responsibility are shown in a positive light. In his story, Jeff Smith not only communicates many admirable traits through characters, but he also uses the situations his characters find themselves in to communicate his ideas. For example, he shows how lies, even when made with good intentions to protect, end in distrust and hurt relationships.

In Bone, Jeff Smith does portray a relativistic worldview, which basically says that what is “truth” for one person may not be “truth” for somebody else, but the worldview should not be a problem for readers who perceive it for what it is. Despite the relativistic leanings in the story,Bone still has many good themes and tells a truly heartwarming story. Since Bone is fantasy there are lots of monsters, some magic (called dreaming), and a good bit of violence in the later chapters of the story.

From a technical standpoint, Bone is well done. My copy has black and white illustrations, but there are colored versions available. Jeff Smith uses a very simple layout for his panels which makes it easy for the reader to follow and understand the narrative. Following in the footsteps of the panel layouts, Jeff Smith’s artwork is simpler visually speaking, without a huge number of lines involved in each panel, but always very effective. Other than a few instances where an arm or leg on a character seems out of proportion, the artwork is very consistent.  Jeff Smith’s ability to time events with pacing between the comic panels, and draw very expressive representations of characters’ feelings, means that the comedic moments are very funny and that the story can sometimes be told simply by the characters’ features without the aid of words.

In conclusion, Bone is a great story that has many good themes and ideas. The story is fun to read, and it is probably my favorite graphic novel. That said, readers should be cognizant of the relativistic worldview present in the story so that they can pick the good from the bad, and right from wrong. Despite the incorrect worldview,Bone holds many good messages and is an entertaining read.

Note: This is a reposting of an article I wrote for another blog. The original article can be found here

Ode to Older

Once, it was all just the right size:

Charming children’s chairs, a tiny tea table,

And a silver stove and sink

For warming and washing wooden food.

It was a perfect place to play house.

But now it’s a bit too small for us here,

All three of us being so grown-up.

When we sit we are squashed just a bit

And I hear the old chairs creek as we settle in.

Our knees are knobby no longer;

Now they’re even taller than the table.

I can now reach the rough rafters,

And Anne can just touch the top of the wall.

Ruth can sweep the small porch in a second.

When we run down to the playhouse, I see a bit of sadness,

For our castle has crumbled and become a cottage.

Our mansion has shrunk to the size of a shack.

 

But really, in the end,

The ginger ale served tastes just as zingy,

And the company is full as merry,

As it was in days of yore.

Physiological Projectiles

 Here is a brief story I wrote during high school, no doubt after studying a good deal of biology. The story, though fictional, is based heavily on personal experience. Draw your own conclusions…

            Jim Peavey knew that his body must be releasing melatonin as he lay spread-eagled on his bed.  The result of constant trips into the world of biology and physiology, Jim had discovered how the pineal body—an organ at the center of the human brain—begins secreting a hormone called melatonin when the body’s photoreceptors (a fancy term for eyeballs) sensed darkness.  Melatonin, Jim knew, helped the body get to sleep—the most significant of its many poorly comprehended functions.  Actually, Jim thought it quite odd that scientists knew so little about the pineal body.

You see, any organ which controlled somnolence was an extremely important organ to Jim.  While hardly a narcoleptic, Jim was a heavy sleeper.  He could remember one night when he was twelve in particular.  Actually, he didn’t remember the night itself because he wasn’t awake.  Rather, he remembered the aftermath.  But first, a little explanation is in order.

Jim slept in a small bedroom with his older brother Timothy (Why Timothy never received a nickname, Jim could never understand).  Each curled up in his own twin-sized bed every night and went to sleep.

Only on this particular night, Timothy puked.  Or engaged in what Jim affectionately called “reverse peristalsis.” Timothy, in between chokes, gasps, and heaving, screamed to his brother Jim for help.  Jim never woke up, later concluding that his pineal body had been especially active that night.  And so Timothy eventually was forced to go and get his parents for help.  Jim never batted an eyelash (because he was asleep).

The next morning, Timothy confronted Jim about this lack of response.

“It’s all your silly fault,” said Timothy.

Jim thought this most unjust.  What could he have done anyway?  Attempt to mop up some of the gastric juice?  Put a hand over Timothy’s mouth to stifle the flow?  Jim chuckled at this thought.

“You think it’s funny?” snapped Timothy.

Jim shook his head vigorously, “No. Not funny at all.”

Timothy blamed Jim.  Jim blamed his pineal body.  And that was the end of it.

Jim rolled over in bed and succumbed to the melatonin coursing through his body.