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Op-Ed: Is KINGDOM COME the Ultimate Endgame of the DC Cinematic Universe?

Although we’re just one movie into the DC Cinematic Universe, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in production, the notion of a DC movie-verse is no longer a theoretical idea–it’s happening. And thanks to Warner Brothers releasing their DC movie schedule for the next few years at Comic-Con, we have something of a blueprint of what to expect. After BvS and Suicide Squad, we’ve got Wonder Woman and Justice League set for 2017, then The Flash and Aquaman in 2018, Shazam! and Justice League part 2 coming in 2019, and a Green Lantern Corps reboot and Cyborg in 2020. Aside from what we already know about BvS and Suicide Squad, the rumor mill has been pretty consistent saying that the Justice League films will feature Brainiac as the main villain, followed by Darkseid.

Director Zack Snyder, who launched the DC Cinematic Universe two years ago with Man of Steel, is not only directing Batman v Superman, but also Justice League, and is producing Wonder Woman. It’s likely he’ll direct or at least have a heavy had in whatever Justice League sequels come down the pike. If the DCCU has a mastermind or Godfather, it’s definitely Snyder. And if Snyder is indeed orchestrating all this, then chances are he has an ultimate end game in mind. And I think the ultimate finale to all of this will be based on Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ seminal 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come. 

For those of you out there who haven’t read it, Kingdom Come tells the story of the apocalyptic last battle between Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and the Justice League, who fight a new breed of dangerous “heroes” who emerge years after Superman and the other originals have retired, led by the violent, take-no-prisoners Magog.

Some ten years prior to the beginning of the story, the Joker murders the staff of the Daily Planet, including Lois Lane. Superman apprehends him, but refuses to break his ethical code and kill him. Magog, having no problem with killing the bad guys, kills the Joker in cold blood after he’s already been subdued, and Superman arrests him. The public overwhelmingly sides with Magog for getting rid of the Joker once and for all, and sees Superman as an outdated relic of a bygone era. Magog is set free, and Superman leaves the world for his Fortress of Solitude, feeling that he no longer has a place in this new world of more violent heroes with no moral center.

As the story opens, Norman McCay, an elderly preacher, begins to have visions of an apocalyptic battle that will bring about the end of the world as he knows it. His visions begin to come to pass as a group of overzelous heroes recklessly fighting a villain inadvertently cause a nuclear explosion that wipes out the state of Kansas. Realizing that this new breed of heroes is out of control, Wonder Woman visits Superman in his Fortress of Solitude, begging him to return to the world again and teach this new generation of meta-humans how to truly be heroes.

Needless to say, things don’t exactly go smoothly, especially when you throw a bitter, older Batman into the mix, who has his own ideas about what should be done, and how. Without giving every last thing about Kingdom Come away, the story climaxes with the most epic superhero battle of all time, with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the literal and figurative middle of it all.

So, why do I think this particular story is where the DC Cinematic Universe is all barrelling towards? The evidence is circumstantial of course, but hard to ignore. Here are but three reasons why I think Kingdom Come is where all of these DC movies are ultimately headed:

Kingdom Come Is Totally In Zack Snyder’s Wheelhouse

Kingdom Come has been considered for years as one of the greatest stories in the history of DC Comics, and based on Zack Snyder’s films so far, and adaptation of it would be right in his wheelhouse. His two previous comic book movies prior to Man of Steel, Watchmen and 300, are incredibly faithful adaptations, with several images rendered virtually intact from page to screen. Even more so than Watchmen or 300, Kingdom Come is filled with gorgeous photorealistic art from Alex Ross, pages that look they are about to spring to life. It’s almost like they are movie concept art already.

And much like 300, much of Kingdom Come is epic battle scenes between nearly god-like warriors, something Snyder clearly loves. Fans have long requested that Kingdom Come be adapted into one of DC’s animated films, but producer Bruce Timm has said many times that the book’s photorealistic style couldn’t be done with animation. But live-action? Now that’s another story. And based on certain recently released images from Batman v Superman, which show a crumbling Wayne Manor, and its owner Bruce Wayne spending most of his time below in the Bat-cave, a concept from Kingdom Come, it’s pretty clear Snyder is a fan of this story already.

Most of the main characters will have already been introduced

Although Kingdom Come is filled with minor roles (many non speaking) for various DC heroes, the core of the story centers on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, with major supporting roles for Lex Luthor and Shazam (and an important but smaller cameo for the Joker). All of these characters are set to be introduced over the next few years in films, so by the time Kingdom Come would theoretically come out, that’s almost all your main characters right there.

Only two other main characters from the original graphic novel aren’t as yet slated to be introduced over the next few years in film; elderly preacher Norman McCay, our “everyman perspective” in the story who taken through the world of the apocalyptic battles by the Spectre. The Spectre, who is God’s emisarry and the embodiment of his wrath, could easily be introduced in a Kingdom Come film with little explanation.

As for Norman McCay, maybe he’s already been introduced? In Man of Steel, there’s a brief scene where Clark Kent goes and seeks solace in an empty church, and is counseled by an unnamed priest. What if that Priest is a young Norman McCay? It would tie Kingdom Come into the first DCCU film, and bring everything full circle. You’d almost think they planned this in advance.

It solves the ‘third movie’ problem

Superhero movies, and most movie trilogies in fact, almost always seem to have a “third movie” problem. It’s a tradition that started with Superman III, and continued with X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, Blade Trinity, and even arguably The Dark Knight Rises. With the Justice League films, assuming the rumors of a Brainiac and Darkseid two-parter are valid, just how do you follow those two cosmic bad guys up? You use the third movie in the Justice League saga to tell the story of the “Twilight of the Gods”, an epic ideological and physical battle between the League and the heroes they spawned, which brings everything back to the core characters of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It’s almost too perfect.

Of course, if Kingdom Come were to happen, it would be several years away, but it wasn’t too long ago that even the idea of a Justice League film seemed like a pipe-dream; now, it’s about to happen. Only time will tell if Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ classic tale will get the epic big-screen treatment it richy deserves, but it’s certainly interesting to think about.


Featured Image: Kingdom Come #1-4 by Alex Ross, 1996

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