It’s uncomfortable being so late to this particular party. Not only has everyone already drunk themselves into a coma on Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ imperious opus, they have already trashed the toilet, thrown up in the bed and made love in the garden (you get the picture). So as a stone-cold-sobre late-comer, sifting through the deluge of half-empty beer cans and overflown ashtrays in a desperate attempt to play catch-up, I can’t help but feel slightly alienated for the other party-goers; I’m somewhat off the pace.
“Hey everyone! I’ve finally made it! Who wants a drink?”
The more I think about it, however, the more I realise that I’m just going to be ‘that guy’ at the end of an all-nighter that simply won’t just stfu and go home.
Still, if I’m going to be that guy, I might as well go the whole hog and make myself unwelcomingly at home even if it’s just for the length of a warm beer and a few cigarettes before the silence is so uncomfortable that I, enwrapped in my own musings, finally get the message no-one cares.
Before that eventuality plays out, I’ll completely disregard the dissenting almost-out-of-earshot moans and groans emanating from the tired, impatient host as I take off my jacket and crack open a can.
I’ll start by highlighting that although I understand that Alex Ross’ breathtaking artwork isn’t to everyone’s taste, the fact that this is a story about real superheroes, the rich realism conveyed in every tile not only exquisitely encapsulates the actions of the characters as any great comic book artist can and should, but actually serves to underline the very premise of the tale, which bluntly put, as you all know too well, is: what would happen if these heroes were real? Where would the escalation (you know, what Gordon says to Batman at the end of Begins when the Joker card is played) finally lead us? In short, whether you’re a Ross fan or not, his paintings are relevant to the tale and support the narrative on every level.
*lights another cigarette to a muffled exasperation that he ignores*
From a Batman fan’s perspective, Bruce’s role in the story is simply perfect. The way he juggles both sides, has his own agenda, and is one step ahead of everyone else, friend and foe, is the writing of a man who not only obviously knows the characters back to front, but seems to have a certain special respect for Batman’s role within this meta-human-filled DC Universe. The emotional, cathartic end to his arc was a masterstroke.
I could talk about pacing, the delivery of the paneling on the page, how at times it simply guides you visually through the story at just right tempo without the need for narrative cues. Yada yada yada. Still, you know all this, right? I mean, only a few titles actually change your perception of a well-established universe and sometimes all-too-familiar characters. The Dark Knight Returns did it, Year One did, Red Son, too. Kingdom Come does it also. Comics of this quality break the mold in terms of genre definition. The phrase ‘comic’ is sadly as misrepresented and as misunderstood by the general public as “video game” i.e. a pastime that has its place but put alongside other, more intellectual pursuits it’s nothing more than a childish waste of time. However, this isn’t just intelligent, creative writing for a comic, it’s simply intelligent, creative writing period; a considered look into the morality and challenges that would face the world, had these people been real.
Seriously, if you, like me, haven’t gotten round to reading this, put everything down and go for it. Take your time. Savour it.
*leans back in rickety kitchen chair, stubs cigarette*
But, but, when it comes to praise and recognition for this seminal work…
“Go the f**k home. There’ll be another party soon. Make sure you get here on time next time.”