DC Comics films are in a state of transition. Despite announcing just a few months ago that he was back, Henry Cavill is not returning as Superman. New DC Studios co-head James Gunn confirmed the news, saying in a tweet that his new Superman will be a young hero just starting out, played by another actor. All pretty much confirming that his DCU will be a reboot. Many fans, including us, think a full-scale reboot is the best way forward. Continuing to put bandages on the existing DCEU doesn’t seem to work. It’s time to start fresh.
Among those on the slate is Superman. In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman’s life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill.— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) December 15, 2022
However, we believe that since a full-scale reboot is likely on the horizon, the versions of these iconic heroes we’ve seen on film this past decade deserve a fitting ending. Especially Henry Cavill, who they had only just announced as returning as Kal-El. Shouldn’t he get at least one more great film for his version of the iconic hero? Especially after so many fans cheered his long-awaited return. It would just be a sad ending if his last time in the role is a walk-on cameo in Black Adam.
And then, there’s the issue of Wonder Woman. After becoming a global icon thanks to her solo film, doesn’t Gal Gadot’s Diana deserve a proper final act too? Especially as WB canceled whatever Patty Jenkins had planned for a third film. Before any possible reboot happens, we think the Princess of Themyscira deserves a glorious sendoff as well. And that sendoff should be an adaptation of one of DC Comics’ most beloved stories, Kingdom Come (spoilers for the original comics).
Kingdom Come: A rebuttal of ’90s comic book nihilism
Originally published in 1996, Kingdom Come was creators Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ statement on the state of superheroes at the time. Ever since Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in 1986, comics saw “grim ‘n gritty” anti-heroes surpassing traditional ones. The late ‘80s, and especially the early ‘90s was an explosion in popularity with these kinds of characters. Chief among them the Punisher, Wolverine, and gun-toting Cable. When the Image Comics boom happened, new characters like Spawn and others leaned heavily into the dark antihero vibe. It became a cliché, and eventually, a joke. Waid and Ross told a story about where a continued obsession with these kinds of “heroes” might lead us.
“They chose the man who would kill over the man who wouldn’t. And now they’re dead.”
Kingdom Come was set in a relatively near future. Violent, often gun-wielding heroes spend more time fighting each other than fighting criminals or saving innocent lives. The old guard of Justice League heroes have mostly retired. The reason for this was thanks to Superman abandoning his post as Earth’s protector, after humanity deemed his brand of heroism outdated. When the Joker killed dozens of reporters at the Daily Planet, including Lois Lane, Superman apprehended him.
But a new vigilante named Magog, a not-so-subtle take on Marvel’s Cable, decided to kill the Joker in cold blood. Superman arrested him for murder, but the public wanted Magog’s style of punitive justice. The world picked Magog over Superman, who they now considered a relic. So he retreated to his Fortress of Solitude for a decade, leaving the Earth to a new breed of not-so-heroic heroes.
With Superman and many of his fellow old-school Leaguers following suit, either gone or operating in the shadows, the world falls apart. Things come to a head when a reckless incident from Magog results in millions of lost lives. Superman returns to the world, which welcomes him back. He seeks to see a return to a time of virtuous heroism. But his methods for returning to “the old ways” isn’t exactly right either, as he seeks to force this new generation to see things his way, or suffer the consequences. His old friend Batman realizes he’s in way over his head.
A truly apocalyptic generation gap
This upcoming battle between generations of superpowered people is witnessed by our POV character, a kindly old pastor named Norman McKay. He, with the help of the unearthly Spectre, try to prevent the upcoming Armageddon. One that will happen thanks to two generations of superpowered people clashing in battle. Without giving the whole story away (really, you should read it), Kingdom Come’s final act is a dark one. Although its ultimate ending denouement is one of hope. One that celebrates the pure heroism of DC’s Trinity, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and what they represent to pop culture. Oh, and Shazam too. He plays quite a role, but that one’s a bit spoilery. (Again, read Kingdom Come).
A rousing end for Cavill’s Superman and Gadot’s Wonder Woman
So, why attempt Kingdom Come as the finale for the old DCEU? For starters, Henry Cavill truly deserves a great Superman story, and Kingdom Come is that story. Clark has a full character arc, and the story ultimately explains why Superman is the greatest superhero of all time. It’s the Superman story Cavill deserves. It’s also a great Wonder Woman story. The Amazon goddess must reckon with whether her skills as an ambassador of peace or as warrior of righteousness are more effective in this world. It’s a much better conclusion to Gal Gadot’s version of Diana than Wonder Woman 1984.
In Kingdom Come, Batman must also reckon with the toll decades of crime fighting has had on his body. And how it hindered his ability to keep Gotham City safe. And he must also be the voice of reason when his old allies cannot see the flaw in their methods. Now, Ben Affleck could or could not return to play Bruce Wayne in this. In the original comic, Bruce is an old man. But thanks to their respective Kryptonian and Amazonian DNA, both Superman and Wonder Woman have aged very little. While it would be nice to see Affleck return to the role, we don’t see it as a deal breaker if they recast him with someone older.
The DCEU was perfect for Kingdom Come as a finale from the start
It also makes sense for the DCEU’s endgame (pardon the marvelous phrase) because it’s simply always been a darker version of these characters than the comics. In the original comic, it seemed almost a stretch to believe that world of the Justice League could cause such a violent new generation of heroes. It’s not much of a stretch to believe the world started in Man of Steel would result in this new breed of metahumans.
Although there are dozens of DC heroes in Kingdom Come, they are mainly background soldiers in Superman and Wonder Woman’s army. (They will all make for great action scenes, and even better toys). However, The focus of the story is entirely on Clark and Diana, along with Bruce Wayne and Billy Batson. Not to mention our human guide, Norman McKay. All versions of these characters exist in the DCEU as is, except for Norman, and deserve a proper conclusion.
Making plans. pic.twitter.com/cubPgga066— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) November 30, 2022
A certain breed of fandom will no doubt take issue with certain portrayals of the characters, chiefly Superman. His arc, where a tragic piece of his past forces him into self-imposed exile, before returning triumphantly when the world needs him, was hated by many when applied to characters like Luke Skywalker and Captain Picard. However, one thing those fans won’t be able to say is that it’s not true to the comics. It’s straight from one of DC’s most beloved comic book tales. Cavill, Gadot, and even Zachary Levi’s version of these heroes deserve some kind of closure, even if it’s years from now. Based on some of his recent posts, we know James Gunn is a Kingdom Come fan. Here’s hoping he loves it enough to allow for it to be the old DCEU’s swan song, after a new cinematic DC Universe is ushered in.