This was a four-issue limited series set in an alternate reality outside that of the mainstream DC Universe designated as Earth-22.
The setting for Kingdom Come took place some twenty years into the future of the year that it began publication. The older, more established super-heroes had gone into retirement, giving rise to a new generation of anti-heroes, who did not uphold the same noble values as their predecessors.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross wrote Kingdom Come as an indictment against the growing trend of violent anti-hero archetypes that had sprung out of the early 1990s.
As Norman McCay and the Spectre watch, Armageddon has begun. The Justice League is locked in a battle with the rogue superhumans who have escaped the “Gulag” and are now out to wage war with them. Superman is fighting a hopeless battle with his equal Captain Marvel, who has been brainwashed by Lex Luthor. McCay pleads with the Spectre to make it stop, but the Spectre says he cannot take action yet, that there must be “a reckoning”. All he can tell McCay is, “fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgement has come.”
Meanwhile, at the United Nations general assembly, the Secretary-General decides to take action to deal with the rogue superhuman problem once and for all: nuclear devices that are capable of destroying all metahuman life except for Superman. He sends forth the Blackhawk pilots to do the unthinkable job of delivering this destructive payload, and as he returns to his office and watches the planes take off, he slumps in his seat and hangs his head.
Back at the “Gulag”, the Justice League seems hopelessly outnumbered and outmatched when Batman’s team of superhumans shows up for assistance. Batman personally confronts Wonder Woman as she kills Von Bach before he crushes Zatara to death, suggesting that the real reason she was stripped of her duties and heritage on Paradise Island was that she was not strident enough with her mission. Angered, Wonder Woman turns on Batman and takes him up into the sky to personally deal with him when they both see the Blackhawk planes arriving with the bombs. Batman helps Wonder Woman see what her regaining her Amazon honour will cost her and others if she lets the bombs drop, and so she helps him take out the planes, though one of them manages to drop its payload down toward the warring crowd.
Back on Earth, Captain Marvel continually pelts Superman with his Shazam lightning bolts as he darts out of the way, until Superman finally grabs Captain Marvel as he calls upon Shazam’s name, letting the lightning bolt turn Captain Marvel back into Billy Batson. He grabs Batson’s mouth and clamps it shut while he tries to reason with Batson, making him see the urgency of a bomb being dropped that will destroy all superhumans except for Superman. He lets Batson make the decision of what’s more important to him as he flies off to intercept the bomb. Batson speaks Shazam’s name again and transforms into Captain Marvel, flinging Superman to the ground as he outraces the Man of Steel and intercepts the bomb first. He calls upon Shazam’s name three times, and the lightning bolt ignites the bomb, consuming all superhumans in a mushroom cloud except for Superman and whoever was protected by the Green Lanterns’ power rings.
Enraged by the massive loss of life by this extreme act, Superman flies off in a rage toward the United Nations and seals the doors shut, terrifying all the people within as he threatens to pull down the whole building on top of them. The Spectre takes Norman McCay to the United Nations building to try talking some sense into Superman, to make him see the humanity that he’s ignored all those years believing that he was a god. Superman eventually relents, and joined with Batman, Wonder Woman, and the survivors of the battle, he forges a new relationship with the people to not solve their problems for them, but to solve their problems alongside them, not imposing their power among men but working to earn their trust. As the gathered heroes remove their masks and helmets as a symbol of good faith toward that end, Superman hangs the cape of Captain Marvel on a flagpole as a memorial.
At the conclusion of the tale, Batman turns his ruined Wayne Manor into a hospital, using Lex Luthor and most of the members of his Mankind Liberation Front as part of his “staff”. Wonder Woman is restored to her rightful place as the princess of Paradise Island and now begins her role as a teacher of superhumans. Superman begins his work restoring the Kansas wasteland into a productive and fertile land for farming. And the Spectre, after showing Norman McCay his once human side as Jim Corrigan, returns the pastor to his church, where he now preaches a message of hope to his congregation.
One Year Later…
Superman and Wonder Woman meet with Batman in their civilian identities at the Planet Krypton restaurant, where they share news with each other about what’s been going on in their lives over the past year. However, the real reason for this meeting is the news that Diana and Clark wanted to share with Bruce, which he easily figures out: she is pregnant with Clark’s child. What catches Bruce off guard, though, is that Diana wants him to be the godparent, despite Bruce’s record as a parent with his former wards. Both Clark and Diana see that Bruce can teach their child things they themselves cannot teach: lessons about mortality and morality from a man they both trust. As Clark and Bruce make their peace and then leave together with Diana to discuss what a future they will have with the child, Norman McCay is seen with Jim Corrigan talking about “the Spectre Platter”.