In 1996, Kingdom Come was created as a response to this dark age, and it, in turn, inspired an age where heroes were allowed to act like heroes again.
Kingdom Come takes place at an unspecified time in the near future, where Superman is forced into retirement after the general populace turns its back on him in favor of newer, more proactive superheroes (i.e., superheroes who are willing to kill). Unfortunately for the public, these heroes are more interested in fighting each other than fighting crime, and they jeopardize more lives than they save. When one of their superbattles goes horribly wrong, Superman comes out of retirement and reassembles the Justice League to teach these "heroes", and the world, what superheroes are SUPPOSED to act like. Unbeknowst to him, however, his actions may well set off a cataclysm that threatens to destroy the world...
Mark Waid's script is a mature and thought-provoking look at superheroes and society, as well as a scathing allegory of the comics industry at the time. The real star of this book, however, is Alex Ross. For those of you that saw "Spider-Man 2", Ross was the artst who did all of the paintings during the opening credits. He renders the entire book in photorealistic watercolors, and it is breathtaking. His art really brings the story and the characters to life.
At the time of it's release, Kingdom Come was a phenomenon. Now, a decade removed from the hype, it still holds up.
Recommended for: Fans of big, epic stories; skeptics who think that superheroes are inherently naive.
Not recommended for: people who couldn't care less about Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman.