Superman: Red Son
Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson & Walden Wong
"In the intriguing SUPERMAN: RED SON, the classic myth of the Man of Steel is reimagined and reinvented as the infamous rocket ship crash-lands in the fields of the Ukraine. Raised in Russia, Superman grows to become the Soviet Union's greatest weapon as the world is transformed into a communist state opposed only by the crumbling capitalistic America and its President Lex Luthor."
I’ve wanted to review this for a good while now, it’s one of my favourite comic series of all time. It tells an alternate history of superman where Kal-El’s spaceship, instead of landing in the USA, lands twelve hours later in Soviet Russia. The ultimate American icon flipped into poster boy for the communist party.
It’s such a brilliant idea for a comic and Mark Millar (of Kick Ass fame) does a great job in recreating the DC universe, he also does a great job of not simply making the Russian Superman a baddie. Here, Superman is layered, striving for utopia and world peace while simultaneously falling prey to the pitfalls of communism, growing stronger while his people grow weaker.
I’m not a massive Superman fan. He’s too perfect, too invincible, too absolute. This version of Superman paints the character purely in shades of grey and results in a far more interesting portrayal of the character.
The alternate versions of the other characters are all interesting too, while maybe not as layered. Lex Luther becomes the all American hero in Superman’s place, developing plans to stop the man of steel and eventually even becoming president (gaining 101% percent of the votes no less), Wonder Woman leads her country under Superman’s communist banner and Batman is transformed from brooding vigilante to a fur-capped resistance fighter.
I do have a few complaints, a handful of the alternate characters don’t really make sense (how does Superman landing in Russia change Jimmy Olsen from bumbling newspaper reporter to a top level CIA agent?) and as much I love Batman’s incarnation here, his inclusion feels a little forced.
The artwork, while borrowing several elements from the classic soviet propaganda posters of the 50’s, doesn’t quite go far enough in my opinion. I would have loved to have had the whole book rendered in the communist propaganda style, though that’s just personal preference.
But the main problem with the book is, while the story is great, it just doesn’t live up to the idea you get when you here the books concept. I don’t know what it is but something’s just missing and you can’t help but feel slightly let down when you read it. This is just personal preference again but I feel the story’s just a little too “comic-booky” and while it’s a dark story, I can’t help but feel it would be better if it was a little darker. Perhaps if they’d taken out characters like Brainiac and The Green Lantern and ground the book slightly more in reality I would have enjoyed it just that little bit more.
Don’t let these criticisms stop you picking this book up though. It’s a really good comic and the art is spectacular. It doesn’t quite hit where I want it too but it’s still a smart, interesting and unusual take on one of our most well known icons.