Superman: Red Son
Comic by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson, Walden Wong
I’ll be honest: I’m not the biggest Superman fan. He always seemed outdated. A hero for a bygone America upholding dated morals that don’t make sense in the ever shrinking global economy/connected world. I remember DC announcing Sup’s death, fractured rebirth, and subsequent reboots, even renouncing his U.S. citizenship, but it never interested me enough to pick up a Superman comic. What little I heard about him–and why he was great–came from my high school girlfriend. (I moved to small-town Missouri in high school, so I see her Smallville-esque infatuation. I do have a soft spot for the old Christopher Reeve movies. Heck, I even enjoyed Brandon Routh in the cape, as misguided as his script was.)
Red Son swayed me with its interesting premise: What would DC’s world look like if Kal-El’s ship landed 12 hours later? Instead of growing up with Ma and Pa Kent, he grew up in a communist farming collective behind the Iron Curtain in Ukraine? What if the USSR had a god backing its nuclear arsenal? The implications and shifts in characters all spin from this point, crafting a perfect alternate history timeline within the DC Universe. All the classics are here: we have Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, Lex Luthor, Braniac, a great U.S. sanctioned Bizarro, and Russian Batman with an ushanka (those fluffly ear hats). Jimmy Olsen pops up as a government lacky to Luther. Louis Lane is actually the estranged Louis Luthor working within a dying capitalist-driven news system.
Written by Mark Millar (a veteran writer of Judge Dredd and creator of Wanted/Kick Ass), the dystopian Communist-driven world is perfectly populated. Superman’s ideals and main characteristics are there, driven by good, but with a completely different world view behind them. Millar creates a fantastically ambiguous space for his characters to live in, making each character shine in their new roles.
Perhaps the biggest failing of this collection is the length. The story is so engrossing and worthy of exploration that the main plot seems rushed, needing at least six volumes instead of the three it received. With a massive revisioning of all these known characters, most besides Superman and Lex get simple nods and small panels that hint at a greater story underneath. While this helps cement the world, it also leaves you wanting more.
This is a must read for the curious and a great introduction for those uninitiated into the Superman mythos. Five out of Five!