Newest Review: ... repercussions that result when having a powerful and invincible Man Of Steel within your ranks. The Soviet Union becomes a major superpow... more
Member Name: Jake Speed
Superman: Red Son - Mark Millar
Advantages: Good story, great art
Disadvantages: Nothing too major
He diverts Sputnik 2 towards Metropolis and when Superman intervenes he manages to obtain some of his DNA from the spacecraft which he uses to create a clone of Superman named Bizarro. Meanwhile, Superman finds that the people of the Soviet Union look to him for leadership when Stalin dies but - influenced by a meeting with childhood sweetheart Lana Lazarenko (clever) - he decides he wants to usher in a great era of change. Will that be possible? This is an enjoyable "Elseworlds" riff on the legend of Superman much in the vein of the Marvel "What If?" series where they would present a one-off topsy turvy story outside the established conventions where anything was possible. So you still get all the Superman supporting characters here but as we are used to seeing them. It's like a Star Trek mirror universe episode. You get an interesting new take on Batman (his origin is very clever) and inventive use of Superman's ultimate nemesis Lex Luthor. Here the twist is that he's an American scientist ordered to find a way to take down the Man of Steel (nice double meaning to that because Stalin is also of course known as the Man of Steel). Luthor is still ruthless but in a different guise and some of the lines he is given are amusingly ironic. "I honestly believe that Superman and I would have been the best of friends if he'd popped up in America..." The story is interesting and has some exciting developments (and a futuristic coda) and allows us to reflect on the essential core of Superman's personality. It captures that slight naivety that - despite being the most powerful man on earth - he has always had. Superman is in a sense the ultimate outsider. He is an alien living on earth amongst humans and even on earth he has humble nondescript origins (both here and in the conventional Superman series) that makes him feel like an outsider too in big cities. There has always been a slightly vulnerable fish out of water quality to Superman despite his legendary powers.
Superman is rather blind to Stalin's true nature but still decent and eager to use his powers for good despite the dark history of the leader of his adopted country. Superman is the pride of the Soviet Union but will help those of any nationality (American, British etc) who need his help. In a sense Superman is beyond politics wherever he happens to be from. He represents the world as much as he does a single nation despite the best efforts of self serving politicians. Luthor actually seems rather sympathetic at first but soon begins to reveal his true colours. It's quite a clever reference to the Luthor of the traditional Superman universe. To the outside world he is a businessman (albeit a nasty one) but he's far more than that as Superman knows. We may be in an alternate universe but it's as if the eternal link between these two men transcends realities and is prevalent everywhere in time and space. Luthor marries Lois Lane (!) and seems destined to be president. It's a nice diversion into the parallel imagination of comic continuity that allows us to question nature versus nurture and the true character of Superman and his villains. The mirror universe approach on established heroes and characters is hardly new but this is an inventive twist on the genre and manages to maintain interest over the course of the story and the art is definitely a major plus. The illustrations are bold and vibrant and look retro (in keeping with the general spirit of the story). Superman's visit to Metropolis is fun in particular with the lovely background detail and - of course - it's amusing to hear Superman comment on how decadent and distasteful the United States is when he goes there!
With comic characters that have been around forever (like Superman) stories like this are a nice break from the usual continuity where, let's be honest, just about everything you can do with Superman has been done by now. You can either tread down the reboot path and do the origin yet again (not a great fan of this myself) or you can dip into spin off stories like this which do something new. Certainly the idea of Superman landing on a Ukrainian collective farm and becoming the pride of the Soviet Union is new if nothing else. The story is about Superman having to question what right he has to meddle in the affairs of the world with obvious parallels to the United States and its foreign policy. The comic is fairly well balanced. It doesn't depict one system as right or one as wrong. It recognises that Communism has a noble goal even if the countries that have tried the system have never got anywhere near Utopia or fairness for the people - quite the opposite in many cases. The attention to detail is always superb too with great care and love in every panel and much to take in. The comic has dark shadowy hues and is atmospheric at times but despite the political subtexts it is also fun in the traditional comic book superhero way. Wonder Woman features a lot in the story and look too for the Green Lantern Marine Corps (led by Colonel Hal Jordan) and appearances by the Atomic Skull, Parasite and Doomsday. Superman: Red Son is an excellent book that is well worth getting hold of if you are a fan. It's not perfect but it is one of the more novel and interesting Superman stories of recent years. Superman: Red Son runs to about 170 pages (paperback) and at the time of writing is available to buy for around £8.
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