Evil Geek Book Report – Superman: Red Son
I’ve never read a single Superman comic in my whole life. As a character he never interested me, but ya know if I could be wrong about Daredevil why not the Man Of Steel? So when I heard about the premise of Red Son it was too interesting for me to pass up. The idea behind it is basically this, what would happen if in 1938 Superman didn’t crash in Kansas as a baby but ended up in the Soviet Union. How would history be different if during the height of the cold war communist Russia had control of the single most powerful entity on the world had ever seen? Powerful stuff and for most part this book delivers.
The story written by Mark Millar is told in 3 parts. The first deals with the 1950’s and the rise of Superman. Stalin’s government reveals his presence and causes panic across the world, it all but forces the United States to abandon their nuclear weapons arms race and focus on creating their own Supermen. This task falls to Metropolis resident genius and scientist, Lex Luthor.
One of the interesting things to me about this book is that you see Superman as a tool for the government, similar to the Superman of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Although in this you never get the feeling that he’s a pawn. He spends his time doing the “right” things. He’s constantly saving and helping anyone he can, a true man of the people. When Stalin is poisoned Superman’s life changes forever. Never a man of political aspirations he decides to take over the communist party to help turn Russia into a utopia.
In Part 2 we fast forward to the late 1970’s and the U.S. unwilling to embrace communism is teetering on the edge of financial and social collapse. In this reality, Lex Luthor and Lois Lane are married and their relationship isn’t much better than their countries state of affairs. Luthor is obsessed and devotes all his time to stopping Superman’s continued global influence. Some Russians begin to grow weary of Superman’s authoritarian power despite him doing his best and being fair, his ability to hear and see almost everything begins to worry many citizens.
Luthor’s plans are continually thwarted by the man of steel. He is represented as being insanely smart in this reality (we’re talking playing 81 games of chess at the same time smart) but can you really beat Superman? Well after a botched clone attempt and several other failures he appeals to thorn in Superman’s side, Batman. Yes, this reality has a Batman and it’s awesome. His parents were killed when we has a child for spreading anti-Superman propaganda and he’s spent the rest of his life avenging them and making Superman’s life hell. The plan as I’m sure you could guess ultimately fails but some chinks are made in Superman’s psychological armor.
The final part takes place during an unspecified time in the future akin to present day. Luthor has been elected President of the United States and has been able to turn around the decaying structure of its system and return it back to its former glory. In Area 51, Luthor was able to harness and duplicate Green Lantern’s power from an alien that landed in Roswell, New Mexico. He uses this to create a whole new Green Lantern corps and begins a full scale assault on Russia. For the first time Superman decides to take action in what had otherwise been a bloodless revolution based on ideals.
I’ll leave the ending open, because if you’ve read this far you should do yourself a favor and check out the trade paperback. It’s an interesting theory played out that forces you to think about who the real enemy is and the idea of sacrificing universal freedoms for a greater peace at large. Mark Millar does a great job waving these in and keeping it subtle and not going overboard with political rhetoric. The art is split up by David Johnson and Killian Plunkett is also quite good. They give a great redesign to Superman’s costume as well as many of the supporting characters. That’s really the best things about any Elseworlds tale, isn’t it? Seeing characters we love in a reimagined setting. Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan and Braniac all make appearances. Even Jimmy Olsen and an aging JFK are part of this world. Millar does a good job showing them all in a new context.
It’s an interesting read and there’s a lot to look into if you want to, but above all else and on the surface it’s a fun and unique twist on a well known character. Only a passing knowledge of Superman is needed to truly enjoy this. What more could you ask for?
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