Superman: Red Son – Mark Millar
Some of the most awesome things in the comic book world started with one guy/gal looking at another guy/gal and saying, “What if?”
Marvel even had a run of comics for a time called “What if…”. But for the most part those were pretty lame and with a few exceptions had little to any impact on the comic book world.
DC, though not the cinematic triumph currently that Marvel is, came up with a group of comics called Elseworlds. Comics that were by their nature darker and more mature than their regular line. These comics not only questioned moments in the DC Universe, they had the audacity to turn the entire Universe on its head. Often bloodier and bolder, they were the DC Universe answer to their squeaky clean image. Remember DC was also running a line of Vertigo comics as well that were definitely not meant for the mainstream comic book culture.
Superman: Red Son is one such book.
The premise is a rather simple one, but like the pebble tossed into the pond, the ripple effect is tremendous.
What if; instead of landing in Smallville, Kansas, USA. The Krytonian infant Kal-El lands during the era of Joseph Stalin, in the USSR. The symbol of the red, white and blue is simply red. A socialist. A communist. The champion of the common worker, Stalin and the expansion of the Warsaw Pact. Emblazoned on his chest is not the S we all know but the hammer and sickle of his adopted homeland.
The books cover the rise of the Russian Superman, whose inherit good is twisted by Stalin and America is seen as an immature unrepentant child of a nation. Wonder Woman falls in love with him and while he unknowingly adds to the oppression of his people, he also gives rise to anarchist called the Batman.
Superman soon realizes after the death of Stalin, that he alone has the power and intelligence to run the USSR and by default the entire planet. With Wonder Woman at his side he begins his global domination, not realizing that in doing so he is contradicting all he has believed and stood for. He truly believes that what he does, he does for the greater good and to protect mankind; from themselves. The United States, with Lex Luthor and his wife Lois Lane leading the country fight back with a special corps of pilots known as the Green Lantern Corps. It is important to note here that this very solution to capturing and stopping a megalomaniac Superman turned dictator that will be used in the release of the DC comics; Injustice: Gods Among Us. Which was based on a popular video game. Ten years after it appeared in Superman: Red Son.
I won’t give any more of the story away and certainly not the ending. But I will say that this is a very smart comic, as most of the Elseworlds are. They force the reader to think. Elseworlds has the ability to transcend the genre and step with authority and a sense of belonging, into the written short story and novel stage. They just happen to be illustrated, and often extremely well. Superman: Red Son raises questions about Socialism and Democracy and shows both in a flattering and very dark light. As it also brings forward the old saying; power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
A terrific book and read. Very much worth hunting down and enjoying.