Well, here I am, to review another great comic book.
This review will again be sort of an analysis, so beware of spoilers.
off we go!
We all believe Superman as the man of steel, invincible, super-human, and a great milestone of the US culture. His power has been a great symbol of the power of the US. He is one of the big three of comics (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman)
Cold War has always fascinated people. The fact that US has won led to our present history. But what if, in the fictional world of Mark Millar, the US did not win? What if Superman landed in Soviet Russia and became a symbol of the Soviet Union, helping them win? What would you do if man of steel was the Soviet hero, Wonder Woman never became an American hero, Batman was a freedom fighter against Superman, Lois Lane was married to Lex Luthor and Lex Luthor was the American president? The whole world has turned backwards- that's Superman Red Son.
The title Red Son is a reference to how Superman is now the son of the Soviet Union (often identified as the red faction) and also, I think, is a word play on the Red Sun which destroyed Superman's planet and caused his parents to send him to us, for Superman nearly destroy our world as a world leader.
The story opens up with Soviets announcing the existence of Superman, as the invincible man who has just changed the course of the Cold War. (this scene is similar to the announcing of Dr.Manhattan as a powerful being in Watchmen, also changing the course of Cold War). Lois Lane is married to Lex Luthor, who is a genius scientist. We see Stalin and Superman interact, as Superman says all he wants to do is ensure no one gets hurt, stating he has no intention to lead the country. Having been raised as Soviet citizen, Superman truly believes in the Soviet Union. We see Bruce Wayne's parents murdered and a young Bruce find his way into a cave with bats, thus becoming Batman. Meanwhile Stalin is shot by one of his bastard sons, and dies, creating chaos in the leaderless country. Lex Luthor becomes obsessed with destroying Superman, and Superman, to end everyone's suffering, decides to become the leader of Russia.
While Dr. Manhattan simply decided to leave the world, Superman decides to stay and end everyone's suffering. He truly believes in the idealism of Lenin and Stalin. He just wants everyone to be free and happy, and thus takes control of the Soviet Union. Luthor perhaps is still the villain, but the story is so perfect that Luthor is the American hero who is trying to defeat the Soviet hero. If Luthor is evil, then is America evil in this story? If Superman evil, is our main character- one we have placed such faith in as a hero- evil? Batman becomes a freedom fighter against Superman's Orwelian empire. Is he evil? Is Superman evil? Red Son makes you think about many, many fundamentals of culture and superhero myth.
Now enter a world where Superman is the Soviet Leader: In twenty years Superman has become the world leader as communist Russia controls all, only Chile and US are not a part of the glorious empire of Superman. Superman's only failure has been when Brainiac (Superman's super computer in the actual Superman myth) working for Luthor shrank the entire population of Stalingrad to fit in a small, glass lantern. Hunger, disease and ignorance are eliminated. The world looks like a miracle, but what are the costs? Disobedient people are inserted Superman chips to make the Superman dolls, people who have no free will. (it reminds me of 1984) Batman is a freedom fighter, fighting against the totalitarian Superman government with anarchy- a typical Batman, always doing what's right. Yet is he right? Is Superman's society good or evil? There is no hunger. There is no disease. Is free will the price? Brainiac works once again for Superman, as it should be. But should a lvl12 intelligence be working with this world government, or should he go against it? Superman has also not been able to catch Batman, so the super-man has failed twice: when he could not return the inhabitants of Stalingradto their original forms, still living their lives in a glass lantern, and to capture Batman, the leader of rebel forces against his regime. Even the man of steel is not perfect. Despite all of Wonder Woman's hopes, Superman never realizes her attraction towards him. However powers against Superman plot his demise, when they create sun lamps that mimic the red sun of his world, Batman almost kills Superman. In order to prevent him from dying, Wonder Woman breaks her own lasso- a great , potent artifact of hers and her main symbol- to turn the lamps off, but while doing so becomes a mindless human doll, and Batman commits suicide after his failure. Two heroes lost to Superman's crusade, one fighting with him and one fighting against him. Two of the great American three falls, for the history has changed. What about the other one? He has never belonged to America. But is Batman a war hero? Or is he a petty rebel?
Now, off to the final act. America is fighting with hunger, depression and some states have already seceded. America is in the verge of collapse but is refusing all aid from Russia. This is pretty similar to what happened in real timeline, when Soviet Union collapsed. Superman does not resolve to invade America for all his dominion has been without bloodshed so far, and is waiting for the countries economy to collapse. But, the unexpected happens and Lex Luthor, the great villain, runs for presidency and gets elected. Afterwards, he helps America get back on its feet, unifying it once more and Superman now does not have another choice. For a unified world, he must invade America. Isn’t there a great irony present in there? The great American hero invading America? Of course, during this time Luthor has created many creatures- mostly Dc universe villains- and send them against Superman, but to no avail. Now are these villains good, or bad? And another great, iconic character: the Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. He is fighting for America, against Superman, but gets defeated. The final fight begins: but before Luthor can do anything, Brainiac neutralizes him telling Superman "Luthor could talk Superman to death in 14 minutes" Words are sharper than sword, huh? Wonder Woman, also fights against Superman, and is defeated by him- his former ally and love interest, sacrificed in the name of the greater good- another much discussed term of morality. Yet Luthor has not played his tromp card yet: in a letter in Lois Lane's hands, is the key to defeat Superman. It reads "Why don't you put the world in a bottle, Superman?" reminding him of his failure and how Superman is about to make people puppets. Superman realizes the harsh truth. All he has ever done is to play God and tell people what to do. This is perhaps Dr. Manhattan’s fate when he says he will create life at the end of Watchmen. He hasn't helped them. He has made their life conditions better but he has eliminated free will. As he says "At least leaving them alone means they can make their own mistakes" Brainiac does not accept these terms, but is defeated by Luthor. He still manages to start a self-destruct mechanism, which Superman sacrifices himself to stop, or so it seems. Lex Luthor leads the world into colonizing the entire galaxy, and makes the world perfect. And when he dies, we can see in his funeral Superman disguised as a human, much looking like Clark Kent. And the book ends with Jor-L and Lara sending their infant son back to past because a red sun is threatening their planet, thus creating a time-space continuum.
And there Superman Red Son ends, making us question morality, greater good, freedom, free-will, and everything we know about Superman.
Photos attached: 1- Superman, in a great panel, announcing he will lead the Soviet Union. Pay attention to the pose. 2-He is watching you: a reference to Big Brother from Orwell's 1984. Also the American’s are afraid of Superman watching them at the beginning of the story due to rumors. 3- The cover: Pay attention to how the S is replaced with hammer and sickle, the symbols of the Soviet Union.
I got this book last Christmas and while I'll admit that my Superman collection is rather slim (I hope to change this in the near future), this is one of the most remarkable comics I've read. It shows what would have happened if Superman landed in a Ukrainian collective farm in the Soviet Union instead of the heartland of America. In this book, Superman's fixation on making a world utopia (a global Soviet Union, if you will) soon infriges upon civil liberties, … more
Superman Red Son is a exceptional twist to the story of the man of Steel. In this alternate reality, Superman lands in Soviet Russia and instead of becoming a symbol of the American dream, he is not fighting for the common worker of the Soviet Union. A must read for superman fans, and comic book lovers!
The story mixes alternate versions of DC super-heroes with alternate-reality versions of real political figures such as Joseph Stalin and John F. Kennedy. The series spans approximately 1953-2001, save for a futuristic epilogue.
In Red Son, Superman's rocket ship lands on a Ukrainiancollective farm rather than in Kansas, an implied reason being a small time difference (a handful of hours) from the original timeline, meaning Earth's rotation placed the Ukraine in the ship's path instead of Kansas. Instead of fighting for "...truth, justice, and the American Way", Superman is described in Soviet radio broadcasts "...as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact." His "secret identity" (i.e. the name his adoptive parents gave him) is a state secret.