I am not the Man of Steel’s biggest fan. In fact, I am quite the opposite, because while I have enjoyed the occasional superhero tale that includes Superman (most notably Justice and Kingdome Come), he has never impressed me as a solo act. I found Superman’s most recent film, Man of Steel, to be predictable, the motivations of its characters contrived. In general, Superman’s array of powers–his strength, speed, ability to fly, x-ray vision, ice-cold breath, and eyes that shoot lasers–makes him one of the most overpowered superheroes in the history of comics.
And in most cases, I find this monotonous. His only weaknesses are Kryptonite, Lois Lane, and (possibly) his desire to help people. Character flaws? Practically none. Is it difficult for me to identify with such a character? Absolutely.
So imagine my surprise after picking up Superman: Red Son (written by Mark Millar), and discovering a really interesting “what-if” tale: what if Superman crash-landed not in America but in Russia just prior to the Cold War? What if he absorbed his Communist upbringing and sought to spread the Soviet regime worldwide? And what if Lex Luthor (Superman’s nemesis) was a brilliant American scientist seeking the means to defeat this Russian superman?
This is the story of Superman: Red Son. Without significantly altering Superman’s character, this comic shows how Superman’s goodness blinds him to the hurt he is causing humanity in his attempt to spread his Communist ideas. This is a complex, layered tale that left me thinking long after I finished.
The cover artwork and costume coloring in Superman: Red Son are styled after Soviet-era propaganda posters, giving the tale an appropriately vintage look:
Though I stand by my criticism of Superman as a character, I have found a welcome exception in Superman: Red Son, a story which gives a more interesting, albeit different, portrait of the Man of Steel. If you found this review interesting, you may want to have a look at Flint’s review of Kingdome Come.