Superman Redux

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.redson1

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:

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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.

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Kingdom Come

“There were voices… and thunderings and lightnings…and an earthquake.” Thus opens Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, an apocalyptic superhero tale which follows the preacher Norman McCay as he witnesses the events surrounding the punishment of the earth.  Containing an engaging narrative by Mark Waid and sporting gorgeous pages of artwork by Alex Ross, Kingdom Come is a contemporary comic that offers excellent reading.

Plot

The story opens after Superman and his fellow heroes of yesteryear have largely withdrawn from society and relinquished the reins of justice to their children and the new generation of heroes. However, the story quickly makes apparent that the new generation does not share the values that the older generation held. The destruction caused by this “new” generation forces Superman and his fellow heroes to come out of retirement and repair the mistakes that they have left unfixed. Mark Waid tells his story with finesse and he uses the situations of his characters to make social commentary and expound his views all within the framework of a superhero story.

Message

The story addresses many problems and ideas that are relevant to modern Americans and even Christians. Through the mouth of a character called Wesley, Waid talks about how modern people have lost initiative and the desire to excel, and instead, “asked a new breed to face the future for them”(17).  Also, throughout the entire narrative, Mark Waid uses the old/new superhero dichotomy to show the shortsightedness displayed whenever current problems are dumped on future generations who have not been raised responsibly and yet are expected to make things better. Mark Waid also addresses pride and its consequences; as well as how whenever a person loses touch with their own humanity they lose their moral compass and good judgment. Despite having fairly evident societal messages, Waid does not become preachy, but tells a pure superhero story about good versus evil that is engaging and entertaining. Mark Waid rises close to the pinnacle of storytelling in Kingdom Come, combining a great superhero story and at the same time unobtrusively making an accurate statement about modern American culture.

As far as inappropriate content in Kingdom Come, there is not much to mention. Since this is a superhero comic there is obviously violence, and though there is some blood it is kept to a minimum. There is a small amount of swearing in the dialogue, mainly comprised of only one or two uses of three words. Overall, I foundKingdom Come very refreshing to read because it has so little in the way of objectionable content.

Artwork

Finally, the artwork by Alex Ross is jaw dropping to say the least. He has a very painterly style that he uses to beautifully and realistically render all of Mark Waid’s characters and settings.  This is the first comic book I have read that has this style of art, and it is a joy to look at. Alex Ross does an excellent job of portraying all kinds of action, and some of the panels in the comic book are so complex that it boggles the mind how anyone could render everything so clearly and effectively.  The panels in the comic book are well laid out and are easy to follow without getting lost.

Closing Remarks

Kingdom Come offers a great read to those interested in the superhero genre or anyone who just wants a fun and clean story. The story is very well told, and the artwork is nigh impossible to surpass. By far this is the best comic that I have read in a while. I highly recommend it, and close with the words of Mark Waid’s character Norman McCay:

-Flint-