Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Superman: Red Son

Originally published as a 3 issue series under DC Comics' Elseworlds imprint, Red Son reimagines Superman, the defender of truth, justice, and the American way, as a hero of the Soviet Union. Instead of landing in the American Midwest, Superman's rocket lands in a communal farm in 1938 and he grows up to become a hero who fights for "Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact." Superman's presence and support for the eastern bloc countries radically changes history and the outcome of the Cold War. The US sees the great disparity in power and seeks balance by funding its greatest scientist Lex Luthor to combat the superhuman communist. In the course of this conflict, Lex creates versions of some of Superman's greatest foes, including Bizarro, Metallo, and the Parasite.

Red Son also casts different roles and personas for DC's classic characters, including Wonder Woman, who is an ally from Paradise Island who seeks to promote Superman's mission of a world-wide socialist state, and a Batman who emerges to overthrow the social order. Brainiac appears and attacks the Soviet Union only to be repurposed in an interesting way. Lois Lane still works for the Daily Planet and meets Superman, but only long after she has been married to Luthor. A few other characters are conspicuously missing but play a role in the eventual climax of the story.

This story was conceived and written by Mark Millar, a Scottish comic book writer who has left a big mark on modern comic books and movies. His The Ultimates series has shaped the tenor and tone of almost all the Marvel Comics movie adaptations of Avengers characters, and his work on The Authority and Civil War combined contemporary events and superhero stories. Additionally, he has done creator owned works such as Wanted and Kick Ass, which have been successful as movie adaptations. The art was rendered by Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett.

Reviews of this graphic novel have been mostly positive. The Guardian's David Thomson called the book "a charming and potent work." The Daily Raider's reviewer Nixon wrote that "Red Son falls in the rare category of comics good enough that anyone should be able to pick up and enjoy." Nicholas Demers found some faults with Millar's storytelling but finally admitted that the book "was fun, occasionally clever, and had lots of nice visuals and cool fight scenes."

This collection is published by DC Comics. A preview is available at Amazon.com.

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