Authors: Mark Millar
Illustrators: Dave JohnsonPublisher: DC
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Red Son Ascendant
Superman: Red Son is a fascinating and dark look at an Earth where the Man of Steel didn’t crash land in Kansas, but instead was discovered in the Soviet Union. The book draws upon decades of lore and remains faithful, while at the same time creating something totally fresh. With beautiful art and brilliant writing, this is an alternate take on Superman that is not to be missed.
Superman is as American as you can get. His earnest vow to uphold, “truth, justice, and the American way” has cemented him in our history and culture as a symbol of what we as a nation strive for. So what happens if Superman didn’t land in the United States? What if he landed in Stalin’s U.S.S.R.? This is the question that writer Mark Millar answers in his unflinchingly dark take on the Man of Steel’s legacy.
Superman: Red Son begins in an alternate reality version of Earth in the 1950’s. The Red Scare is at it’s peak as Americans constantly look over their shoulders. They have more to fear than nuclear war however, as the Soviets unveil their walking nuclear deterrent, a being that grew up on a collective farm known as Superman. This alien being has devoted his life to fighting for Stalin, Socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact. As America’s worst Cold War fears become a reality, the President Eisenhower and the C.I.A. turn to the brilliant scientist Lex Luthor to find a way to rid them of the super powered Communist. However, as Luthor shuns his reporter wife, Lois Lane, and begins an obsessive crusade to best Superman, the alien’s influence only spreads. One by one, more nations willingly join the Warsaw Pact, and little by little Superman begins to turn his influence into total control.
Let me state that this is the most original and fascinating Superman story I’ve yet read. Every single origin and critical piece of lore is referenced in this book. Even characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, Bizzaro, and Green Lantern have an alternate take on their lives represented. Batman’s story is particularly interesting and brings a fresh look to the age old conflict between the two heroes. Not only do the famous DC heroes get a rebooted history, but the entire course of history does as well. Many famous real world political figures make appearances throughout the story. People like John F. Kennedy and Joseph Stalin are featured in the book, and in Kennedy’s case, are given a different fate than the ones we know from our history. This all culminates in a fascinating and surprisingly relevant look at global politics.
The art is simply astonishing. Every single panel glows with excellent craftsmanship. Many times, the art is also a reference to iconic scenes from the heroes’ histories. All of the familiar iconography is there, but changed just enough so that nothing feels redundant. The colors suit the darker tone of the book, as even the Man of Steel’s famous red, yellow, and blue uniform is instead a sober gray, black, and red. Much of this book is about Superman’s interactions with a world that is under his control, and the amazing, emotional rendering of the character’s faces makes this story truly connect with it’s audience.
In the DC Multiverse’s Elseworlds catalouge, Superman: Red Son stands out as a uniquely inventive and powerfully emotional tale that will not only appeal to fans, but also to those who have an interest in history, politics, and culture. As just a Superman tale it’s wildly entertaining and masterfully constructed, but there is so much more to this story than just a hero saving the day. This is one of the finest cautionary superhero tales since Alan Moore’s seminal classic Watchmen, and will stand the test of time as one of the most original comics of all time.