Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Retro Review #2 - Superman : Red Son

As I was rifling through some comic boxes for reading material until Wednesday rolls around, I came across one of my all time favorite Superman stories : Superman Red Son.

I can't remember if this classifies as an Elseworlds book because I don't think they were still using that label when it was released. For those that are not familiar, Elseworlds books were a great story idea for the most part. You take a character, remove them from their normal context or origin, and re-write it in a completely new way.

The basic premise is as follows : Baby Kal-El, instead of landing in a Kansas cornfield, lands on a communal farm in Russia. He grows up under Stalin's watchful eye to become not the symbol of Truth, Justice and the American Way but of Soviet and communist supremacy.

Mark Millar does a fantastic job of taking this story to the obvious, and not so obvious places to flesh out this concept. Superman does not hate America or capitalism. He's still Superman and loves to help people but he's been brought up in a different atmosphere and has a much different father figure in Stalin.

After Stalin's death, he is groomed to be the savior of the communist party and takes over as President Superman, ruling with a well meaning iron fist and fighting Lex Luthor along the way, who is a brilliant scientist working for the US Government.

Along with the main character of Soviet Superman, we get many cameo appearances by familiar DC characters, albeit in unfamiliar roles. Notable cameos include Bizarro (as a US Superman clone), FBI Agent James Olsen, Lois Luthor, Batman as a freedom fighter and members of the Green Lantern Marine Corps (tags on their uniform read Jordan, Rayner, Gardner, Stewart and Scott). We also get an explanation of the Roswell UFO crash which turns out to be the arrival of Abin Sur.

The character designs are fantastic and the art is very impressive. The re-designed costumes for Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are excellent. Superman's especially gets better and better as he ages and it changes slightly. My wife has the Red Son Wonder Woman figure and I'm looking to pick up the President Superman figure sometime soon.

I would highly recommend this book even if you don't have a background in reading Superman. The conflict in the book is very real and the paths that Millar takes are not always expected. As an added surprise, the ending really makes you think...

- Jason (Stalin is creepy when he hits on Hippolyta)

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