Superman: Red Son
Superman, so the cliché goes, is as American as apple pie. But what would have happened if the spaceship that carried the baby Superman to Earth hadn't landed in the backyard of a mid-west American farm, but in some other back-water on the other side of the world? Somewhere in the Soviet block, for example?
Red Son is an extrapolation on this simple theme. Superman becomes a tool of communism rather than the all-American free-spirit problem-sorter, with a hammer and sickle on his chest and an intrinsically Marxist (if, in his case, somewhat ironic) desire to make all people equal.
Naturally, when Superman appears in Stalin's USSR, the USA has got some catching up to do. Super-intelligent Lex Luthor seems to be the man for the job, creating wave after wave of super-enemies, managing to get Wonder Woman's Amazonian posse on side, and creating his own legion of superheroes courtesy of a strange green lantern and ring salvaged from a certain infamous UFO crash site in Roswell. Lois Lane and Superman don't get the chance to fall in love so she marries Luthor instead, while somehow the murderous epiphany of Batman also happens in Russia rather than the US.
One of the problems with a story like this is its ability to create more questions than it manages to answer. Millar's script seems to rush through some of the finer details in an attempt to get the maximum number of clever ideas into the plot, without leaving them much space to breathe. There's a fun ending though, and if Millar's chief crime is to attempt to milk his subject too hard, it can perhaps be forgiven since the concept is inherently interesting.
The art stands up well, with all concerned turning the familiar American icon into an authentic looking Soviet version of himself with a few simple nuances - that chest symbol and a less garish but dressier uniform.
At the end of the day this remains something for the enthusiastic Superman fan. The casual observer is likely to get confused by the lack of explanation about less famous characters like Green Lantern. But it's a perfect excuse for a DC Comics reading veteran to smile smugly at their ability to wheedle every nuance out of Millar's busy script.
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