Title: Superman: Red Son
Writer(s): Mark Millar
Illustrator(s): Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunkett, Andrew Robinson & Walden Wong
Publisher: DC Comics
Original Release Date: 2003
Genre(s): Comics, Science Fiction
What if one of the greatest superheroes of all time didn’t have his rocketship crash-land in Smallville, Kansas? What if he were to have it rerouted into the Soviet Union? Would Superman grow up to become the same hero we have all known and rooted for? Under the hands of the great writer Mark Millar, we are presented with one of the best Elseworlds stories that has ever been written.
Best-selling writer of the Kick-Ass series, Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Civil War (A Marvel Comics Event) and Wanted, among other comics, Mark Millar reimagines the mythology behind the Man of Steel and creates an alien superman surrounded with communist ideals whose very existence threatens to alter the position of the United States as a world superpower during the Cold War.
Portrayed as the champion of the common worker, this Superman fights a « never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism and the international expansion of the Warsaw pact ». Throughout the story a whole lot of various known characters are introduced in this stand-alone story. From Jimmy Olsen to Lois Lane, Mark Millar does an impeccable job in putting these key characters from Superman’s lore in unique positions that create dynamics that you’d never thought you’d ever see them in.
As if it wasn’t enough to be immersed in this particular political landscape, an homage to the DC mythology that respects the core essence of each superheroes’ lore and the very foundation of their relationship to each other is interspersed within the narrative in a very spectacular fashion. The best part of it all, as a personal fanboy of course, is the introduction of Batmankøff—yes, you read that right. The crux of his well-known story is brought into Superman: Red Son and turns him into an anarchist with a very furry hat.
While Superman might see Russia as his home, an inevitable a destined adversary also seeks to take him down in America. Indeed. It is none other than Lex Luthor. Their singular rivalry is illustrated as something incontestable, as if it were destiny. The traits that are often attributed to both Lex Luthor and Superman are still easily discernible in their actions and arguments as one vouches to help the common man while the other is in it to help himself. While their personalities were perfectly nailed, it is also safe to mention that Mark Millar doesn’t miss the mark with every other character in this story, even if they don’t have as much panel-time. Even the twist to their personalities are genuine, believable and entertaining beyond reproach.
With artwork that complements the quality of this story, there’s simply nothing that I could complain about. Pencillers Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett bring all these characters to life with great designs that remain inspiring till the end. With iconic moments infused at a consistent and clever rate, this story packs a punch that promises to keep this story gripping from cover to cover. Inkers Andrew Robinson and Walden Wong, as well as colourist Paul Mounts, complete the artwork with outstanding details by setting the unique mood of the era.
This story doesn’t only revel in its original take on these iconic characters during a time-period that we’re all so familiar with. It is also a look at the American and Russian politics and their long-standing complex relationship throughout time. Throughout the narrative, a whole analysis of two different political systems are explored (capitalism and communism) without ever dragging this action-packed story to the ground.
What really sealed the deal with this story is the mind-blowing and twisted ending. As you think that you’ve seen it all coming and that things would end on a very America-is-glorious tone, the story adds in a whole time-altering and paradigm-shifting ending that simply puts a smile on your face. Easily, Superman: Red Son is a story that absolutely anyone could pick up and enjoy. Long-time fans of DC heroes will also undoubtedly find even more joy in seeing how Mark Millar twists countless heroes’ origin story and creates one of the best Elseworlds story that I have ever read.
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★★
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Till next time,