Title: Superman: Red Son (Goodreads)
Author: Mark Millar
Artist: Dave Johnson
Published: DC Comics, 2014
My Copy: Library Book
Buy: Amazon, Book Depository, Kindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)
What if Superman never crashed in Smallville Kansas? What if he lands in the Soviet Union? How different would the story be? Mark Millar has created this alternative history in Superman: Red Son. Growing up in a Ukrainian collective farm, Red Son explores an alternate version of the Cold War. Rather than fighting for ‘truth, justice and the American way’, Superman works with Joseph Stalin and champions the communist ideals.
I was a little hesitant in reading Superman: Red Son; there was always a chance that this mini-series would just be propaganda, proclaiming the brilliance of Capitalism and the American way. While there is a little of this that bleeds through, for the most part, Mark Millar has taken a fair approach. If you think about the ideals that Superman has, it does closely align with the Communist ideal; equality for all. In the graphic novel, we often see Superman and Soviet leaders in disagreements about the way things should be done, reminding them of their own greed or desire for power.
There was an ideology within the soviet era of how a man should act, this is known as the new Soviet man. A new Soviet man is selfless, learned, healthy, muscular, and enthusiastic in spreading the socialist Revolution. I found it interesting how Mark Millar managed to capture this ideology and how easy it fits Superman’s own personality. While eager for the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact, Superman championed the Soviet ideals but would avoid violence whenever possible.
Interestingly enough, Mark Millar seems to capture a problematic America, that wish to intervene in the way the Soviet Union is run. While time and time again, Superman shows that he does not intend to inflict harm on the country. They still enlist Lex Luthor and S.T.A.R. Labs to help fight the spread of communism, exploring what I think was the major problem with the Cold War. If you look at the history of the Cold War, it feels like the majority of it could have been avoided if America just let the Soviet Union (and other Communist countries like Vietnam) fail on their own. This is obviously a personal opinion on the Cold War, I am aware that it was far more complex than an anti-communist war.
I may have read Superman: Red Son differently to others, but I truly enjoyed the experience. There are some interesting ideas explored, and I enjoyed the alternative versions of not only Superman, but other superheroes like Wonder Woman and Batman. There are a few flaws with the comic mini-series but for the most part, I found this to be a fresh take on the Superman story. It would be nice if this was a bigger series but for the most part Mark Millar wrote a great story and the illustrations by Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett were stunning.