The Comrade of Steel: Superman Red Son Deep Dive

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A portion of the Superman: Red Son movie poster


Superman: Red Son was an outlandish take on Metropolis’s hero and it succeeded in a very bizarre way.  Red Son centers around the idea in a what if scenario where Superman landed in Soviet Russia and not Kansas.  Due to this, He is raised as Stalin’s superweapon and leads to Russia leading the world in their own communist fashion.  The characters throughout this book are indeed affected because of this origin as Batman is a communist killing mastermind who throughout the book hunts down Superman, Wonder Woman was the ambassador of Themyscira and begins to have a “relationship” with Superman if you know what I mean, and Lex Luthor becomes the hero of America as he paves the way for a world without a communistic alien.  The book is very well layered as it puts most of your attention to Superman’s morality and what he truly wants for the world, even if he was raised differently then the loving family of the Kent’s.  He strikes very much as Superman from the other universe called Injustice where he is a tyrannical dictator that only focuses on what he believes is right for the world and not what they need as citizens.  The book, while being very short, in my eyes doesn’t catch the reader’s attention as much as you want to, it keeps you waiting for what happens next but isn’t the kind of book you’ll be able to fully engage yourself in reading for one-sitting.  Although it isn’t exactly the kind of book you can read all the way through, the story is very well grounded and plays with the idea of a bizarre version of Superman in a perfect way.  The authors are all amazing at what they do with keeping the reader wanting more, would you like to meet them?

BEHIND THE AUTHORS

Mark Millar is a well known writer in the comic industry with exhilarating works such as the Civil War comics and the infamous comedy, Kick Ass.  His first work was The Saviour (1989-1990) and then moved on to more of his popular works such as Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority (2001), the Ultimates (2002), and Superman: Red Son (2003).  Post Red Son he did Wanted (2005) and Civil War (2006) an climatic battle destroying the Avengers and dividing them into a calamity never seen before.  The comedic, gorey action book of Kick Ass (2008) was his next popular work as it was produced into a movie in 2010.  Mark then did these popular works: Old Man Logan (2008), Marvel 1985 (2008), Nemesis (2010), Superior (2010-2012), Super Crooks (2012),  Jupiter’s Legacy (2013), The Secret Service (2014), American Jesus (2016), and Huck (2017).  Mark Millar won many awards such as the 2000 Eisner Award for Best Title for a Younger Audience for Superman Adventures shared with Aluir Amancio, Terry Austin, 2000 Eisner Award for Best Writer for Superman Adventures, and 2001 Eisner Award for Best Writer for The Authority and Ultimate X-Men.  He is such a fantastic writer and is known for his overy bizarre takes on characters that gets you hooked in for another read.

Dave Johnson began working for comico on the title Robo Tech in 1985.  He worked in DC’s Impact Comics in 1992 on The Web.  He did the following before Superman: Red Son: Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire (1996), Aliens: Labyrinth (1995), Unknown Soldier (1998), and Superman: Red Son (2003). Post Red Son he drew and wrote Action Comics #800 (2003), Labyrinth (2006), JLA Classified (2006), Adventures of the Mask Omnibus (2009), Battle Milk 2 (2012-2011), Wolverine: The return of Weapon X (2013), and Star Wars Comic-Kollektion 14 – Chewbacca (2017).  His drawing is very distinct and bold with a unique tone of bold lines surrounding the characters and the settings.

Killian Plunkett worked on Superman Red Son in 2003 and did plenty of notable works, this includes: Aliens: Labyrinth (1995), Unknown Soldier (1998), Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire (1996), and Superman: Red Son (2003).  Post Red Son he did Action Comics #800 (2003), Labyrinth (2006), JLA Classified (2006), Adventures of the Mask Omnibus (2009), Battle Milk 2 (2012-2011), Wolverine: The return of Weapon X (2013), and Star Wars Comic-Kollektion 14 – Chewbacca (2017).  He is honestly a jack of all trades with his incredible sense of stability and momentum throughout his books.

SYNOPSIS

If you want the full experience of this book I suggest you buy the graphic novel and read it, If however, you don’t have the time for that this is an alternate option.

Instead of Kal El’s ship landing in Kansas it landed in someplace far more bizarre, the Soviet Union.  An entire nation wakes in distress as the president calls for a nationwide emergency as the Soviet Union announces their newest weapon, Superman.  Luther quickly learns of this ,being the mad scientist that he is, is offered a job to combat Superman to make sure the U.S stays safe.  Superman shortly after this saves Metropolis from a rocket hurdling straight into the heart of the city.  He shows the country and the world for that matter that he’s not the enemy but someone fighting for what he thinks is right.  We pan towards the celebration of a Superman day in Russia where Superman quickly departs as he detects another emergency across the word.  During this, Luthor uses the DNA from Superman catching the Rocket and uses it to make a Bizzaro clone to go head on with the Man of Steel.  Superman meets Wonder Woman at a diplomatic party, they both are romantically attracted to each other throughout this book, but quickly has to depart as he spots Pytor Roslov, chief of the NKVD and Stalin’s son, is drunk and angry at the way their government had changed due to Superman’s arrival.  He discusses his treacherous actions against families because of the sudden change like gunning down a boy’s parents right in front of him.  Pytor finally snaps from the hostile environment and poisons his father, Joseph Stalin, leading to a look for a new leader. 

Superman suspects Pytor to be killing Stalin but he doesn’t comment on the action.   Superman initially turned down the role as leader of the Soviet Union.  Luthor finally reconstructs Superman in a Bizzaro Clone that engages Superman in a battle leading to a nuclear attack towards Great Britain.  The Clone sacrifices himself to prevent the death of millions, showing how Superman’s morality is even a part of his whole identity. 

The damage caused in London because of this attack inevitably breaks Anglo-American relations. Scarred from the thought that Superman is more intelligent than him, Lex murders his crew in Stars Industries and founded Luther Corp obsessed over defeating Superman.  Lois is abandoned by Luthor over his obsession as she longs for Superman, Superman puts this behind him but things take a twist when he meets a childhood friend, Lana Lazerinko.  He sees the suffering of her and her children and believes that he can change the world for the greater good, becoming the leader of the Soviet Union.

In a new reality of 1978, The world has adopted Communism culture in a majority of Europe.  After Richard Nixon’s tragic assasination in Dallas, Texas in 1963, John F Kennedy became president of the United States.  Luthor has constructed many plans throughout the years although none of them have worked in thwarting the leader of the Soviet Union.  The U.S. and Chile are the last independent countries from the Soviet Union although they are struggling to keep themselves stable.  While America is falling apart from a rebellious people, the Soviet Union has grown and has practically gotten rid of global poverty.  Although this is a great thing, individual rights have been taken from the citizens and Superman has become much more of a big brother-like figure in the country.  He invents a surgery that implants a chip into people who have disobeyed the regulations of the country into your brain so you become a mindless “Superman robot” or a drone for the cause of the motherland.  Wonder Woman and Superman have become allies in saving peoples lives as Wonder Woman has grown to fall in love with Superman, which he is oblivious to as he sees her only as a comrade.  Lois becomes the editor in chief at Daily Bugle saving it from falling into bankruptcy. 

Luthor continues working on his unhealthy hobby as he plans on shrinking Moscow with help from his partner, Brainiac ,who ultimately shrinks Stalingrad instead into a bottle.  This puts an end to the Luthor-Brainiac Corporation but in the end Superman is unable to fix the city and it becomes one of his greatest failures.  Batman is involved with Luthor’s next plan to take down Superman, who turns out to be the boy that Pytor orphaned earlier in the novel.  Batman is also the leader of an anarchist group that sees through Superman’s lies and tries to battle the oppression that they have been exposed to, this is one of Superman’s greatest threats in the motherland.  Batman joins forces with Pytor, the leader of the KGB and overly jealous of Superman’s reign, and Lex Luthor to take down the Man of Steel. 

Batman captures Wonder Woman and uses her to get to Superman who becomes exposed to the light rays of the sun back on his earth as a tactic used by Batman to weaken Superman.   The plan works but Wonder Woman breaks free and rescues him in just the nick of time, sadly this leads to Wonder Woman losing her immortality with her hair turning white spontaneously.   Batman commits suicide to avoid Superman capturing him and turning him into a mindless tool in his reign.  Superman detects that Pytor was involved with this conflict and brainwashes him into a drone.  Luthor, during this, is given a mysterious green lantern found in a ship that crashed in New Mexico.  Superman, with the help of Brainiac, built the “Fortress of Solitude”, now located in Siberia and called The Winter Palace.

Flashforward a couple decades to 2001, where the Soviet Union gained complete control over the world except for Chile and parts of the U.S, that went into a civil war in the 80’s.  Now, Superman abuses the “Superman Robot” protocol to take care of anyone who stands in his way.  Stalingrad is still Superman’s greatest failure as it is being destroyed by a form of green bacteria. Luthor runs for presidential election and wins.  After 15 years using his powers has taken America out of the depression that it was in with his work using science and political ideals with the new party, Luthorism, a flawless government that keeps the world prospering for centuries to come.  However, this is all an elaborate trap to force Superman into invading the U.S.  

Luthor enters the Winter Palace in a very anticlimactic battle that ends with Brainiac defeating him, because of this Superman plans his attack on the US of A.  Superman engages the east coast where he is met by the Green Lantern Corp being lead by Hal Jordan that are defeated in quick succession.  Luthor also bundles up a group of rogues and a delusional Wonder Woman together to defeat Superman in a plan that goes awry.  Brainiacs spaceship cuts the navy from interfering.  Lois Lane is in the last line defence against Superman’s reign of the USA with a note.  Superman reads the note and falls in tears reading the words “Why don’t you put the whole WORLD in a BOTTLE Superman?”  Superman tries to call off Brainiac’s attack when suddenly it turns out Brainiac wasn’t under Superman’s control and uses a form of kryptonite gas on Superman weakening him as he says the entire universe will “hum to his battery”.  Luthor hacks into Brainiac’s ship and shuts it down as Superman kills the traitor.  Due to Brainiac’s fail safe the ship will explode in a range of 15,000,000 miles.  Superman takes the ship into outer space and is supposedly caught in the explosion, dead.  

In the end, The Soviets fall under control of the Batmen, the anarchist group that was run by the deceased Batman, and Luthor makes a new political ideal called Luthorism and forms a global United States, gaining a millennial of peace.  Luthor then makes many great achievements like the cure for all diseases and the colonization of the final frontier, space.  Luthor lives to be over 2,000 years old.  At his funeral we spot Superman watching the ceremony, dictating that Superman is somewhat of an immortal in this universe.  Superman then goes on a monologue describing the events that took place after Luthor’s descendant, Jor El.  This leads to Kal El being sent back into the past to fix the world for the greater good creating some form of paradox.

MY THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSION

Superman: Red Son is a very bizarre take on the classic Man of Steel for a variety of reasons.  The idea of putting Superman’s flawed morality and putting it together with communism is almost flawless as it shows us the cracks and flaws of both of these topics.  My favorite part of this book however is what they did with Batman.  Instead of being the Caped Crusader, he is a man completely obsessed over killing Superman, almost like Batman in Batman V. Superman (2016) if you know what I’m talking about.  Lex Luthor was an incredible character to play with as well with his crazy obsession over Superman and in the end making it not into a rivalry, but a friendship.  The book is very slow however with many parts that feel like a chore to read at some times but this doesn’t take away from the quality that is this book.  An example of this problem is throughout the character development of Luthor and Superman.  It feels more of an actual series then a limited one with their very stereotypical plans and conflicts which takes away from the story’s momentum.  Wonder Woman was also used very strangely in this book as a love interest but not really?  It was a very poor take on the character that I feel could’ve been so much better than what she was portrayed as.  Other than these problems, the book is fascinating and is definitely one of the better else-worlds stories.  I give Superman: Red Son a 7/10.

WORKS CITED

Matadeen, Renaldo. “Millarworld: The Top 15 Mark Millar Comic Books | CBR.” CBR, CBR, 7 Apr. 2017, http://www.cbr.com/top-mark-millar-comic-books/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.

“Dave Johnson.” DC, 4 Mar. 2012, http://www.dccomics.com/talent/dave-johnson. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.

‌“Kilian Plunkett.” Wookieepedia, 2014, starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Kilian_Plunkett. Accessed 28 Sept. 2020.

‌These images were used from DC from the property related to Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Killian Plunkett in 2003

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