Superman: Red Son (2004)
“Let our enemies beware: There is only one Superpower now!”
It begins innocently enough. After Luthor brings down Sputnik, Soviet Superman saves it from crashing into Metropolis. But, that is only Luthor’s first test for the Man of Steel. (PS: I think I already knew “Stalin” translates to “Steel”, but I never thought of it as “Man of Steel” until this comic pointed out there are two Stalins…mind-blowing!) He also creates Bizarro as an American Superman, and even hires Green Lantern by order of John F. Kennedy!
Although Superman’s intentions are good, he doesn’t respect the freedom of others. He just wants to keep them safe and healthy. By 1978, the USSR, not the U.S., controls the world politically. But, Superman has taken on a frightening appearance, almost demonic, as he begins to rule the USSR and replace dissenters with robots. Everyone has a job. No one complains. The world runs like an Orwellian nightmare.
In this universe, Batman’s parents were shot by the head of the KGB in a purging. This of course makes him the head rebel against Superman. He’s even got a wool hat with a Bat symbol on it. Anyway, since Superman only listened to propaganda in this universe, he never finds out about his weaknesses, and Batman beats him near to death under red sunlight, courtesy of Luthor.
Batman is eventually cornered by Wonder Woman, a Communist convert. I enjoy picking on DC about this. It does always seem to come down to Batman vs. Superman, no matter what universe. but I won’t spoil anymore, because it’s a great book and a treasure to look at…a truly mind-challenging comic!
My point is, this comic could’ve easily been very one-dimensional. But, it’s not. You see Superman change from just wanting to feed the hungry to replacing dissenters with robots. It’s truly haunting and invokes Orwell for me. Through it all though, there’s one thing that never happens: Intercultural dialogue.
Throughout the real Cold War, both sides sat down and talked to avoid going to war. Here, since Superman rarely talks to anyone in the U.S., and is routinely betrayed by his own friends looking to climb the Soviet political ladder, his connection to humanity becomes very remote, and hence he always forces his will on others.
His closest advisor becomes a former enemy. The lust for power replaces gradually any need he might have left for compassion…or does it? Since I promised I won’t spoil…But, it really is a life-changing 4-star comic with great lessons about communication, power, friendship, and history. 4 stars for this one! And remember…He’s watching you.