Saturday, 20 July 2013

Superman Red Son: A Communist Manifesto Starring… Superman?

A Review By: Amelia
I’ve always enjoyed fan fiction, it’s a great way to see a side of a character that wasn’t portrayed in their original story. I think that’s why comics are so appealing to me, it’s writers taking an established character and writing their own take on them; and of all the fan fiction and comics I’ve ever read, Superman Red Son has got to be one of the most original and fascinating pieces of writing I’ve encountered.

The whole premise of Superman Red Son is a whole big what-if question. What if baby Superman’s capsule had landed in Communist Russia instead of Capital America? What if Superman fought on the side of Russia and spread Communism to all reaches of the Earth? What if Batman was a terrorist? What if everything you knew about the DC Universe was suddenly shaken up and flipped onto its head? Well, Red Son by the prominent comic book writer Mark Miller answers all these questions and more within its two hundred or so pages!

The characters are standard for a Superman comic: Superman and Lex Luthor are the main focus, of course their roles are reversed with Superman playing the antagonist and Lex Luthor playing the protagonist (well, not really a straight-and-straight protagonist, but he’s less of an antagonist than Superman is as he is fighting for capitalism, the less of the two evils). Then we have Wonder Woman and Batman playing supporting roles within the Communist drama and, being that the theme is indeed Communism, Stalin plays a very large role within the narrative as he’s Superman’s mentor and father figure.

Love Batman's hat. It's cold in Russia and this is a clever mod of the cowl!
The art style is Red Son is good. Good, not great. It’s a very simple style without a lot of detail. Lines are stark, colours are basic, and, overall, it’s a little… plain. There is detail of course, but it’s not on a decadent level and that is definitely how Miller wanted it. The simple art style showcases what this comic is all about: Communism. The straight to the point art with little to no arbitrary detail suits the plot and theme of the comic perfectly–Communism is all about the basics after all.

Superman Red Son is a breath of fresh air. It has such an original premise–a premise that I’m surprised no one before Mark Miller ever thought of. The art style is a little bland compared to other graphic novels (I’m thinking of Batman: Hush in particular, it’s my favourite and I am a bit biased that all art should be like the art in Hush, but I digress). The art is simple but it’s enough to convey what it wants to convey; anyways, Red Son is all about the plot through and through. It’s intelligent, well planned, and the main focus of this Superman piece.

My final thoughts on Superman Red Son are that it is a graphic novel unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It takes what we know of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman and turns it upside down, but in an amazing way. To see such a reversal of the character’s beliefs and values–especially Batman–is something that all comic book readers need to experience. Not to mention all the little details like how Communist Superman’s ‘secret identity’ is a secret–he’s always Superman, he’s never the working man (although if you know anything about Communism, it’s main focus is the working man, but I digress once again). It’s things like this that add all the nice twists that show just how meticulously this comic was planned. Superman Red Son is a manifesto that all Superman fans–and comic book fans alike–should rally behind.

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