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Superman: Red Son #1-3

Superman: Red Son

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Strange visitor from another world who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands ... and who, as the champion of the common worker, fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, Socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.

In this Elseworlds tale, a familiar rocketship crash-lands on Earth carrying an infant who will one day become the most powerful being on the planet. But his ship doesn't land in America. He is not raised in Smallville, Kansas. Instead, he makes his new home on a collective in the Soviet Union!

Collecting SUPERMAN: RED SON #1-3.

160 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Mark Millar

1,189 books2,313 followers
Mark Millar is the New York Times best-selling writer of Wanted, the Kick-Ass series, The Secret Service, Jupiter’s Legacy, Jupiter’s Circle, Nemesis, Superior, Super Crooks, American Jesus, MPH, Starlight, and Chrononauts. Wanted, Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, and The Secret Service (as Kingsman: The Secret Service) have been adapted into feature films, and Nemesis, Superior, Starlight, War Heroes, Jupiter’s Legacy and Chrononauts are in development at major studios.

His DC Comics work includes the seminal Superman: Red Son, and at Marvel Comics he created The Ultimates – selected by Time magazine as the comic book of the decade, Wolverine: Old Man Logan, and Civil War – the industry’s biggest-selling superhero series in almost two decades.

Mark has been an Executive Producer on all his movie adaptations and is currently creative consultant to Fox Studios on their Marvel slate of movies.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,347 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
763 reviews3,493 followers
June 26, 2022
Ideological massive multiplayer real fictional life role playing with a clickbaity attitude

The superman uchronia, dystopia, utopia, choose by subconsciously activating unknown subjective cognitive biases
Pretty clever to use politics, economics, and sociology in a way that isn´t boring, stupid, or a legitimation for crimes against humanity, but to entertain in a way that shows that everything has its flaws. It´s more depending on which faith fuel causes more suffering, maybe the only true, objective way to compare models of society. Although, whose replication crisis is caused by whose phony statistics and fringe lobby science, is the little problem regarding trusting anything. For us, Luthor cracks economics while reading 3 books, beating deep mind at chess and Go, and developing antigravity real life applications, not just the numbers behind it.

Playing with provocation
This certainly wouldn´t have had such an impact without the setting, I guess it will now have a big revival thanks to the usual geopolitical madness escalating to full scale invasions and war one wouldn´t have imagined possible in the 21st century. But before real life showed who is boss this was already a great hook to get conservative readers annoyed and progressive fans delighted by something completely different, by owning patriotism and questioning anything glorified and dogmatic.

Possibly again tons of innuendos and puns for graphic novel and comic specialists, enthusiasts, and purists. Nerd(gasm) out until climax
To me, it´s a very entertaining and funny thing, especially because it has loads of moral and ethical questions too. Especially towards the end, it plays with the idea that kind of nobody is totally good or evil as long as it doesn´t go full genocide, dictatorship, or economic suppression and lets the reader question

Who and which system is good
Brainiac, Superman, or Luthor respectively which of their fractions, ideologies, strange mix up hybrids of social systems? Ok, maybe forget Brainiac and focus on our definitively not bromantic on off relationship. Has the ending a bigger meaning, is it just an in your face satire, or is Superman or Luthor the bigger hero or antagonist?

Fun, or frightening, fact if one is into paranormal multidimensional time travel prophecies
Although this one is as far fetched as most of these. On the first few pages, it´s shown that Superman is from Ukraine and that „Bosses back in Moscow are pushing for a full blown invasion in a matter of weeks.“ As said, far fetched, because the WW3 European invasion by the Soviets is a long time runner, but the combination with Ukraine is still a freaking coincidence.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 38 books231k followers
September 12, 2014
Honestly? The best Superhero comic I've read in years. I might say "The best Superhero comic I've ever read" if not for The Dark Knight and Watchmen.

Very clever. Tightly written. Different enough to be interesting, but still true to the original source mythology of Superman.

Highly recommended. Even if you don't really give a damn about superheroes.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
726 reviews11.5k followers
July 30, 2022
The idea of having Superman grow up in the USSR is certainly interesting. Take the all-American hero and make him an ideological hero for the other Cold War side, and leave the US with Lex Luthor by default. Komrade Klark Kentovich seemed fun, and I was intrigued.

But in the end I was left with a feeling that it was all very superficial. And not very interesting as a story, even if it had a few moments where it actually made me think. An enforced regulated happiness or humanity being allowed to decide for themselves and screw up for themselves? (Enforced 8-hour sleep does sound pretty tempting, actually. My vote for Komrade Supermanov over sleep deficit).

But other than pondering the ethics of enforced Utopia, it did not go past superficial and not particularly interesting, making me feel mostly disengaged. The Soviet angle was needed only, it seems, to give Lex Luthor legitimacy in the US politics, and a few scenes of Superman chumming around with Stalin led nowhere, really. (Although new origin story for Batman was neat, leading to the caped crusader getting a weather-appropriate fur BatHat*). But other than that, this Superman could have belonged anywhere.

But at least Lex Luthor was delightfully and creepily quirky, so there was at least something fun about it.

Oh, and whatever sadist thought that including hard-to-read gold text on red background was a good idea has clearly never suffered from a migraine. Or has superman vision.

And it’s already fading from my memory, unimpressively so. Even that fur BatHat.

2 stars.


Buddy read with Dennis, who gave Komrade Klark Kentovich an extra star . Because he’s less grumpy than I am.

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Jan Philipzig.
Author 1 book263 followers
August 8, 2016
Coulda Been a Contender...

What if Superman had crash-landed and grown up in the Soviet Union rather than in the United States? What if he was… oh my God, dare I spell it out… a “commie”?! What would he be like? Would we still cheer him on? How would the Cold War have turned out? The premise behind Superman: Red Son is as obvious as it is intriguing: in the tradition of Watchmen, it allows – theoretically, at least – for an investigation of the genre’s underlying ideological and political assumptions.

As it turns out, however, Millar is not all that interested in politics and ideologies - or even in his own characters, for that matter. What he is really looking for is something much more basic: an excuse to mess with DC continuity. We are introduced to alternate versions of various DC characters and historical figures, but their redefined life courses are hardly explained and certainly do not evolve organically out of the story’s premise. Why is Lois Lane married to Lex Luthor? Why is Jimmy Olsen a CIA agent? Does Wonder Woman even have a personality? Why has Nixon been assassinated instead of Kennedy? There’s no depth, no psychology, no political insight, no sense of time and place.

Who cares, Millar seems to think - it’s provocative, that’s all that matters. As the revisionary text it purports to be, however, Superman: Red Son feels half-baked, rushed, and a little silly – as if Millar had spontaneously cooked up the whole thing while playing with his battered action figures, desperate for a new plot twist. Too bad, coulda been a contender...
Profile Image for Baba.
3,527 reviews787 followers
August 17, 2022
Mark Millar envisages a world where the spacecraft from Krypton crashes into the Soviet Union controlled Ukraine and not the USA! Nice work! 8 out of 12

I read the comic books Superman: Red Son #1-3
2012 read
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews681 followers
June 12, 2015
Nature or Nurture?

Is Superman’s moral code hot-wired in his DNA or did being raised by the do-right Kents help establish his role as the world’s ultimate Boy Scout?

What better way to examine this question than for Mark Millar to have Superman’s rocket ship land in a collective farm in Soviet Russia rather than in the American heartland.

When Superman’s powers are realized by the Soviet government, Stalin elevates him to become champion of the common worker and a handy tool in the Cold War against the U.S. Despite the fact that Superman was raised in Soviet Russia, his humanity is still evident. When Stalin dies and he’s promoted to leader of the country, he does what he can to make Russia the “perfect” place. No bread lines, no tragedy, no dissent.

So in the U.S.A., who’s the bulwark against the expected invasion of the godless, commie hordes Superman? Why it’s, um, Lex Luthor, husband of Lois Lane. Millar does some clever things turning the familiar DC universe on its ear with alternate looks at Wonder Woman, Oliver Queen and the Green Lanterns; however, it’s his take on Batman that really deserves kudos. Batman’s parents are gunned down in front of him by the KGB and he becomes an anarchist, bent on overthrowing the Soviet government. The sign of the Bat becomes the subversive rallying cry for change.

Recommended as an alternative to those same-old, same-old Superman comics. Grant Morrison has taken credit for suggesting the twisty, tricksy ironic ending to Millar. You’ve been warned.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,864 reviews69.2k followers
August 24, 2013
It's a bird...it's a plane...It's Commie Superman!

It was alright, but I'm not as in love with Red Son as everyone else seems to be. Intellectually, this is a good Superman What If story.
But it bored me.
Sorry, but I had a hard time not putting this down.
I can't give it less than 3 stars, because it really is an ingenious take on Superman. I can't give it more, because I had to put it on the back of my toilet to ensure I would finish it.

Recommended for Superman fans looking for a What If comic.
Profile Image for Brandon.
895 reviews234 followers
August 13, 2013
Could you imagine if Superman landed in Canada instead of the United States? What if Joe Shuster tried to persuade Jerry Siegel that Clark Kent should grow up on a farm in Alberta or the snowy terrain of northern Manitoba? Or God help us, Newfoundland? What kind of a hero would he be then? Far too polite to get physical.

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nah, that’s just Superman, eh.”

Fortunately for us, the readers, Mark Millar gives us a more interesting scenario. What if Superman landed in Ukraine and became a part of the USSR at the height of the Cold War?

Becoming the right hand man and the eventual successor to Joseph Stalin, Superman puts the power in the palm of Communist Russia. Unfortunately for the United States, the dramatic shift in power creates chaos at home. While they still have the brilliant scientist Lex Luthor to claim as their own, he becomes obsessed with figuring out how to defeat Superman rather than using his intellect to advance his own society.

What develops over the years is very interesting and Mark Millar guides us through an alternate timeline in world history. Just what would happen if “President Superman” ruled over Russia? Would he retain his values or would absolute power corrupt absolutely? The answers may surprise you.

This experiment had a multitude of ways it could fall flat on its face and only a select few that would cause it to succeed. Fortunately for DC, Millar knew the right road to take. While this is the only core Superman series I’ve yet read, I have a hard time believing it can be topped (at least in my opinion). I knew enough about the character and the DC universe to keep my head above water, so you don’t need to be a comics historian to catch the jokes and changes in certain superheroes and supervillains.

The only real problem I have is the ending. I don’t think it really needed to go quite as far as it did. It was interesting to see where everything ended up after the core conflict was settled but it seemed to go on and on and on. In the end, it’s merely a small complaint - I loved the hell out of this book.

Cross Posted @ Every Read Thing
Profile Image for Dennis.
656 reviews262 followers
July 26, 2022
What if Kal-El had dropped down in the USSR instead of Kansas? How would it change the course of two nations and the arc of other characters?

Commie Superman is an interesting premise and this comic book has a couple of good moments and some meta commentary, of which some surely was lost on me as I don't know much about the Man of Steel and the other characters in this book. Lex Luthor, in any case, is ridiculous and hilarious in this one and was my highlight of the whole book. I liked the ending too. But overall I think there wasn't a particularly enganging storyline.

Mark Millar throws a lot of stuff in here, but I would have prefered a (maybe) more streamlined and (certainly) better developed version of this. Also, whoever chose the colors for the lettering needs to find a new job. The art was fine. But reading the text gave me a headache.

2.75 stars

Buddy read with Nataliya. Let's see how she rates Komrade Klark Kentovich's adventures. Spoiler alert: Expecting a two.

Recommended by Kai
Profile Image for Aaron.
971 reviews102 followers
July 30, 2011
The idea of reimagining Superman as a Soviet hero instead of an American one could've led to so many great political, moral, and societal questions, but instead Millar goes out of his way to write Superman as the exact same boring, perfect character we've seen for 70 years. We see all the same villains acting pretty much exactly how they always act. He isn't raised by the Kents in Kansas. He's raised in the Ukraine by some farmers we never meet, and yet still has the exact same moral compass as the mainstream Superman.

In this reality, Lois Lane is married to Lex Luthor. In some spectacularly cheesy and pointless scenes, Superman meets Lois and thinks "In another life, I could've married her." Who cares?! We KNOW the real Superman loves Lois Lane! What this story needs is a SOVIET OUTLOOK. Instead, we're treated to a Soviet Union that just completely changes its actions thanks to Superman being in charge. The traditional Superman upholds American beliefs. The red one should've done the same, instead of changing the Soviet beliefs to match his own hyper-moral character.

Oh, except for one thing. Superman is shown to be a force of kindness and good throughout this story, and yet he eventually starts brainwashing anyone who disagrees with him. This seems to be done solely to suddenly and inexplicably introduce a "bad side" of Superman, which never even matters.

This kind of uneven, poorly planned nonsense happens throughout the book, which is only saved by the art and a few decent action scenes. An incredibly disappointing, squandered opportunity.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,707 reviews117 followers
October 14, 2020
"Yes, it's Superman - strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men . . . [who] fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way!" -- from the introduction to the 1952-1958 Adventures of Superman TV series

Sure, that's all well and good because Superman - a.k.a. Kal-El from the doomed planet Krypton - was rocketed to our planet and landed in a Kansas cornfield, soon to be raised by the humble and salt-of-the-earth Kent farming family. But WHAT IF??? (cue the three descending stinger notes on a horn) this super-powered orphaned alien had instead landed in the wintry Soviet Union, and became their national hero - and favorite adopted son - during the Cold War era and communist regime? (His outfit is even now adorned with a hammer & sickle in place of the 'S'!!!) Author Millar's adjusted or skewed take on the well-known origin story / mythos, plus the use of an entire line-up of known supporting characters (because no true Man of Steel tale would be complete without Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, etc. in some capacity) and usual companions (Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern play important roles), was a great idea and results in a pretty good alternate timeline story.
Profile Image for Ray.
Author 16 books282 followers
April 5, 2020
Truly one of the great Superman stories, written by early 2000s-era Mark Millar back when the author was in his heyday.

This alternate world story exploring the possibility of Superman's rocket crashing in the Soviet Union is, of course, quite political. The communist iconography works great, and the cameos by Stalin and Kennedy are enjoyable for any fans of alternate history. But in a way, it's not about communism and the Soviets specifically. That's the initial premise to be sure, but in the broader scope it's about the larger question of what if Superman was a dictator, and the specific ideological label doesn't really matter...

Would the world be better off under a benevolent dictatorship by way of superhuman hero? Instead of just fighting villains and saving people in natural disasters, should the superhero rather take over the governments of the world and maximizing as much peace for humanity as possible?

Would that be worth it?

Red Son does an excellent job exploring these moral themes, as such a deconstruction of the superhero genre does so. I also appreciate that this is a proper DC book and not just one of those stories with an equivalent archetypal character. It is fun to be able to use the universe and see Wonder Woman drop by, along with Russian Batman, the Green Lantern Marine Corps, and more. The overall arc is also very much about Superman's iconic rivalry with powerless human genius Lex Luthor, and it certainly feels epic as the decades pass and their battles get as big picture as it gets, spanning the destiny of the entire planet.

It's all exceedingly clever science fiction, and nicely well contained in a single graphic novel. Unbogged by continuity, any reader will be able to enjoy this classic.

(And while your at it, be sure to check out the intriguing new animated film adaptation as well!)
Profile Image for Blaine.
728 reviews579 followers
September 27, 2022
“I offered them Utopia, but they fought for the right to live in Hell.”
Superman: Red Son is a very clever reimagining of Superman. Raised in the Soviet Union, Superman tilts the world toward communism. And in doing so, he eventually becomes a political leader, and falls prey to different impulses than the Superman we are used to, impulses that ultimately twist him into a much darker forceps the world. Lex Luthor plays a big role, and Russian Batman plays a smaller but still pivotal role. There are lots of cameos from other supervillains and DC characters (several are the one frame, ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ variety).

But what elevates Superman: Red Son is that it has something to say about our current society, and about the corrupting nature of power. That, and it has a really great ending. If you’ve ever read a Superman comic or seen one of the movies, this should be required reading. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lono.
169 reviews98 followers
March 9, 2015


Mark Millar’s got the alternate reality/universe/elseworlds thing down. Between Superman: Red Son, Ultimate X-Men, and Old Man Logan, he has penned some bomb-ass shit. He’s got some haters out there. He certainly isn’t the most sensitive dude. But boy can he write some fun stuff. Anybody that can get me to sit through a Superman book has some talent. Sorry, not a lot of love for the boy in blue.


Well in Red Son he’s actually the boy in grey. In this twist of fate story, Kal El crashes in Russia instead of Kansas and is raised under Stalin’s communist regime. Cool idea. Some similarities remain. He grows up in a farming community, he initially is just interested in helping his people, and he ultimately falls into the service of his nation’s government. I read some complaints that Supes was not different or “evil” enough. I like that Millar just doesn’t do the communist = bad thing here. Superman is still basically a good guy that wants to do the right thing. Making him evil or “bad” might sorta imply that all people in Russia were malevolent Stalinists. And I’m pretty sure that was not the case. He does evolve in this universe a little differently than he did in traditional DC continuity. So does Lex. One thing remains the same though. Even though Luthor can balance the budget and cure cancer, he still hasn’t been able to improve on hair club for men. You’d think he would put 5 or 10 fuckin' minutes into that one, right?!?


A ton of cool references in this one and a bunch of familiar faces show up including Lois, Perry, Jimmy, and of course, Lex. There are some familiar, yet different, versions of Batman, Wonder Woman, and a couple of other surprise Leaguers that also make appearances. I really dug this “Anarchy in black” version of the caped crusader. Even the hat. Princess Diana was initially a little bit too much of a lovesick school girl for me, but managed to come around by the end. Overall I really enjoyed Millar’s take on these classic heroes.


Dave Johnson does a terrific job on the artwork with this book. Known mostly for his covers (100 Bullets, The Punisher, and some Batman stuff), I really enjoyed seeing him put in some work on this book. His style has always appealed to me and I wish he would do more interior stuff. Sorta reminded me a little of Eduardo Risso.


Anyone that enjoys alternate reality or “Elseworlds” stories like Injustice: Gods Among Us, The Dark Knight Returns, Old Man Logan, or Kingdom Come would probably get a kick outta this one. If you’re a Millar fan and you haven't read this, your missing out.

Get this review and more at:

Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,450 reviews12.8k followers
October 25, 2012
What if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia instead of Smallville, Kansas? DC's "Elseworlds" series imagines an alternate take on the Superman story with "Comrade Superman" becoming ruler of Soviet Russia, slowly taking over the world while an independent America led by Lex Luthor fights against an increasingly unhinged and totalitarian-minded Man of Steel.

Mark Millar has written no less than a masterpiece with "Superman: Red Son". We see the character of Superman evolve from an idealistic young man to new ruler to an increasingly isolated and intolerable megalomaniac who takes his god-like powers and status and tries to make the world into a utopia. Red Superman is at turns heroic and then more dark until he's a terrifying figure of absolute power taken to the limit.

Lex is the real star of the book and Millar does a fine job of making him at turns arrogant and ruthless but also charming and funny and with his tireless and imaginative efforts at bringing down the Superman, nothing less than a superhero in his own right. I like when writers add nuance to Luthor's character instead of single-minded cartoonist villainy and Millar hits the right chord with his characterisation of Luthor here.

There are great moments throughout the book that make it a non-stop thriller for any comics fan: the re-imaginings of Wonder Woman, Bizarro, and Green Lantern are excellent but the Russian Batman takes the cake for best alternate take on a legend. Red Batman is an urban terrorist living in the sewers, going to extremes to destroy the invincible Superman and in one momentous scene reminiscent of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", he almost does it before doing something extreme even Miller's Batman didn't.

"Red Son" is easily one of the best Superman books out there and might be the best thing Mark Millar's ever written. He's on top form throughout, his imagination fizzing off of the page from one breath-taking set-piece to the next, aided by amazing art from Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett throughout, crescendoing in a completely unpredictable and inspired conclusion. This is a must-read for all superhero fans but it's also an excellent piece of dystopian fiction for readers who don't normally read comics. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Chad.
7,470 reviews857 followers
October 23, 2018
This was a re-read for me. This book captures what Elseworlds is all about. Millar, Johnson, and Plunkett have created a fully realized world where Superman landed on Earth 12 hours earlier and so crashlanded in Russia instead. Superman appears in Moscow as an adult and becomes the new red scourge for America in the 50's. Superman allows communism to flourish and spread throughout the world and establishes order whether citizens want it or not. Lex Luthor is still his terrible self but still an American and such is put in the position of taking out Superman.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,684 followers
March 14, 2010
What a fantastic idea. A counter-fantastical take on Superman, where the once Clark Kent comes to Earth in a communal farm in the Ukraine, USSR rather than the Kent farm outside Smallville, USA. Twelve hours difference in Superman's arrival is twelve hours that make all the difference.

Soviet Superman works for Stalin instead of Eisenhower, and the Cold War takes a very different turn. The Warsaw Pact comes to dominate the Earth. Nixon is assassinated, Kennedy becomes a debauched old fool, Lex Luthor marries Lois Lane, James Olson is a CIA liaison, Milton Friedman becomes US President and ensures that only Chile and the USA maintain a free market economy, and Luthor creates Bizarro, a Green Lantern army, and countless supervillains -- all in an attempt to defeat the great Communist Superman.

Red Superman then takes over the USSR after Stalin is assassinated, creating a world wide Utopia in a bloodless revolution. He makes a pact with Braniac (who shrinks Stalingrad for his great museum), allies with Wonder Woman, eradicates prisons with a futuristic lobotomy, and watches as a bastard son of Stalin gives rise to Batmanovic -- a counter-revolutionary obsessed with independent thought and freedom (Russo-Batman and his philosophical obsession are a pair of the graphic novel's weakest points).

Mike Millar's creativity is undeniable, and the pencils by Johnson and Kilian Plunkett are perfect. But none of this is good enough.

The three issue "prestige format mini-series" is far too small to accommodate a story of such strength and vision. It is merely a skeleton of something that could have been great. If each issue in the mini-series had been a year of comics, if DC had commissioned 36 issues rather than three, Red Son would have been one of the greatest comics ever written; instead, it is merely clever.

I wanted to watch Superman as the Czar of the Warsaw Pact. I wanted to see his relationship with Diana/Wonder Woman unfold. I wanted to follow Lex Luthor's alternate growth as a sanctioned hero, and the ultimate move to his 5000 year Reich (a portion of the story that earned only a few pages). I wanted more of Bizarro and Braniac and the Green Lantern Corp and the Soviet Batman. I wanted MORE!

So the lesson I learned from Red Son is this: less is not always more. I will forever appreciate Mark Millar's attempt at something groundbreaking, but the attempt will never mitigate my disappointment with its execution. Clever just isn't good enough. Sorry, Mr. Millar.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,574 followers
November 29, 2007
The fact that I only became an aficionado of comic books in college while receiving a degree in literary analysis gives me a slightly different take on the medium. For example: my understanding of Superman and Batman come mostly from reading the odder, subversive versions of them (Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight Returns', Loeb's 'Hush', Moore's 'Killing Joke') as well as allusive explorations of what the characters could have been (Astro City, Watchmen, Powers, Invincible, Enigma).

Though I do have cultural knowledge of their stories through various film and television permutations, tackling them as comic book characters is a more involved endeavor. That being said, I think I've enjoyed learning about them more through repeated references in other books than by trying to tackle them in the classic ongoing storylines, where the endless clones, faked deaths, deus ex machina endings, de-powerings, and gorilla weddings might begin to detract form character- building.

Red Son was an interesting concept, exploring the myths of the characters with a simple experiment: change one variable and see what stays the same. Unfortunately, Millar's writing once again comes up short. He's such an awkward, adolescent goof that he can't quite get things to make sense. It's not as bad as his terrible later work, but it's not as interesting as the concept. The ending is almost interesting, playing with the idea of time travel, but it doesn't actually mean anything for the world or characters, so it ends up being a bit of flash that might feel smart, of you don't think about it.

Part of what makes mainline comics dull and wacky is the fact that stories always get reset, things are always the same, over and over, and its rare that an author gets to actually explore a character in a meaningful way. Even if they do make an interesting change, the next author will just revert it, usually with some kind of stupid doombot/deal with the devil twist that makes no sense. But here's an example of the fact that getting wacky and really changing continuity isn't any more interesting, because unless there's strong writing behind it, the concept will still fall flat.

My Suggested Reading In Comics
Profile Image for Donovan.
692 reviews62 followers
September 2, 2016

"Superman: Pride of the Soviet state, symbol of our military might."

Otherworld stories are the best, aren't they? My second read was better than the first because I picked up so many more details.

I won't do any summary because it's far too interesting to reveal. This takes place (unofficially) on Earth 30 in the DCU. And let's just say this books contains probably the most fascinating versions of well-known characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Jimmy Olsen. Russian Batman is the coolest! I want that hat! Also featuring Joseph Stalin, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe!

The plot is masterfully written. It starts off slow, then it picks up speed and blasts off like a rocket. I like how morality is skewed, that it's difficult to differentiate between the heroes and villains, or if there's even a difference.

I'm not familiar with any of these artists: illustrators Dave Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Kilian Plunkett, Walden Wong, colorist Paul Mounts, letterer Ken Lopez. But it looks incredible! Clean, polished, well-designed, original, and masterful without coming off as standardized. My wife is a graphic designer and I can tell that a ton of design work went into this.

On the second read the ending worked much better for me. Superman finally comes to terms with who he's become and needless to say it's a shocker. I enjoyed the reveal near the end in the future, and greatly enjoyed the mind warp and twist on Superman's origin. Very clever of Mark Millar. Although I wish this was longer or had subsequent volumes (or was in Deluxe HC that was in print), rest assured it packs a punch and has moved into my top five Superman stories.
Profile Image for Chris.
341 reviews952 followers
January 6, 2009
Every culture has its icons. Characters or figures that are recognizable by anybody who lives there, figures that are almost impossible not to know. And America is very good at producing those icons and spreading them worldwide. I remember reading somewhere - I don't remember where at the moment - that the United States' chief export is dreams, and I think there's definitely something to that.

Of all the dreams to emerge from the American subconscious over the last century, Superman is one of the most enduring. Show that "S" shield to almost anyone on the planet and they'll probably know what it is. For most of his lifetime, he has stood for Truth, Justice and the American Way, with the third element to that tag line slowly vanishing as writers with a more global perspective take over the character.

Regardless of his jingoistic past, Superman still remains a popular American figure. He represents what we would like to be, as a country. Powerful and just, upright and honest, but at the same time kind and generous and, at heart, good. Superman has the power to control the world, but he doesn't - he chooses not to - and we like to believe that it was his small-town, American upbringing that instilled such humility in him.

This book examines how things might have gone.

In the late '80s, DC Comics introduced their "Elseworlds" imprint, with a pretty simple mandate: take canon DC characters and place them in new situations or environments. This way you could see how Batman might have turned out in an America that had never gained its independence, or what would have happened to the JLA without Superman, or if The Flash had taken the bullet meant for JFK. It opened creative doors, allowing writers to tell new stories about familiar characters without disrupting the regular continuity of the DC Comics line.

Of these, Superman: Red Son is one of the best. Mark Millar poses a simple question with a very complex answer: What if young Kal-L's rocket had landed in Soviet Ukraine instead of Kansas?

What emerges is a fascinating tale of a Superman brought up under Stalinist philosophy. Still the good man that we know him to be, Superman nonetheless chooses a very different means of interacting with the world. We see from the first few pages that the man cannot stand still - he is constantly in motion trying to save people, not just in the Soviet Union, but anywhere in the world. It is his responsibility, he believes, to keep people safe, much in the manner of Soviet philosophy where the government controls nearly every aspect of its citizens' lives.

Taken in by Stalin, Superman eventually rises to lead the Soviet Union to nearly world-wide dominance. Under his rule there are no accidents, no wars and no conflicts. Crime is nearly non-existent, and those who do not mesh well in this well ordered world are mentally reprogrammed until they do. There are dissidents, of course, like the mysterious Batman, a singular force of chaos in Superman's perfectly ordered world, but in the end, even he falls. The only true challenge to Superman's worldwide reign is the brilliant American scientist Lex Luthor, who has devoted his life to freeing mankind from alien tyranny.

It's a brilliant take on the myth, with a lot of very familiar characters worked in. The art is gorgeous, with a style and a color palette that evokes thoughts of Soviet-era propaganda posters, yet never fails to be dynamic and fascinating.

More important, however, is the message of the story. The idea that comics can have a message is something that a lot of people seem to ignore, fueling the idea that comics are just for kids. The message in Red Son is very important and very, very timely.

The story was published in 2003, a time when America was in great pain. We had been badly hurt and wanted to set things right. By doing so, however, we caused far more damage to the world than we had ourselves endured. By trying to fix other people's problems, we created even more, and the harder we pushed, the more the world pushed back. And this was not a new trend - one of the negative labels often affixed to the United States is that of "world policeman." We have a long, long habit of trying to help everyone, whether that is the right thing to do or not.

In that vein, the Superman of Red Son, despite being a Soviet, is a reflection of ourselves. He is a man of immense power, who decides to help everybody. His intentions are good, but good intentions are not always rewarded with good results. His world is orderly, yes - crime and violence are nearly unheard-of - but it comes at the price of individual freedom. People are no longer in control of their own destinies with Superman in charge, and while that may be a safe life, it is not one that I would like to live.

The political message of this book is subtle, but it's there. More interestingly, it's a message that can be enjoyed by a broad spectrum of political views. If you're a liberal, then it's taking a stance against imperialism, against the imposition of one country's values and politics over others', all in the name of making the world a better place. If you're a conservative, it's a call for individual liberty. A government that provides everything for its people is just another form of oppression - without the freedom to make their own choices, for good or for ill, people are not truly free.

In the end it's a complex tale, with no real good guys and no real bad guys. Except for Brainiac, who will probably never be anything but a bad guy. It's a story about the choices we make, both as citizens and as societies, and the understanding that we must have the freedom to make those choices. They may sometimes be the wrong ones, but making mistakes is part of the package. In the end, there can be no Superman to save us. We must save ourselves.
Profile Image for Nicolo.
2,039 reviews120 followers
January 24, 2021
Mark Millar reinvents Superman into a Soviet superhero in this Elseworlds story appropriately named, "Red Son".

What if the craft carrying Kal-El landed in Soviet heartland instead of Kansas? Millar writes a compelling and ultimately re-readable story of Superman ended up behind the Iron Curtain. It definitely changed how superheroes emerged for once and a Russian Batman emerges with a different reason for existing. This went one for two-thirds of the story, until Millar revealed his trump card. Superman's ideological allegiance was not the only part of the mythos he was giving a different interpretation. That one is for the reader. It's a integral part of the whole story and one should read it to enjoy.

January 24, 2021
I picked this again for a group read and I must agree with my past self, it's a re-readable epic that shows that even if Superman was raised a communist, he will ultimately always choose humanity. I've always enjoyed how the author tied up neatly his own version of the Superman mythos with that last panel reveal.
Profile Image for Megan.
752 reviews76 followers
August 12, 2008
Red Son is an elseworlds story positing what might have happened if the pod carrying the infant Superman would have crash landed on a farm in the Soviet Union under Stalin's rule. It's a pretty awesome idea for an elseworlds story, but I thought it could have been much better than it was. I suppose I can cut some slack for the fact that it was only three issues long.

The idea behind the overarching plot, though it comes at it from an entirely different setup, is that superheroes have the ability to change the world and help humanity - but should they? It’s sort of another riff on the "With great power comes great responsibility" idea - or maybe more along the lines of "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The questions of this nature explored in Red Son are very similar to the questions asked in Kingdom Come. But where Kingdom Come posits that Superman is ultimately sort of more human than human, and would never forget his roots even if he got a little distracted in a quest to make the world a better place, Red Son seems to be saying that just being born and raised in Communist Russia would take things to an entirely different and necessarily bad end, that his desire to help humanity would inadvertently lead to his becoming a dictator.

In a way this makes sense; Clark Kent is so inherent to Superman's character, and the very concept of him. It's interesting to think about what Superman would be like if Clark Kent were not the really good guy we know and love, but someone else entirely - 'born' somewhere else, and raised by different people in a different environment. But I think it's a little insulting to say that, even without changing much else in his upbringing - still growing up among hard working farm folk, even if they aren't gone into in any detail - just growing up in Communist Russia would take away all the goodness in Superman that would keep him from becoming the controlling leader of a totalitarian regime. It also portrays the perfect society Superman builds as being inherently flawed, while the virtually identical one Luther replaces it with is somehow happier and more stable, which just seems like rhetoric to me.

That being said, the book is in many ways equally as critical of both anarchist martyrs and capitalist demi-gods. It seems to highlight the goods and ills of all three main political dogmas. And truthfully, it is only all the people opposed to Superman in the book who seem to think he is power mad and selfish. Superman is actually portrayed more as being caught up in the whirlwind and just wanting to help, which seems more natural to me.

I suppose in a way, because he is so perfect, and because of his unfailing black and white morals, Superman always leans toward the line of Fascism - like Captain America, perhaps. That's something that gets to be explored more in this book, and I appreciate that.

As far as form goes, the story is a bit rushed. A lot happens very fast, and for all the major player cameos that are given space (there's even an elseworlds communist Batman origin story and an unresolved revenge plot going along with that) there are other things not gone into enough or completely left out. Superman's childhood is pretty much glossed over - if the book is supposedly positing that a different origin/upbringing would change who Superman is (something I agree with and find fascinating) it would be nice if they focused on all aspects of that. I don't know very many (or any!) people whose entire personalities are formed more by their national climate and surrounding political dogma than by their parents and childhood experiences. I also think other books set around the cold war have given a better feel of what that time was like. Red Son, for all its emphasis on the Soviet Union and the competition with the United States, doesn't portray that period with any weight or realistic feeling. I also think the tone and voice of Superman are all wrong; he doesn't read like Superman at all - which is maybe to be understood, given the changes made to his character - but he doesn't seem much like a Stalinist either. He doesn't even sound Russian, in tone or mannerism. (I'm glad they avoided giving him some kind of dialect accent, though.) And finally, the book has an interesting looping effect in the story that I'm not sure I like... I think it's a bit cheesy. I also thought that the way Luthor finally 'defeats' Superman was a bit lame.

Overall Red Son has a really cool concept, and despite all the little things that I found to be disappointing in the execution of story, it is interesting and entertaining this is probably one of the better Superman stories around. It can be hard to relate to the ever perfect man of steel, and sometimes his character is about as interesting or accessible as a cement wall. He seems to flourish in elseworlds stories, though, and Red Son is an excellent example of that.
Profile Image for Wendy.
598 reviews136 followers
May 13, 2013
(A) I don’t like Superman.
(B) This is the best Superman story I’ve ever read.

Twelve hours. That’s all it would have taken to change the course of history and turn the Superman we have grown up with into someone entirely different – or is he that different after all? In Red Son, the capsule from Krypton lands in Russia instead of the United States and, after the boy’s powers manifest, he is taken and raised by Joseph Stalin himself. Superman grows up a communist but, while he appreciates his adoptive father’s ideals, he does not approve of the violent methods. Stalin is grooming him to rule in his stead – just as the people want – but Superman cares nothing for politics. He just wants to help people. I loved this idea because I originally thought that the major motivation behind Superman’s desire to help everyone was primarily instilled in him by Ma and Pa Kent. This implies that it truly is his nature. I adored the scene with Stalin’s jealous son Pyotr who rages at Superman’s compulsive need to fix everything.

When Stalin is murdered, Superman discovers that his super powers can’t save people from poverty. He realizes that the only way he can help everyone is to become president. He puts Russia in order and moves on to the entire world, with only the United States stubbornly refusing him. All the while, the brilliant Lex Luthor continually attempts to defeat Superman in new and interesting ways.

This is a what if? story, but one that doesn’t just skim over the details or throw characters into this alternate realm without good reason for their existence*. Several popular DC characters appear in this story and I was very impressed with their manifestations. I loved how much depth Millar goes into for all the characters, even if for some it is brief. Even though this was an alternate version of the characters, I learned far more about them all than I ever have in their main stories.

*The only character portrayal that really bothered me was Lois Lane – er Lois Luthor. The feisty, bull-headed reporter we know doesn’t really show her head here at all. Instead, we get Jean Grey without the Phoenix entity – a woman defined by the two important male figures in the story. Rather than being Superman’s girl, though they share that brief spark, she’s with Lex who doesn’t give a damn about her because he’s too busy being level 9 intelligence awesome. I would have liked to see Lois as a balancing force in Luthor’s life, but instead he discards her as his focus on Superman intensifies. At least he is polite enough to call her to let her know. And Lois just accepts this. While I appreciate her devotion and determination to stand by her man despite him having no obvious need for her, I just do not see this as Lois Lane and I don’t see any justification for her being with Luthor just because she isn’t with Superman in this incarnation.

I was also a bit concerned with Luthor’s sociopathic portrayal as it began as somewhat caricature-ish. I prefer the Animated Series Luthor who is ridiculously intelligent, but not unaware of emotions. To me, that Luthor simply chooses not to acknowledge emotions, but recognizes that he and others have them and is able to factor emotion into any equation. This Luthor seems oblivious; closer to a mad scientist archetype. But by the end of the book, I was content with where Luthor’s careful machinations ended up.

Otherwise, I loved the incarnations of Wonder Woman – the utter joy she expresses when she tells Superman that she’s happy to finally be talking to someone who can understand her and the sad realization when she comes to understand him. Batman – who’s parents death forges the same man, but this man isn’t merely a well funded crime fighter, and he's willing to go to any length to bring down Superman and the oppressive communist regime. The Green Lantern Corp and the selection of Hal Jordan as recipient of the ring makes so much more sense than what I’ve known in the past.

And I loved poor, naïve Superman himself – yeah, you heard me. Millar takes the time to show us how smart Superman is, but makes it clear that reading a book really fast and retaining the knowledge does not equate with wisdom. Add to that his misguided idealism and Superman is a deadly force. He is so desperate to help everyone and fix everything that he doesn’t realize that we need be able to help ourselves. I love that Millar didn’t let Superman merely figure this out in the finale. It’s an issue that Superman himself raises and discusses with Diana, but ultimately fails to comprehend as he tightens his grip on humanity in desperate need to protect and fix us.

And oh gods when everything came full circle in the end? Just. Brilliant.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Daniel.
122 reviews18 followers
January 29, 2022
Superman: Red Son is an Elseworlds story that sees Superman landing in the Soviet Union instead of America.
The story is comprised of three chapters, and in each, we see Superman grow and change as the world around him does.

For the most part, I like this Elseworlds take on Superman. Millar certainly has a knack for writing Superman, and his supporting cast as well.
The first two chapters were really good ,in my opinion, as for the third one, not so much.
The first critique is a minor one, though, a bit baffling to me. The first half of the book was illustrated by Dave Johnson, and then he was replaced by Killian Plunkett, and the change in the quality of the artwork was very noticeable, which bugged me.
In the third chapter there were a lot of things going on simultaneously, and it felt a little bit too compressed.
The ending was really, and I mean really weird.
As a whole, I would not call it a masterpiece but I would call it a good Elseworlds Superman story, nonetheless.

Profile Image for Karl Marberger.
260 reviews55 followers
February 25, 2021
A very interesting concept and an enjoyable stand-alone story. Even if you don’t read a lot of Superman, you can still find this to be a fun graphic novel experience.
Profile Image for Subham.
2,436 reviews61 followers
February 2, 2022
This was a fascinating read like just wow!

Superman lands in Russia and well we see the champion of communism in this reality as he inherits the ideals of Stalin and well his romance with Lady Diana, friendship with Lana and rise of enemies in US particularly Luthor and then stepping up to become the leader of USSR and then the drama that happens and the tensions rising as he faces the Batman, saves Diana at a great cost and battles personal loss and doubts, facing off against Brainiac and a last wave fight against America and particularly Luthor and GLC and Amazonians until he realizes what he has become and can he save the planet from a previous foe and what ill be his and Luthor's legacy plus the deep twisted secrets of his birth.

What a fantastic story and sure it takes elseworlds concept seriously and does it really well. I love the way Millar writes Superman and he doubts himself here too and sure he is not perfect but he tries and even with all powers he can't save everyone but the real thing is Luthor showing him that he is Clark's mortal enemy and the way he defeats Superman.. just wow and the feats he achieves just goes on to prove the line "If Luthor was less obsessed with Superman, he could have changed the world" and this reality shows just why.

Batman and Green Lantern were a good twist though I wished the battle lasted longer and their motivations expanded upon but makes sense given the quick paced nature of the story. Diana was written meh-ly and Lois too, but ultimately this story is about Lex and Clark and the opposing ideals and how the world was saved or not. The art was great. It sure is one of the better Elseworlds title for sure.
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,098 reviews348 followers
January 16, 2015
One of the best entries in the now defunct Elseworlds line. I miss seeing creators take imaginative risks with characters, but very few have paid off as completely as Millar's Red Son. It's a pretty simple, almost natural concept: what if, instead of landing in Kansas and becoming the prototype All American hero, Kal-El's little ship had landed in the USSR and he had become the prototype All Soviet hero?

Millar clearly put an incredible amount of thought into his new reality. I can't recall a single moment when I was reading along and thought to myself, "Wait, what about...?" because he had it all covered. I may not have thoroughly agreed with every decision he made (why would Jimmy suddenly be a CIA agent instead of a news photographer, other than that the story needed a familiar face in that position?) but nothing was outrageous or nonsensical. Except maybe the little fur hat Batman wears, but nothing's perfect.

There are several good twists in the ending, but it still feels a little drawn out. Or, maybe, not drawn out enough. At the end, thousands of years are passing in just a few panels. I'm not sure it would have been better to fill in more details or to skip the time lapse entirely, but as is it's at a nicely awkward length. A bit of a step down from what was, until that point, an engaging book set at a good pace. Still, it's exactly the sort of thing that makes me miss Elseworlds.
Profile Image for L. McCoy.
Author 4 books2,968 followers
January 13, 2019
I mean... it’s okay but I expected to like it more.

What’s it about?
It’s an Elseworlds sort of story that’s basically “what if Superman had landed in Russia instead of America and was used in the cold war?”

The story is interesting. I like “what if...” sort of stories, DC comics and history so that is something I definitely dug.
The art is pretty good.
This book has some pretty cool superhero action.
This rendition of is fucking awesome! He is more vicious than the one we usually see. If anyone ever asked me

Other than that character I just mentioned I didn’t care for these renditions of characters. Superman is a commie and since I just don’t like communism at all (anyone who thinks it’s a good idea most likely never got any grade above D in history and that’s probably being generous... either that or they don’t like having food) so I thought maybe I can’t sympathize at all with how the communist feels but then was like “wait, this whole concept is interesting yet I feel like I can’t even appreciate this rendition of Superman as a villain.” so I dunno. Lex Luthor is an idiot who constantly fucks everything up. Everyone else is simply bland.
This book is pretty predictable. There were a few twists I didn’t expect but even they were pretty minor. The main story is very predictable though.
This whole thing is anti-climactic. It’s all very rushed.
I don’t care for the ending. It’s part of the anti-climactic thing I mentioned and honestly confusing.

I wanted to like this more... but didn’t. It’s not bad and in all fairness I just ain’t a big Supes fan so I don’t know, maybe that’s part of it. If you’re a Superman fan who’s into what if/elseworld type stories than it’s probably worth looking at but otherwise it’s a very overrated book in my opinion.

Profile Image for Molly™☺.
426 reviews13 followers
December 25, 2022
A very engaging premise with a good execution, it's one of the better Elseworlds stories out there. It re-imagines the Man of Steel as a citizen of the Soviet Union. Most of the mainstays feature here, and it's interesting to see how they're portrayed. Superman manages to maintain what makes him so likeable despite the different upbringing, and Miller really captures the core of the character without re-hashing the familiar. Unfortunately, I started to gradually lose interest as it went on. Whilst it's not the fault of the writing which maintains its quality throughout, there's just something about where the story goes which didn't maintain my attention in the same way as the beginning. Perhaps on another day, I may have given this a 4 star, but for now it stays at a comfortable 3.
Profile Image for Vikas.
Author 3 books140 followers
March 28, 2020
Wahaha what a wonder concept and how wonderfully executed. Nice illustrations, nice story, nice elseworld scenario only one blip for me that the Brainiac episode started a little jarring but rest of it was just brilliant. And the twist at the end was just too much, too much it was AWESOME. Superman might have been a communist but we wasn't the villain, he stayed a hero as he is just embracing Russian political system rather than US. Wonderfully shown loved the Batman too.

I have always loved comics, and I hope that I will always love them. Even though I grew up reading local Indian comics like Raj Comics or Diamond Comics or even Manoj Comics, now's the time to catch up on the international and classic comics and Graphic novels. I am on my quest to read as many comics as I can. I Love comics to bit, may comics never leave my side. I loved reading this and love reading more, you should also read what you love and then just Keep on Reading.
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