Superman: Red Son
by Mark Millar, Dave
Johnson, Kilian Plunkett
(DC Comics, 2003)

Imagine for a moment that the rocketship that brought Superman to Earth was delayed by 12 hours in its flight. Instead of landing in the American heartland of Kansas, it crashed into the rugged farmlands of the Ukraine during the height of the Cold War. Superman was raised under the principles of Stalinism and, when he came of age and gained his powers, became a tool of the Soviet state.

The world of the DC Universe would be a very different place. That's the world imagined by writer Mark Millar in his Elseworlds story, Red Son.

In this riveting tale, the Soviet Union grows and flourishes, and nations flock to its banner. Prosperity eludes the United States, however, and scientific genius Lex Luthor strives ruthlessly to come up with some means of combatting the Superman's power. For decades and decades he fails, throwing everything from Superman clones to alien invaders against the Soviet Man of Steel. Meanwhile, the Amazonian paradise of Themyscira allies itself with Stalin, and the Warsaw Pact thrives in a friendly global economy.

But not everyone agrees with the omniscient "Big Brother" mindset that sustains the system, and when one young boy sees his parents gunned down in one of Stalin's secret police actions, it triggers a small but effective rebellion. Luthor, of course, continues with obsessive determination to bring about Superman's defeat. Various other characters from Superman's world appear -- including Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Hal Jordon and Oliver Queen -- although often drastically different than the versions we know.

Red Son is a triumph of the Elseworlds series, providing readers with a strong, believable variation on the standard DC world. It's stories like this that make Elseworlds such a pleasure to collect and read.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 4 June 2005

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