uncas007's Superman: Red Son #1 - TPB review

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  • uncas007 has written a total of 268 reviews. The last one was for Book Six

What Could Have Been

It wasn't my plan to be disappointed by this, and I suppose it is decent enough. I would probably have liked it more had I read it closer to when it originally came out, almost 12 years ago. It's possible the New 52 readings I've done lately have soured me on DC unfairly in this case. Even so, this story could have been much greater with a few different artistic choices. The premise is very solid and intriguing: what if Superman landed in Russia instead of the USA. Unfortunately, Mr. Millar ends up turning that premise into an ill-suited homage to Alan Moore's two most famous works, V for Vendetta and Watchmen. That's basically what it becomes by the end, with a little bit of Dark City, Clonus, and Bicentennial Man sprinkled in for giggles. Lex Luthor is Adrian Veidt, Batman (a Russian Batman, no less) is V, Superman is Dr. Manhattan, Hal Jordan is a pale Rorschach, and more. The historical differences, such as JFK's continued presidency, give it the Watchmen-alternative-history feel throughout as well.

Millar intentionally refrains from giving us many sentimental moments, making Lois Luthor pine unrequitedly for Superman as she ages for centuries in her Daily Planet nunnery. Jimmie is wholly different. Would all these things happen if Superman landed elsewhere? I don't know, especially since it is is "real time," with all these major differences existing before Superman/Clark Kent did not appear in America, if that makes sense. The differences are necessary to expand on the alternate universe feel of the story, but the series, in its brevity, do not provide any explanation for the differences, especially the absence of other JLA beings - virtually everything is different, but the premise of the series is not enough to explain it all. The differences are good for the uniqueness of the overall series, though, even if they stretch credulity in unexpected directions. (Whether or not we are supposed to believe Socialism is truly superior to Capitalism is unclear, just as how Superman's existence suddenly makes Socialism practicable is likewise unexplored - just go with it.)

The series suffers what all mini-series alternate-universe stories suffer: it is set up quickly only to be deconstructed even faster. That's all there is: here's the world, there it goes. A good deal of time passes, and we sense the weight of that, but like all major storylines, the commitment to change dominates. This makes the pace quick, which is likely enjoyable for many, and even with the breakneck speed we do get little nods to other characters (the Green Lanterns, for example), but those little nods may irritate some readers instead of cause that knowing grin Easter-egg-like things such as these are often intended to instigate. At least it isn't as bad as the gigantic "knowing winks" permeating the Before Watchmen series. Will the pace put some off? Possibly, but not many - by the end you'll probably feel as if you spent enough time in this AU as necessary.

In fact, I thought it would have been much better if the last four pages did not exist. I was hoping it would end with the thought of Jor-L making a mistake. The last four pages really disappointed. Not only does it destroy the sense/believability of who is narrating, it totally misses out on a great opportunity for a cross-timeline/Wheel of Time-bending/Quantum Leap "putting right what once went wrong" scenario. Instead of making the storyline a millennia-ago actual history, we get a boring "all of this happened before and all of it will happen again" REDO button. But instead of the clever way BSG did it, it's just a redo, a going back to the beginning and doing it all over again, going nowhere. Sure, there's the great irony of the situation (piled on top of the red sun/son AU irony), but come on - at least in Red Dwarf it is clever and funny (and weird). This was just a missed opportunity.

But still, it's not like we're going to get another version of this premise any time soon, so I suppose it will have to be good enough, flaws and all.

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