Superman Red Son was published in April of 2003 and upon its release, received high critical praise. The book challenged the notion of what Superman was and was done through a simple, “What if?” storyline. Basically, Superman Red Son asked the question, “What if Superman was found and raised in the Soviet Union rather than the United States?”
The book picks up in the 1950’s. In this timeline, the world is very similar to how our history has shown it to be. The difference is that Superman is not a citizen of the United States. He is a citizen of the Soviet Union. The difference between this Superman and the Superman we know is that this one supports Communism.
Much like normal continuity, the main antagonist to Superman is Lex Luthor. However, in this story, Luthor is a highly intelligent scientist under the employment of S.T.A.R. Labs. Oh, and he is also married to Lois Lane.
Superman Red Son beginning
At the request of a C.I.A. agent, Lex Luthor is asked to find a way to destroy the main weapon of the Soviet Union, Superman. He accepts and immediately begins working to collect genetic information about his enemy. To do this, he causes the satellite, Sputnik 2 to come crashing down upon Metropolis. Just before it could hit the ground, Superman, as predicted, arrives and stops the machine from killing innocents.
With the genetic information found on Sputnik, Luthor creates a genetic copy of Superman. This, like normal continuity, is Bizarro. With his clone complete, he sends him on an ill-fated mission to destroy the Man of Steel. Their battle was long, damaging and costly and at its end, Bizarro sacrifices himself to save millions of people. He is forced to do this after the two inadvertently launch a nuclear missile.
Shortly after these events at a diplomatic party, Superman meets Wonder Woman, who is immediately taken back by Superman. Before anything can develop between the two, and after spotting the illegitimate son of Stalin, Superman flees the party. As we will learn, Roslov was upset with Superman because his arrival forced a rewriting of power that saw Superman as a succession plan and not him. So that he may rise to power, Roslov poisons Stalin, ultimately resulting in his death. Even with his father dead, it was Superman who rose to power.
United States chaos
By the late 1970’s the United States, unlike the Soviet Union is on the verge of imploding. At the head of the successful Soviet Union is, of course, Superman, who by now has become more of an invasion figurehead instead of a hero.
Furious with what is going on in the world, and still hell-bent on destroying Superman, Lex Luthor creates a plan to shrink Moscow. While this may seem like a reasonable plan, his partner, Brainiac has other ideas and shrinks Stalingrad instead. Superman sets out and retrieves both Brainiac and the city. Sadly, for the inhabitants of the city, Brainiac is unable to set things right and like the Oompa Loompas, they remain small. Brainiac is then sent to become a brainless follower of Superman.
Luthor enlists the help of Batman, who joins forces with both him and Pyotr Roslov. The trio captures Wonder Woman and uses her as a lure for Superman. Upon his arrival, the three “zap” him of all his power. Now powerless, Superman implores Wonder Woman to break free of her capture and destroy the generators that hold his power. Fearing for his future, Batman kills himself, Pyotr is turned into a brainless robot and Wonder Woman leaves angry with Superman. This happens because, at his release, he does not pay any mind to the injuries she sustained while helping him.
Luthor once again attempts to bring down Superman. However, like the times before, he is unsuccessful.
At this point, Luthor is elected President and Jimmy Olsen Vice President. As President, Luthor is able to bring prosperity back to the United States. With the United States functioning, he lets Jimmy Olsen know that he has created a plan to force Superman to attack and invade the country.
Superman does exactly this. He attacks and defeats the Green Lantern Marine Corps, as well as claims the United States East Coast. To rally other countries to their cause, Lois Luthor visits the Amazon Empire. While there she requests that Wonder Woman and her people join them. Even with the strength of the Amazonians at their side, they are no match for Superman.
With so many fallen to his might, Superman is confronted by Lois. She gives him a note from Lex that reads, “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?”
Superman realizes the error of his way and orders Brainiac to end the invasion of the United States. Unfortunately, instead of stopping the invasion, Brainiac turns on and attacks Superman with Kryptonite. This attack, of course, was unsuccessful and Superman launches Brainiac and his ship into space.
With so much Kryptonite poisoning, the world believes Superman to be dead. With no leader, the Soviet Union falls into utter chaos. Luckily, the country is brought back under control by a group of resistance fighters called Batmen. With the Soviet under control, Luthor brings about worldwide peace and prosperity.
Eventually, after a thousand years Luthor dies. Unbeknownst to anyone in attendance, the thought dead Superman arrives. This time, rather than appearing his trademark costume, he arrives in a suit and glasses. The book concludes with Superman walking off into the sunset not as a leader but as a commoner.
Both thought-provoking and interesting Superman Red Son has firmly planted itself as an all-time great read. As the ultimate “What if?” comic, Superman Red Son is a gentle reminder to be thankful that Superman is a citizen of the United States and nowhere else.