America’s Favorite ‘Red’ Son

red sonA cross between the Alan Moore classic “The Watchmen” and “The Ultimates,” Mark Millar’s “Red Son” tells a very different story of the “Man of Steel” and manages to mystify and entertain throughout, without a speck of hoke or camp, making for one of the most enjoyable Superman stories ever told.

An “Elseworlds,” tale Millar’s vision is the epitome of the “What If?” story. Re-imagining Superman as a Soviet hero works extremely well and actually provides America’s most significant comic book hero with the type of personality, heart and desire that many feel has been missing for quite some time. At times, it almost feels like a character study of Krypton’s last son, showing us sides of him many thought not to exist.

As well, his relationship with Lex Luthor is examined under a microscope, yet it lacks the kind of deeply psychological edge that fans of Freud would appreciate more than comic junkies. Masked as a simple game of cat and mouse instead, the deeper plot mechanics end up feeling like a Reese’s peanut butter cup: Looking like one thing on the surface, but upon closer inspection, it’s something completely different, but leaves you with a feeling of immense joy and satisfaction by the time it’s been devoured.

Much like the relationship between Joker and Batman, the battle between Luthor and Superman is legendary and with a clean slate, Millar manages to rekindle the fire, making it hotter than it’s ever been before.

Nevertheless, in the big scheme of things, the ideals and morals that the traditional Superman and Luthor possess are still present in Millar’s version. This time however, the volume is turned way up, making them much more accessible to comic book fans who have passed the “Man of Steel” off over the years as a good old boy or a boyscout. This aspect alone makes it one of the best works of Millar’s career.

Remember, this is a guy that has penned “The Ultimates” and some of the best Daredevil comics since the days of Frank Miller.

Millar has a few more tricks up his sleeve though, as in one of the most ambitious and creative moves in comic book history, turns the Caped Crusader into a political renegade and one that becomes much more than a thorn Superman’s goals of eventual world domination. The same thing goes for the Green Lantern, whose new origin is engaging and much different than most would expect. Wonder Woman and Lois Lane’s roles in the story are also captivating, adding even more layers, boldness, depth and humanity to the plot.

Again, Millar makes everything work here and in spite of the inclusion of all of these characters, who demand so much of our attention as readers, everything reads seamlessly.

The political world that Millar wittily crafts in “Red Son” will remind many of “The Watchmen,” as America is far from a land of opportunity and instead is a lost cause in an otherwise happy, clean and humanized world. Political leaders are in power that we wouldn’t expect and as a result, everything feels different, yet eerily real. Serious and smart, but simultaneously fun and endearing, this story is an exhibit of Millar’s immense knowledge of world history and human nature and feels like a tribute to Moore while featuring Millar’s trademark devices.

Written this well, the art need only be mediocre for “Red Son” to shine. However, the duo of Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett do an excellent job drawing these characters and adding signature elements to each of them, making the graphic novel an amazing one artistically.

Batman’s costume, for example, has been tailor-made for crime fighting in Russia.

You’ll love his hat.

Taking advantage of the time periods throughout as well, it’s interesting to see the changes in the heroes’ costumes, hair styles and facial hair. The same thing goes for the architectural styles and look of environments, as the palette always seems to be ready to change if needed.

Doing more than simply proving images to a remarkable story, the illustrations here guide the story in a way that many artists aren’t capable of doing. Multifaceted, but maintaining a consistent look throughout, the art in this book is top notch.

With so many strong elements and tons of small touches in the writing and illustrations, this book oozes with polish and style, yet tells an incredibly smart and relevant tale.

Because of that, it belongs on every comic book fan’s bookshelf.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 13221 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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