You know, I really love playing the “What If?” game.

[Comic Virgins is a DTC regular post, where Amanda reads comics picked by Ben and Mike.]

It’s fun to exercise those creative brain muscles, asking ourselves what would happen if the simplest thing changed. What if JFK had kept the top up on the convertible? What if another country landed on the moon first? What if someone had told Hitler, ‘Your paintings ain’t half-bad’?

It seems like comic book creators enjoy the “What If?” game too, because of the creation of the “Elseworlds” series in DC Comics – of which, “Superman: Red Son” was selected for me to read. The premise is simple: What if Kal-L crashed into a Russian (or Ukrainian) farm field, instead of an American one? It’s an interesting and small change that could have drastic implications for the comic world, as highlighted in these three volumes.

Let's get it out now: this looks STRANGE.

Let’s get it out now: this looks STRANGE.

This is the second “mainstream” comic that I’ve read for this comic experiment, but this one differs from the Spider-Man comic because this itself is an oddball storyline that just so happens to have mainstream characters. It felt much more approachable than Spider-Man because we’re all starting on the same footing, with no established story lines (except the history the creators are rewriting) to follow.

Being a history buff that studied quite a bit of American culture in the 1950s and 60s, I felt both familiar and unfamiliar with the storyline. Looking at communism and Russia through this lens was definitely an act of imagination – I don’t think superheroes were really factored into post-WWII politics, but it sure would’ve made things more interesting. Thinking of a Russian Superman was fascinating because it reminded me quite a bit like the space race. Superman is a whole lot scarier than Sputnik, however.

And how would the existence of a foreign virtually indestructible superhero affect America? Fear, obviously. But also other emotions, actions and reactions, all rippling out from the disturbance of this foreign presence.

The scholar in me can't handle it.

The scholar in me can’t handle it. JFK president in the 70s?

Going into this comic, I knew the bare-bones history of Superman. I shamed myself when I had to ask Ben, “Wait – Wonder Woman and Superman are in the same universe? Wait… Batman, too?” Like the Spider-Man comic before it, I thought this had too many characters for my taste. Did Green Lantern have to show up? Why does Batman have on the Russian fuzzy ear hat thing? It was confusing, the more people they added, but at least the storyline was relatively confined to the main one of Russian Superman.

But, you know, I’ll accept that there are people that weren’t Superman featured. That’s okay. But I knew next to nothing about them. For example, let’s look at Wonder Woman. I knew nothing about her except for her fancy underwear and bracelets, but she goes through a rough patch when she has to break her fancy lasso (she has a fancy lasso?).

Don't know why it ages her a la Bilbo when he gives Frodo the Ring, but hey, I'm new here.

Don’t know why it ages her a la Bilbo when he gives Frodo the Ring, but hey, I’m new here.

Moving on, I really liked the art. Superman is a classic icon, and it feels like this was the definition of classic “comic book art.” Some of the art, especially the art for the covers and some of the larger frames, was beautifully reminiscent of post-WWII communism posters. I loved that touch, as well as the touch of Superman using the proper vocabulary and the vintage televisions and other technology. I loved little things, like how any words coming from the TV were in a vintage-y bubble.

Speaking of words, while the lettering was all in capitals, the letterer used some helpful bolding and such to set off certain words. It made it infinitely easier to read, and it should be a technique used industry-wide, if they must use capitals.

Yet, all of this is just the little stuff on the fringe. Let’s talk about how much I loved that ending. Ben assures me that it’s not a spoiler to talk about the ending, but just in case, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want me to spoil stuff for you. I really loved the fact that Superman himself is the descendant of Lex Luthor. For me, it’s somewhat poetic, but I don’t know how better to describe it. It’s something that I absolutely love – Luthor’s greatest enemy (in his eyes) is honestly him, in a form about 50 generations removed.

I honestly wish there was more to read. This is the first entirely self-contained thing I’ve read for Comic Virgins, and I wish it wasn’t. I think I might try to find some of those other Elseworlds, though, because this sure was a fun adventure. Overall, I found it really enjoyable and easy to follow, and it read very quickly – an evening of fun, I would say.

Have you read Superman: Red Son or other alternative-universe plot lines? What do you think of them? Let me know!

About The Author

Hey there! I'm Amanda, and I'm the managing editor for DetroyTheCyborg! I come to the job with a background in journalism, English, American culture and all-around interest in what makes up our site.

For a living, I'm a government reporter for a newspaper my hometown. Seeing as that can be a bit monotonous, I welcome the opportunity to write occasional book (and other) reviews for DTC. If you see a book coming up I should review, let me know!

My interests are many and varied. I love table top games, bad movies (and good films!), music of all genres and the occasional graphic novel. Ben P. is trying his hardest to increase my interest in comic books - stay tuned for the outcome of THAT adventure. When it comes to books, I've yet to find a genre that I won't read. I have a particular affinity to Lord of the Rings and non-fiction first-person explorations - see Mary Roach's Stiff or Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals for examples.

My other abilities? I find that I make a mean batch of cinnamon rolls, and I can (most of the time) keep the crayon inside the lines.

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