You have to wonder why no-one had thought of it before: what if Superman had landed in Soviet Russia instead of America? In ‘Superman: Red Son’, Mark Millar’s answer is simple: he becomes a champion of communism.
In the hands of another, this could have been a polemic against socialism. But Millar is a Scotsman with no particular axe to grind. What emerges instead is a story of a Superman who can make the world a utopia, but at the cost of choice. Security for the price of freedom. This is a very obvious post-9/11 work, a little too obvious at times, but still an excellent observation of the times.
But social commentary aside, this story stands up because of its protagonist. Superman has long been as American as hot apple pie and a curiously large number of guns in the closet. So you would think making him a Russian would take away everything recognisable from the character. But the best thing about Millar’s story is that Superman, at his core, is the same as he’s always been. All he wants to do is help people. Only, as Stalin’s right hand man and successor, he chooses to do so with both his power and his politics. It takes an interesting idea and turns it into, I believe, a classic graphic novel that sits comfortably in my top ten.
In fact, I think I prefer the Superman as a Soviet. He just seems more believable as a man trying to change the world than a big blue boy scout.