Recently I read that at some point in 2020, Superman Red Son will be adapted into an animated movie in the DC Universe and I have had Red Son in my to read list for a while now and reading that piece of news pushed me over and I finally decided to start reading the Red Son Elseworld and boy was it an interesting ride.
First of all, this is not a story for the faint hearted as it takes some pretty dark turns and its pretty gloomy over all except for the mediocre at best ending but I have to say that in this case, the ending doesn't matter as much as I would care in other mediums, Superman Red Son is one of those few examples where the journey is more important than the end and of course I would never recommend anyone not to read it just because I didn't like the ending that much, maybe you'll actually like it but I found it pretty cheesy and it feels like they got scared to go full commie in the end.
Real Spoilers begin here, you have been warned!
If you have lived long enough, you have regrets... Its just a part of the human experience sometimes big sometimes insignificant but we all have been there... We also all have wondered in multiple situations during our lifetimes, what if I had been there 30 minutes earlier and changed my life? What if I had crossed the street 30 seconds late and that bus crushed me and other non stop wonderings we do on our day to day life.
Well the story of Superman Red Son Starts with that simple premise, what if Superman landed on the earth 12 hours earlier? and instead of landing in Arkansas, he landed somewhere in a commune in eastern Ukraine? How would the history of the world change? Remember that this adaptation was made in 2003 and they were using the original dates of his landing on earth so somewhere between the 1920-30s so that he would have been old enough to appear as a young man after WW2.
You might think this would have been a terrible world and you wouldn't be all wrong but its not what you think, the communist don't really take advantage of Superman as much as they would have probably liked it because he for some reason still had the same moral code he had when he grew in America. He was inherently a good person but guided by different ideals, Collectivist ones instead of Individualism and such, but he still cared for the people of the Soviet Union and the World just as regular Superman did.
This ideologies would eventually lead him to be Stalin's right hand man and eventually despite him not wanting to, becoming secretary general of the soviet union after his dead in 1953. This is were the ideological differences of Superman start to kick in, while in the main timeline he plays more of a passive role when it comes to governments, here he decided to embrace authoritarianism and create a global soviet union (as in Superman standards, this was done in a pacifist way instead of by military might) He was aided by a previously defeated Brainiac and he solved hatred and world hunger in a couple of decades, up to the point where the only country that was not a part of this world wide soviet union was the united states.... obviously.
I don't want to reveal everything plotline so that you can actually enjoy everything by reading and I already gave you a nice idea of what you're gonna get, I only got into the 1st chapter and just a bit of the 2nd one so that if you decide to read, you'll have something to look forward to but now I'm going to move to something else.
You saw them in the picture above, they are the usual cast albeit a bit reduced due to this elseworld being on the short side of 3 chapters or around 150 pages long (not too long for a comic). You will find Superman as a communist which is really intimidating on its own. Wonder Woman which was convinced to turn the amazon into communist as well but there's an interesting twist here eventually. Russian Batman, his parents were killed (what did you expect) by a high ranking communist party member and he wants revenge and is the leader of a terrorist organization within the soviet union called the batmen... yeah... sight... and Green Lantern with a really different origin story which you will enjoy if you're familiar with him.
On the American side, the only character worth mentioning is the one that contrast Superman and that is Lex Luthor, his usual enemy turned hero and eventually president of the United States as the last bastion of resistance against communism. If you're familiar with Lex Luthor you will find that he actually changes more here in Red Son than even Superman and that paints him in a really fresh and interesting picture for him to develop as a character.
Even though I didn't really agree with the end and I believe they should have gone full dark mode with it and explored what would happen to the earth under those circumstances it is still worth a read and I would recommend this comic to anyone thar remotely likes Superman or that is interested in seeing what this kind of twist can do to a character and his established story. This is one of those reads where the journey is more enjoyable than the destination and it is not entirely a bad thing to have this sort of elseworlds from time to time.
Reading this only made me more hyped for the eventual animated movie release and the planned Disney+ series exploring Marvel's What Ifs which is basically the same thing as DC's Elseworlds, giving their already established characters a different setting or putting them out of their usual narratives or just changing what year they popped up on Earth. Sometimes even the smallest changes can have the biggest impacts, just like Superman landing on Earth 12 hours ahead of time.