Imagine, if you will, a world in which Superman (Jason Isaacs) did not crash land in the golden fields of Kansas in the 1930s… but in the golden fields of Soviet Russia! That is the world you’ll find in the Elseworlds story Superman: Red Son, the long-awaited animated adaptation of Mark Millar’s 2003 graphic novel of the same title. It was worth the wait.
A young boy (Tara Strong) who was frequently bullied, a younger Superman reveals his incredible powers to his friend Svetlana (Winter Ave Zoli) who convinces him to present himself before the Russian government where he is then raised by dictator Joseph Stalin (William Salyers) to become Superman – a hero to the people of Russia, a weapon that could be unleashed on any who oppose Stalin’s rule, a great peace of propaganda to show the world that communist rule is the way of the future because they are home to the Man of Tomorrow.
In America, Lex Luthor (Diedrich Bader) studies the data on Superman to find ways to destroy him while his wife – Lois Lane-Luthor (Amy Acker) – tries to connect with the Man of Steel on a far more personal human level. Luthor’s methods include providing red sun lamps to Russian terrorist The Batman (Roger Craig Smith), creating a clone called Superior Man (Travis Willingham), and reverse-engineering a Green Lantern ring to create a new military force led by Hal Jordan (Sasha Roiz).
Lois’s methods are far more to the point: show Superman the atrocities Stalin has committed in the name of peace. Superman’s love of human kind and hatred of wrongdoing cause him to overthrow Stalin and become the new ruler of Russia, spreading peace and communism to any countries who allow it while refusing to use his physicality against America, despite their attempts to destroy him.
Superman: Red Son is, generally, a hell of a good time. While it does veer at times from the fantastic source material it’s based on (my personal favorite graphic novel of all time), it still holds true to the ideals and principles the original version brings to the forefront. So kudos to writer J.M. DeMatteis (Batman VS Robin, Batman: Bad Blood) and director Sam Liu (The Death and Return of Superman, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract) for finally bringing this story to life. I mean, sure, we had the motion comic 10 years ago… but it’s just not the same!
The voice acting was superb, and we finally get a fairly new roster of talent when compared to most of the recent DC animated projects. This is, of course, due to the fact that this story takes place outside the continuity of the DC Animated Universe. While the vocal talent of those other releases have been mostly great, it was refreshing to hear new blood in there.
My only real issue with this movie was how the pacing started to drag a little just past the half-way mark. Superman becomes complacent in his reign, his friendship with Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) is just starting to get rocky, and Luthor is doing research… there’s about 10 minutes of lag time, but it’s a long 10 minutes you really feel and start checking how much run-time is left.
Superman: Red Son is the animated vision comic fans have been waiting for since the seminal graphic novel was first published in 2003 and yet another great addition to the recent string of respectable new DC animated classics. Given how high-quality these efforts have been, and what seems like a renewed interest in their live-action efforts, I’m actually hoping that Warner Bros considers a live-action version of this in the future. Dare I dream?