What if Superman Landed in Soviet Russia? Superman: Red Son Releases on Blu-ray and Digital

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Superman: Red Son

The Mark Millar Elseworld's tale gets an animated adaptation as DC Entertainment releases SUPERMAN: RED SON on Blu-ray this week.

The premise of the Elseworld's graphic novels was a genius concept, wherein all the elements of an event in the DC Universe would remain fairly the same save for one change that altered the course. With SUPERMAN: RED SON, that change was a half-day; twelve hours, in which the Earth's rotation made it so that Superman's rocket did not land in a Kansas wheat field, but in a wheat field within Stalin's Russia. This gave Millar the playground to test the ages-old argument of nature versus nurture, as Kal-El is raised to support the State and believe in the ideals of communism, while still having within him the innate desire to help people.

But he's still raised by the State. And while he may have the loftiest of goals, and while he may destroy Stalin's gulags, he still holds fast to some of the political stances indoctinated into him, including using deadly force to install himself as the new leader.

And while all this is going, over in the United States, Lex Luthor and his wife, Lois Lane-Luthor, watch the Cold War unfold in a very chilling fashion. South Korea falls when Superman and the Soviet armies "liberate" it. A super-being created by Lex (dubbed Superior Man, who prattles off jingoistic "America First!" phrases with conviction) is sent as a first strike, but is ultimately useless. Even the Russian insurgent leader Batman is ultimately unable to prevent this Superman's march across the world.

Where this animated movie excels is in how it makes you consider which sides are the good and which are the bad. Superman seeks to make life better for people, but makes decisions that impose limitations on freedoms. Lex is aggressive in his moves against the Russian leader, especially after he is elected President, but his goals are ultimately shown to be above mere xenophobia.

The global conflicts are a bit cringy, with attacks from Superior Man and the American Green Lantern Corps lapsing into parodied talking points. But the final conflict is a thing of beauty and revelations -- even if it does leave unanswered the ultimate question of the story: Who was right... if anybody was?

This Blu-ray release includes a new DC Showcase short cartoon. The Phantom Stranger is set against the backdrop of the psychedelic sixties, as he watches over a young girl who finds herself being seduced into the clutches of a vampiric demon. The release also includes a sneak peek at the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK: APOKOLIPS WAR, which brings to a conclusion the story arc of the interrelated DC Animated Universe films. Throw in some chapters from the SUPERMAN: RED SON Motion Comic, a couple of cartoon shorts from the DC Vault, and a making-of feature that includes a look at the true historical elements of the Cold War, and you end up with an intriguing and ultimately re-watchable adventure of a very different Superman.

Grade: 
4.0 / 5.0