Top critical review
What if Superman had landed in communist USSR and had become a Soviet hero during the Cold War?
on 8 August 2010
What if Superman had landed in communist Russia and had become a Russian hero during the Cold War?
That's the question this book tries to answer, as we see Superman going from working class hero to strategic asset (much like Doctor Manhattan in the much more relevant Watchmen book), then to Soviet president.
This Superman is nearly omnipotent and, despite being raised by normal folks, absorbs enough Soviet propaganda to become a benign (in intent, at least...) but very strict dictator, going as far as lobotomising defeated rebels. This oddly reminded me of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but not entirely in a good way, since Kesey's masterpiece is on an entirely different level and much, much more subtle too, especially when compared to Millar's typical in-your-face approach.
In any case, this different attitude is well portrayed, although oversimplifed.
Much as I enjoyed this book and much as I enjoy the work of both its creators, this has failed to impress me as other works by them have.
Trying to compress 60 years of history in 160 pages while at the same time re-inventing al main DC Universe heroes in addition to the title character might have bee too much for Millarto handle. It apparently was for main artist Dave Johnson too, who had to be replaced by Killian Plunkett in issue 3. It must be said that Johnson does an astounding job of channelling Soviet propaganda posters in his absolutely marvellous covers, which possibly are the real highlight of the book. And the Russian Batman wearing a pelt hat...? A classic! Funny as hell, and so blatantly practical it makes you chuckle.
However, my guess is that Millar wrote it years before ad that it suffered from the artist's slowness, as the writing here is more reminiscent of some of Millar's less succesfull early efforts.
Nonetheless, Millar shows a deep and thorough understandng of what makes Luthor such a cool villain and why one might root for him instead of the all too perfect alien God he faces.
Luthor's "inhumanity"is often played upon, but eventually he's the one saving and reforming the world to reach the Utopia Superman himself couldn't achieve. Luthor finally beat Superman, using layer upon layer of carefully orchestrated plans and incredible discoveries and inventions that are born in a phrase and never expanded at all (thus sounding cool while not having to withstand closer examination, or further development). This is even above the average the likes of Millar and Morrison usually manage in their high concept-crammed but still much better books.
If you are really interested I'd recommend waiting for a decent price, and steer clear of the uselessly more expensive hardcover re-release!