SUPERMAN: RED SON / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: SAM LIU / SCREENPLAY: J.M. DeMATTEIS / STARRING JASON ISAACS, DIEDRICH BADER, AMY ACKER, VANESSA MARSHALL, ROGER CRAIG SMITH / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 25TH (DIGITAL), MARCH 16TH (BLU-RAY/DVD)
Special Features: DC Showcase: Phantom Stranger / Cold Red War featurette / Superman: Red Son motion comics / Sneak peek at Justice League Dark: Apokolips War / Previews of The Death of Superman and Gotham by Gaslight / From the DC Comics Vault – both parts of Justice League, ‘A Better World’
Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son is one of the all-time great ‘what if?’ comic book tales. A 2003 three-issue Elseworlds tale, Millar’s Red Son posed the question of what would happen had the Last Son of Krypton landed in the Soviet Union instead of crash-landing in Kansas. And now, this iconic story has been brought to animated life.
As alluded to, this animated feature sees the All-American Superman changed-up to instead be a symbol of the Soviet Union. To be more precise, Superman here is fighting Russia’s enemies as the superpowered might behind Communism. Seeing this all-powerful fist of the Communist Party doesn’t particularly sit well with everyone – such as a Lex Luthor who is intent on putting a stop to this red right hand of the Soviets by any means necessary. Likewise, there are a slew of familiar DC Comics characters given skewed slants here in a vastly different landscape to what regular DC fans are used to.
From director Sam Liu (Batman: Year One, Batman: The Killing Joke, The Death and Return of Superman), Superman: Red Son is a fine adaptation of a legendary comic book tale. As is so often the case with such adaptations, of course, certain elements of the original story are left out in order to streamline the tale to fit the confines of an animated movie. Even then, though, Red Son’s near-90-minute runtime is a good ten or 15 minutes longer in length than is usually afforded to such animated DC offerings. Liu and writer J.M. DeMatteis certainly make the most of their time, with all of the major beats of the story hit in a way that feels emotive, engaging, and massively impactful throughout. And in terms of impactful, not only is the narrative a hard-hitting one, but so too are the action sequences served up in the picture.
Away from the explosive action and rampaging musical numbers of the film, Red Son is full of brilliant performances. While Jason Isaacs does his best Russian twang as the titular Big Blue Boy Scout, it's Diedrich Bader (the voice of Batman: The Brave and the Bold's Caped Crusader) who often steals the show as Lex Luthor. Special praise also has to go to Amy Acker as a Lois Lane who is doing her utmost to fight an uphill battle to be recognised on her own merits - rather than simply being the wife of Lex in this alternative realm.
The bonus content on the DCAU releases always manages to hit the right beats of showcasing current and upcoming projects while simultaneously utilising some of the classic material in the DC Comics Vault – and that is again the case here. Red Son gets explored in the Cold Red War featurette and a sampling of the Red Son motion comic, and the inclusion of the two-part A Better World tale from the classic Justice League cartoon is fantastic to see. The showstoppers in this regard, however, are the Paul Dini-developed DC Showcase: Phantom Stranger and the anticipation-elevating ten-minute look at what lies ahead in Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.
All in all, this is yet again another fantastic overall release from Warner Bros. Animation and the team tasked with bringing such DC Comics characters to life.