Superman: Red and Blue #1
With Superman: Red and Blue #1, DC Comics launches an anthology series that is both poignant and socially relevant as an all-star cast of creators takes on what Superman means to the world, and perhaps in some cases, what he could mean. Join Comic Watch writers Cody White and Duna Haller as they take a closer look at these five exceptional stories.
“Untitled”- Reviewed by Cody
The anthology sets its tone early and quite definitively as the team of Ridley, Henry, Bellaire and Sharpe revisit the old World’s Finest story about the Prison with No Escape. Looking back at those issues, it is actually remarkable how the tone is not very much shifted as we watch Superman help prisoner in the Soviet Bloc nation of Lubania during the Cold War, beaten, starved, and humiliated. Whereas the original story spends more time talking about the attempts to escape and the inevitable and escape, Ridley and company use this compagnion tale to highlight the torture inside the camp and the emotional fallout that the eight months left on our beloved hero. Clark returns to face his captor, now a highly successful Capitalist in the New World Order, hoping for some sort of closure and finding none.
The juxtaposition of Red and Blue in the story is also quite striking, as the name of the anthology would imply. Henry and Bellaire play off of each other, setting scenes in which the Blue of Clark Kent in the presents stands in stark contrast with the Red of Superman/Clark in the past. It beautifully illustrates the way anger unresolved for decades can turn into something… else. So in the end, when we finally see our hero back on familiar footing as a Superman but cast in Blue, that sense of redemption overshadows all else.
“The Measure of Hope”- Reviewed by Cody
This second entry into the anthology is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, as Superman faces something he doesn’t often face: failure. Melvin Northridge had written Superman 63 letters that went unnoticed until it was too late to save Melvin’s mother from heroin addiction. Not that Superman could have saved her, though, right? What Easton and company do in this story that still has me sitting up at night and pondering is that they raise the question of why the superheroes don’t root out the drug problems– particularly the flooding of drugs into poor neighborhoods– at the source, rather than reacting? Of course the question is incredibly nuanced and the how of eradicating the systemic racism that props up a system like that looms large in the horizon of this story as well as our own world, but these sorts of thought-provoking stories are a hallmark of the canon of Superman stories over the decades, from over-throwing corrupt politicians and union-busters to battles with The Elite over proaction versus reaction. This story should go into the annals as a timeless Superman story.
“The Boy Who Saved Superman”- Reviewd by Duna
Wes Craig’s story about Abdi El-Khal’s rescue of Superman is as moving and relevant as the urgent, explosive visuals that go through its pages. Craig nails a dramatic sense of expressionist art that still fits into superhero visuals, with incredible use of the red-blue coloring and shading that gives a great sense of scale to what the comic is conveying, and, added to it, a fantastic Silver Age-style lettering by Deron Bennett (with some sound effect-filled panels that work incredibly). And every part of the powerful visuals serves a story that resounds deep, as we get exposed to the similar immigrant status of Superman and of his saviour, a Somali boy fighting for his new home. With a kind of “fanboy” tale to it, where Clark is, this time, the fan, ‘The Boy Who Saved Superman’ shows us kindness, bravery and heroism in a necessary light.
“Human Colors”- Reviewed by Cody
When a 5th dimensional imp invades Earth and steals all the color and knowledge of color, what is Superman to do? Playing deep into other stories’ thematics of the responsibility of the superhero, “Human Colors” pits Clark in a position to be forced to decide what is best for humankind moving foward. With possession of the box of color and knowledge that without color, war and sunsets no longer exist, Clark must choose whether the good of color– Love, Will, Compassion– outweight the ills associated with hate, sadness, and greed. In the end, Superman does as Superman does, releasing first the colors he believe will greatest show why, good and bad, the people of Earth can be as beautiful and loving and loyal as they can be awful, inspiring hope across the globe withouth forcing his own will upon the planet.
“The School of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes” – Reviewed by Duna
‘The School of Knock-Knock Jones’ is the comic of this anthology that feels more modern, and it has Clark at his youngest. As we see Clark get his first days of school, Jill Thompson’s YA sweet art with precious watercolor-styled coloring feels like a much needed warm embrace over a story that deals with a heavy subject: bullying, both in the concerns of Clark’s parents and, finally, being suffered by one of his classmates. Marguerite Bennett treats this theme with the care it deserves, while still maintaining the idealism that you can expect from a Superman story.
As someone who suffered through a lot of bullying as a child and has researched on it extensively since then, I can say that Bennett’s story, while not accurate in how easy the solution is, is overall a great empathetic representation that gives a positive and needed message about acceptance. And, more importantly, it’s an incredible starter of a larger conversation, in a form accessible to readers of all ages and Superman fans. Overall, a great success.
Superman: Red and Blue #1 from #DCComics sets up what promises to be a beautiful and complex anthology series that examines what being Superman really means. Enjoy the star-studded first issue, including @claytonhenryart @evilmarguerite @danpgwatters @wescraigcomics @bradoneaston and many more!
Superman: Red and Blue #1: A Portrait of a Primary Figure
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10