19th Mar2021

‘Superman: Red & Blue #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

I’m a pretty easy mark when it comes to Superman books. A quick check of my collection shows over 2000 books with Superman in them. Throw in Superboy and Supergirl and, well, I guess I’ve got a super-addiction. But I digress. As much as I love Superman, he’s been a well travelled property in his 83 years of being published, and coming up with new approaches, or new spins on old wheels, is getting harder and harder. Superman: Red and Blue seems to exist for just that reason, to give Superman some fresh takes, some new looks, but to retain that central core that defines him. all in just the colours red and blue, of course. I like the idea, so I hope the execution lives up to it. Let’s take a look.

Behind a gorgeous cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson (the variants by Lee Bermejo and Yoshitaka Amano aren’t too shabby either) we get five different stories from five different creative teams.

First up is ‘Untitled’ by John Ridley and Clayton Henry, which is a sequel of sorts to a story from World’s Finest Comics issues 192 and 193. Clark experienced some harrowing stuff in that former Soviet satellite state, stuff that he tries to exorcise on this return visit. Ridley mines some deep psychological seams here, using Clark and his former tormentor Koslov as a study in victim and perpertrator. Story, art, and the clever use of the colours make this an excellent start. ‘The Measure of Hope’, by Brandon Easton and Steve Lieber, focuses on Superman as a person that cares too much. Think how tough it is possessing powers that in theory can save everyone, but in practice can’t take you everywhere at once. It taps into that Silver Age staple, the letters that Superman is sent every month by the postal service, but with a much sadder tone. Superman can’t be everywhere at once, but he can spread hope. Lovely story, again with lovely art and subtle colouring.

‘The Boy Who Saved Superman’, written and drawn by Wes Craig, takes us back to a young, injured Superman and the help he received from a young boy. This one reminded me a little of a Jeph Loeb Tim Sale story, no bad thing, and I like the payoff that ultimately good deeds are their own reward. I enjoyed the stylised layouts too. ‘Human Colours’, by Dan Watters and Dani, really focuses on tone, and strips the use of any colour to the last three pages of the story, with great effect. In this one an imp from the Fifth Dimension (no, not that one) steals all the worlds colours before giving Superman the choice to leave the world simpler, in black and white, or more complicated in full colour. As someone said, with great power comes great responsibility, and no-one has more power than Clark. Batman’s guest spot also reminds you that Batman is almost always wrong so never listen to him. A fun story, with a serious point, plus nice art and great use of the colours.

Our final story is ‘The School of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes’, by Marguerite Bennett and Jill Thomson. This one takes us all the way back to Clark’s childhood, and his first day of kindergarten. Clark was just a kid too, with all the same worries and hang ups we all had. He was as human as any of the kids. The story reinforces just how much of Clark’s later empathy, sense of right and wrong, and self belief came from having the right parents in Ma and Pa Kent. It’s beautifully written and drawn, and possibly the best of a very good bunch. All the stories here emphasize that Clark may have come from an alien planet but he is as human as the rest of us, in fact more than us as he appreciates what we are more than we do. He aspires to be the best he can be to help us, when it should be us aspiring to be half as good as him. It’s a great positive message for a positive book.

Although the colours red and blue are obviously associated with Superman, I never really thought just how relevant they are. The blue is the cool intellect of Clark Kent, the red the raw power of Superman, the hero a perfect blending of the two colours.

It’s a great collection of stories, and reminds us once again just why we love the character so much. The S does stand for Hope after all.

****½  4.5/5


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