Superman: Red and Blue #1 – John Ridley, Brandon Easton, Wes Craig, Dan Watters, Marguerite Bennett, Writers; Clayton Henry, Steve Lieber, Wes Craig, Dani, Jill Thompson, Artists; Jordie Bellaire, Ron Chan, Colorists
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: Inspired by the recent revival of Batman: Black and White, this Superman anthology uses a limited color palette to let elite creative teams tell stand-alone stories of the Man of Steel. So how do the first five shake out?
First up, Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley continues his tour around the DCU, and this story is a powerful gut punch worthy of that writing pedigree. A sequel to one of the best hidden gems in Superman’s library, the story of his capture in the Cold War dictatorship of Lubania, this issue gives us a brutal look back at a depowered Superman’s time in a prison camp, and a long-awaited follow-up as he comes face-to-face with his tormentor—now a semi-reformed businessman thriving in a post-communism economy. With excellent art by Clayton Henry, it’s a story of messy resolutions that delivers some brilliant Superman moments, and sets a tone that the brighter colors won’t mean lighter stories by any means.
Next up is a story by Brandon Easton and Steve Lieber, as the team delivers another story that puts us through the emotional wringer. A spinoff of the classic “Metropolis Mailbag” stories, it focuses on Superman attending the funeral of the mother of a young man who wrote to him seeking help. This story addresses the situations where Superman might not be of the most use—dealing with addiction and street-level issues—and has some great interactions where the hero and a man he may have failed come to some common ground. There’s a gem of a last page that shows Lieber’s art at its best.
Wes Craig, one of comics’ best artists, takes his turn as a writer-artist on the third story—a tale of how one ordinary refugee saved Superman’s life, at great cost to himself. The parallel between Superman—the last survivor of Krypton—and this young Somalian man is well done, and Craig’s art delivers some brilliant, kinetic action scenes as they battle to survive a chaotic attack that has essentially neutralized Superman. This issue has some really good uses of Clark Kent throughout, showing how the actions he takes as Superman come back to influence his civilian life and vice versa.
Dan Watters and Dani take a different tack for their story, starting entirely in black and white. But there’s a reason for that—a fifth-dimensional imp has stolen color from the world, to the point that no one including Superman even remembers what it is. So when Superman is entrusted with the colors and has to decide whether to restore them to the world—with unpredictable effects for the public—it turns into one of the most fascinating experiments of the issue. It’s a meta story about what makes us human, and contains great moments for Superman, Lois, and Batman as they struggle with an impossible choice.
Finally, it’s a story by Marguerite Bennett and Jill Thompson. I don’t know that this fits the theme of the issue—while red and blue are emphasized, this is a fully-painted Jill Thompson story with all the associated detail. It’s a sweet, quick story of a five-year-old Clark’s first day of Kindergarten as he struggles to fit in and conceal his power, and wonders if he should draw attention to himself by reaching out to a bullied and isolated girl. Not only is the art brilliant, but it’s a quietly excellent story of how Superman’s early influences turned him into the hero he would eventually become.
Honestly, not only isn’t there a bad issue in this first issue, there isn’t even one that’s just okay. It’s an across-the-board excellent start.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.