I recently read Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar. The premise is, what would happen if Superman were raised in the Soviet Union, instead of the United States? It was a riveting, plot-driven read, like most comic books. The comic even managed to fit in Wonder Woman, Batman, and the Green Lantern. I found Superman was kind of dull. Most of his battles were easily won or glossed over, as they would only distract from the plot. With few exceptions, he trounces other superheroes and whatever enemies Luthor throws at him like they are nothing. There’s not much character development, as Superman is morally upstanding, despite being a member of the Soviet Union. Rather, the comic shows how Superman’s good intentions lead to his stifling control and micromanagement of society. And even when he loses to Lex Luthor, that only serves to inspire Luthor to conquer all that ails mankind, and Luthor ends up creating a technology-driven utopia (as opposed to a utopia created by Superman’s superhuman vigilance, constant surveillance, and intervention). So all-in-all, there is no great evil. Luthor was not motivated to serve and help others as Superman was, but ultimately Luthor did more to benefit society than Superman did. One thing I didn’t like was that most of mankind is background to the central battle between Luthor and Superman. Only with those two could society be improved. For all the comic’s critique of mankind’s complacency, most people were incapable of doing anything or advancing society. It was either Superman or Luthor who provided utopia, not people working together. I had fun reading the comic. For such a predictable superhero as its focus, the comic was full of jaw-dropping plot twists, especially the final shocking reinterpretation of Superman lore.
I also read The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters. The title is as much about the characters as it is about the central setting of the book. There were a few surprises, but otherwise the book was very predictable. The tone was cynical, full of dry humor. Then the novel attempts to end on a positive note (the power of love!) and takes great pains to tie up all loose ends. What happened to that minor character in the beginning that I never really cared about? What was the story of the man who painted in the ruins of Porto Vergogna? All lingering questions and more were answered, everyone got their satisfactory conclusion. I found the main characters were irresponsible to the point where they were difficult to relate to, and their irresponsible choices is what sets up the book and drives the plot forward.