Heroes Never Rust #33 by Sean Ironman
Superman: Red Son #3, the final issue of the miniseries, explores which is better, doing something bad for a good reason, or doing something good for a bad reason? Intensions seem just as important as the act. The ends do no justify the means.
Two utopias have been created by the time the action begins this issue. The first being President Superman’s totalitarian Soviet Union, which now includes nearly the whole planet. The Batmen of last issue have been long defeated, now enslaved by Brainiac. “Every adult had a job, every child had a hobby, and the entire human population enjoyed the full eight hours’ sleep which their bodies required. Crime didn’t exist. Accidents never happened. It didn’t even rain unless Brainiac was absolutely certain that everyone was carrying an umbrella.” Superman has defeated nearly the entire world. Humans run like clockwork. But his utopia is lifeless. There seems to be no creativity. To him, emotion and creativity are things that get in the way of a proper society. It’s horrific.
The second utopia is President Luthor’s America. America had hard times before Luthor was elected. “By the middle of his first year in office, America had a vibrant economy, a happy population, and a president with an unprecedented approval rating of one hundred per cent. But he wasn’t doing this for The People. Lex Luthor couldn’t stand The People.” Luthor used his presidency as another step to take down Superman. It’s tragic that this man could have done anything he put his mind to and chose to focus on destruction instead. America was better off with him in charge, but he thought nothing of it. Just another way to show Superman doesn’t know what’s best. But does that matter? People were happy and free.
Luthor creates an army—the Green Lantern Corps—to use against Superman, which could be used for something so much greater than just a tool to fight Superman. He brings Wonder Woman over to his side. And these things are for nothing. Just annoyances to Superman, and Luthor knows it. He doesn’t care that these people could die. He’s just looking at the end goal. He’s not free. His obsession has trapped him just like Superman and Brainaic have trapped the Batmen. Luthor’s focused on one thing and one thing only. In the end, he defeats Superman with one sentence. Superman reads a letter Luthor wrote to him as he’s invading America. “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?” It’s Superman’s one weakness here. Not Kryptonite—becoming the thing he hates, the thing he thinks he’s fought against the whole time. Superman’s not evil here. He just doesn’t understand what it means to be human. He seeks control not freedom.
Brainaic rebels, but Superman defeats him and then takes a step back from humanity, letting Luthor and everyone else believe he died. The story doesn’t end there, however. It ends centuries later. Luthor leads the world into a golden age. “Cancer was gone before too long, and AIDS consigned to the history books. Diabetes, blindness and every inherited form of illness was eradicated by a man who invented a pill which meant human beings didn’t even need to sleep anymore.” After Luthor dies, his children and grandchildren continue his legacy.
The big twist at the end is the Jor-El, Superman’s father in the main timeline, is Jor-L here, a distant descendent of Lex Luthor. The sun has turned red after millennia and will destroy Earth. He send his only son, Kal-L, back in time to try to stop this from happening. It’s a neat concept—having Superman come from the future to the past, instead of from another planet It’s very Planet of the Apes. But it means something, instead of just being cool. Superman didn’t save the world. Lex Luthor didn’t save the world. Instead of working for the greater good, they fought amongst themselves and doomed Mankind—a comment on war itself. Superman could have travelled back in time, joined forces with Lex Luthor and humanity could have spread throughout the cosmos, or looking outward and fixed what was wrong with the sun. They were capable of anything. In the end, it seems that there’s not much difference between doing something good for bad reasons or doing something bad for good reasons. Both are wrong. Doing something good for good reasons will succeed in the long run.
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.