Off the back of the recently revived ‘Batman: Black and White’ comes DC Comics’ latest color-centric anthology, Superman: Red and Blue #1. Building off a similar conceit of its Dark Knight predecessor, this issue swaps the black and white palette for the titular red and blue. This debut quickly establishes itself as another solid anthology series, boasting creative teams such as John Ridley and Clayton Henry, Brandon Easton and Steve Lieber, Wes Craig, Dan Watters and Dani, and Marguerite Bennett and Jill Thompson. The assortment of tales here offers something for everyone.
The first tale from Ridley and Henry picks up a World’s Finest plot thread from Superman’s past. We follow Clark as he returns to Lubania for the first time since his capture and torture at the hands of the Soviet regime. Henry’s art serves as the strongest point here. He makes effective use of the binary color palette, which denotes the intensity of scenes as well as gives a sense of time frame. Ridley largely re-contextualizes Superman’s past exploits here with a modern politicized twist. While an interesting take on the character’s past, Superman’s voice reads off. Here he is not the beacon of enduring hope but a common man grappling with PTSD. This characterization may work for some but came off as distracting for me.
Following this comes Easton and Lieber’s story. It’s a narrative largely made up of flashbacks, as a grieving son tells Superman of the impact he had on not just his life but the life of his recently deceased mother. Easton’s tale contains all the heart and hope one would expect to find, though it lacks a bit of nuance. Lieber’s art style complements the tale and makes for some great visual storytelling. His visuals pick up where the words leave off and add another layer to the story.
Next, Craig writes and illustrates his entry about the boy who saved Superman. It’s a concept evocative of the classic Superman animated series. Craig brings a creative and kinetic style to the artwork that works to great effect, particularly in the opening page as the debris spells out Superman. His use of colors also flows well with the narrative beats. The story retains the previous tale’s emphasis on ordinary citizens reflecting the man of steel which helps to add a thematic back bone to the issue.
Watters and Dani deliver the highlight of this issue. They pit Superman against 5th dimension meddling and moral quandaries in a fresh narrative. The story puts a fun twist on the red and blue color scheme by making it an active narrative device. Dani’s lines and inks complement this perfectly and makes good use of white space. The sharp contrasts serve as an echo of the narrative thrust. Here Watters captures not just Superman’s voice but also the heart of his character. This entry evidences a creative team building off each other in a refreshing way.
Rounding out this issue comes Bennett and Thompson’s take on Clark’s childhood. We follow a 5 year-old Clark as he goes to school for the first time and puts the lessons Ma and Pa Kent instilled in him to use. Bennett’s narrative captures Clark’s childlike demeanor and layers the tale with an encouraging tone. Such a tale focusing on the innocence of youth is complemented by Thompson’s art. Her art style brings a water color quality and makes for picturesque visuals.
As a complete package, Superman: Red and Blue #1 sets up a promising anthology. Each entry bears its own merits from the moralizing initial stories to the more classic Superman tales in the latter half. While each story will come down to each reader’s personal tastes, this series is off to an endearing start.
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