Look, up in the sky! You know the drill. Is it a bird? Are you tired of this yet? Is it a plane? That’s right: It’s an imp from the fifth dimension stealing all of earth’s colors.
Okay, so that’s the wackiest part of the book. But at heart, Superman: Red and Blue #1 is more than another comicbooky action romp. It reminds us what it means to be a hero.
In the spirit of books like Batman: Black and White, Superman: Red and Blue #1 brings together various creative teams to tell Superman flash-fiction around a visual conceit. But the Dark Knight’s brooding grayscale won’t do for the Big Blue Boy Scout. This book, as the title suggests, throws red and blue into the aesthetic mix.
There’s a risk here of ruining the visual purity of the whole limited-palette concept. We’re one primary color away from the whole gamut.
But the book finds different ways to play with the classic Superman colors. Some stories, like “The Boy Who Saved Superman” by Wes Craig, lean into the unreality of the palette, creating a pop-art vibe that mixes depth and simplicity. Other stories, like “The School of Hard Knock-Knock Jokes” by artist Jill Thompson, take liberties with mixing the limited palette, almost tricking the eye into seeing full-color pages.
At heart, the color scheme works because it reflects the contents of the book. Red and blue are the fundamental Superman colors, and these are fundamental Superman stories. The book asks: What does it mean to be a hero? To be an outsider? To be a friend?
It’s refreshing to read Superman freed from the pressures of his ongoing titles. Here, the creators needn’t worry about future reveals or big events. They have eight pages to tell a great story, and that’s it.
In the opening story, written by John Ridley with art by Clayton Henry, we see what happens when a pure hero like Superman faces the evolving nature of evil. The second story, “The Measure of Hope” by Brandon Easton and Steve Lieber, addresses the limits of Superman’s power to help desperate people, while also shedding light on the real hope that heroes—even fictional ones—bring into the world. Each story explores something fundamental about the Man of Steel, and each story returns from that exploration with something valuable for real-life, everyday heroism.
If there’s one negative here, the book’s binding obscures some of the text bubbles near the edges of the page. To get the full text, you have to stretch the page in a way that will probably make you squirm if you have a mind for collecting.
If you’re a Superman super-fan—or if you’re just looking for something pure in our divided times—give this a read. These are the kind of stories that remind us what we’re meant to be.
Superman: Red and Blue #1
Use of color9.0/10
Binding obscuring text5.0/10
Imps from the Fifth Dimension10.0/10
- Writers: John Ridley, Brandon Easton, Marguerite Bennett, Dan Watters, Wes Craig
- Artists: Gary Frank, Dani, Steve Lieber, Clayton Henry, Jill Thompson, Wes Craig
- Colorists: Jordie Bellaire, Ron Chan, Wes Craig, Dani, Jill Thompson
- Letterers: Dave Sharpe, Clayton Cowles, Deron Bennett, Troy Peteri
- Publisher: DC Comics