American Alien is Max Landis’ seven issue series that explores Clark Kent’s life from his childhood to a young adult. Two issues have been released so far and both astound in entirely different ways. Issue one (“Dove”) deals with Clark as a child, realizing that he can’t keep himself on the ground, affecting not only the secrecy of his powers, but also the lives of Ma and Pa Kent. Issue two (“Hawk”) has a hesitant teenage Clark going after the people responsible for a horrendous crime in Smallville.
“Dove” is a sweet story. A testament to the Kents’ love for their adopted child. It shows Clark at his most insecure, and his most alienated. It may seem obvious given that Clark came from Krypton, but even though many kids will never have Clark’s powers, it remains a relatable tale. It’s all about realizing that you’re different from the rest and how uncomfortable that can make you feel, but also, how ultimately that will define who you are and how you can use it for good. The artwork by Nick Dragotta is simple and beautiful, bright and colorful. The writing and imagery together create an emotional volume that will leave you smiling and probably, with a tear in your eye.
“Hawk” is a whole other ball of wax. It plays more like a crime drama, almost like one of the Coen Brothers’ darker movies. It’s surprising and even scary. But Landis doesn’t sacrifice tenderness for darkness here, much like the Coens would do it; there are brush strokes of comedy and just about enough light to let us know that despite this dark episode has changed Clark, it hasn’t changed him for the worse. In this issue, the art by Tommy Lee Edwards is done in a rough, almost desaturated style that perfectly suits the story. If “Dove” was a representation of nostalgic Americana, “Hawk” is about its hidden, seedier side.
If I have a complaint about these issues is that they feel too short. You’re left wanting more, but that’s a sign of how good this series is. It’s propulsive storytelling at its best, with not a single page or dialogue wasted. It’s kind of a shame that we have to wait a month for each issue to be released. Nevertheless, both stories are absolutely satisfying.
Both issues contain a little epilogue afterwards, and because they’re so short, the less said about them, the better. But one provides a glimpse into the Kents’ past, it’s almost like a puzzle, where you’ll find yourself crying or on the verge of tears once you start figuring it out. The other…well, let’s just say it involves a certain famous (or infamous) character of Superman lore. Depending on your feelings about that character, you will either groan or you will cheer. But American Alien so far has been one of the most exciting, emotional reads I’ve had this year or in a long time. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.