SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #2
Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
In two issues, Max Landis has gone above and beyond what he’s teased on his take of the Man of Steel and has done what few writers have been able to accomplish, by humanizing and making Clark Kent a relatable character.
For those that don’t follow Max Landis on Twitter or YouTube, the writer of Chronicle and American Ultra has been extremely vocal on his opinions toward Superman and handling the character his own way. With DC finally allowing him to put his money where his mouth is, in his own series, Superman: American Alien. Landis described the series prior to its release, as not a retelling of Clark’s origins but rather, a story that will focus on how someone, who owes the world nothing, goes out every day to risk his life, against every sort of evil without needing some tragedy or enlistment, to turn him into a hero. How Clark does all of this on his own free will and chooses to be Superman, simply because he’s a good person.
While issue one of Superman: American Alien focused on Clark’s childhood, issue two follows a story in his teenage years, highlighting everything from sexual temptation, alcohol, cars, “bro time” and all things that an average American farm boy, from the Midwest, would experience. To say Landis brought the human and relatable factor to this story, would not be giving him enough credit for how well Landis wrote a character, most seem unable to connect with. Superman is usually too perfect, too good and too alien for audiences and not in a way, that most are able to enjoy in an entertainment medium. Obviously, this is not to say Superman is not the quintessential superhero hero model and not the most recognizable fictional character, arguably in American literary history across the globe. However, the reason people connect with Batman or Spider-Man has always been because of the tragedies that motivate them, as well as their flaws as human beings or general real world issues.
Landis captures this “lightning in a bottle” element, so few writers have been able to do with Superman. From the very beginning of the issue, the whole interaction between Lana Lang and Clark, regarding her parents being out of town and Lana inviting Clark over, relates to just about everyone’s awkward teenage years. On top of this adolescent awkwardness, you can almost feel Clark’s nervousness less so because of the sexual implications but, more so from the fact of he is an alien. While most of this can be implied, that what good writing does. It can speak to a reader, without actually having to throw it directly in their face. This form of implied writing, is used throughout the issue by Landis, allowing it to feel more like an experience.
The way Landis captures these human elements or as he says the “little moments of Clark’s life” is great for the reader. In Superman: American Alien #2, the main story narrative focuses on Clark making his first steps towards becoming a superhero and the struggle he must overcome to get there. With a crime scene in Smallville, larger than the town has ever witnessed, Clark is being influenced by the town Sheriff and his friends to involve himself. Clark is obviously hesitant. This is a job for the police but, he wants to help and do the right thing because he can help in ways that others can’t, he’s conflicted. This becomes, even more, apparent when Clark attempts to stop the murders, which is messy to say the least and leads to a very touching moment between him and Ma Kent, at the conclusion of the book. Everything feels real and genuine, rather than more over the top comic style, that fans become accustomed to. This is much more of a personal story, rather than something cinematic and blockbuster.
As far as artwork goes, this was the comic’s only less desirable point. It wasn’t bad to say the least, but at certain points it just felt too clustered in specific actions scenes and became confusing, to distinguish what was happening. Certain panels worked, and Edwards did an excellent job of capturing the expressions of characters, as well as their emotions. But, at certain points, the penciling become too jumbled and too tough to figure out or appreciate what was happening in them. The art was very hit or miss, where it either encapsulated the script to perfection or became too rough and slightly pulled away from the story itself. Overall, not bad, just several panels did not excel in the ways others did and was inconsistent in quality.
Superman: American Alien is a must read series and could easily be one of the best in 2016 when it comes to its seven issue conclusion. It’s extremely well written and will shift to different artists, throughout the mini-series, to capture various points of Clark’s life.