From the writer of movies Chronicle and American Ultra, Max Landis’ Superman: American Alien gives us a Superman comic about Clark Kent’s early years. This seems like an area we’ve already visited a few times, but let’s give this a shot and see what Landis has in mind. Is it good?
Superman: American Alien #1 (DC Comics)
Back in the early days, Clark Kent had this problem with his powers and not being able to control them. In particular, one day he could start floating on his own and not know how to control it. What are he and the Kents supposed to do?
While familiar territory, this first issue is a pretty sweet, warm story about Clark as a kid and learning to fly. At the first the issue feels like it is going to be all about Clark being scared to fly, his parents’ discomfort with the whole situation, and Clark’s fears of being different and inhuman. You know, something angst ridden that would have been tiresome. However, as the issue went along, the comic switched pace by showing him and his parents overcoming this fear and encouraging Clark to learn how to control this ability. It’s pretty sweet and can even be terrifying at times, but there is a sense of joy and wonder in the final moments of the book that is great. It may not be the most original thing to focus on when it comes to Superman, but it’s certainly a lot better than you may expect in its execution.
I think something is happening with Ross’ brain. Give him a second and maybe it’ll fix itself.
The writing overall is surprisingly good, too. While it hits familiar beats, it’s paced very well and covers this small chapter of Clark’s life efficiently. The story never drags or moves too quickly, and the characterization is on point for everyone, even Jonathan Kent (who I was a bit worried about early on), and it leads to a lot tenderness throughout the book, which feels genuine and believable. The dialogue isn’t too bad either and the story flow is good as well. In general, there’s no real big problem with the writing here.
Nick Dragotta of East of West fame provides artwork for this issue and man, is his work a mixed bag here. He does a great job when it comes to putting together these layouts, drawing the scenery, and providing some touching and quiet moments that feel warm and soft. On the other hand, his characters can look a bit too cartoonish and exaggerated for their own good, especially during the scenes with Clark and the other kids due their long heads and huge eyes. It gets even worse during serious moments when the character expressions look goofy or creepy with the black holes that replace a character’s mouth, how their faces stretch, or how small their pupils become. It’s disconcerting to say the least and takes away from some of the moments at times.
Is It Good?
Superman: American Alien #1 is a comic that treads familiar ground, but manages to do so in its own way, resulting in an enjoyable and sweet comic. It captures a snapshot of Superman’s past that is nice to visit, but the artwork at times does take away from the experience. I’m not sure how the rest of the series will do, but if you are big fan of Superman, this may be up your alley.