DC Comics is doing a bit of a revisit of Superman’s childhood, and why the hell not? Smallville was one of the best TV shows at the time, and seeing how Superman became the boy scout is interesting. Plus, it allows writers to show a frailty Superman just doesn’t have anymore. But is it good?
Superman: American Alien #2 (DC Comics)
This is a series of done in one issues all written by Max Landis with different artists on each issue. This issue explores Clark as a teenager and possibly his first heroic moment of his life.
Why does this book matter?
You have to admit a singular writer plotting 6 issues each delving into different aspects of Superman’s life is quite intriguing. Essentially each issue is a new start too so if you don’t like one you can always come back for another.
Somebody likes youuuuuuuu.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Right off the bat Landis shows us a Smallville that’s about to get rocked. The first panels show a dead cop and a very scary threat arriving in town. That sets the tone, but then it all comes crashing down as we get a scene with Clark and Lana that’s cute and something straight out of a CW show. Clark has a crush and it’s obvious. Of course his friends—in this case Pete—shows up to ruin the moment, but there’s a promise of another meeting and next time no parents or onlookers. Go Clark!
From there Landis shows us a Clark Kent who’s innocent but starting to develop those boy scout traits. One scene has Clark explain why using X-Ray vision to look at girls naked doesn’t work and it actually makes some sense. It’s not until Clark faces a real threat that his innocence is rocked. Landis uses these scenes to show the brutality of violence and Clark’s fear working against him to show the brutality right back.
Artist Tommy Lee Edwards, who I know him best from his work on Turf, brings a dirtier style with heavy inks that remind me of Sean Phillips’ work on Fatale. The layouts are very structured and help move the action along and keep the pace up even though the script is going on a bit more of a stroll than a run. Edwards nails the action sequence at the end and dare I say he makes the violence almost too vivid and real, especially for a Superman comic.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Some of the violence is going to piss Superman purists off as Clark does some awful things—albeit by accident—with his powers. The fact is though, the cute and touching scene of Clark and Lana seem much too light in the face of the violent scenes later. Or maybe it’s vice versa and the violence is too much in the face of the lighter moments. Either way, the balance seems a bit off.
The closing seems feel a bit unearned too as Clark’s mother appears to show signs of fear and confusion due to Clark’s actions. They seem right out of left field and not like her usual loving and understanding self.
Explain yourself Clark!
Is It Good?
Fact is, this is good storytelling with fun conversation, revealing sides of Clark we did not know while delivering one intense scene of Clark fighting fire with fire.