One of the joys of American Alien has been how it jumps ahead in time showing us key moments in Clark’s development in becoming Superman. It’s basically cutting to the chase to check in on the best moments and it has been a real treat for readers interested in character development. It’s less about punching villains and more about how a person would act and react to the gifts of super powers. So far the series hasn’t disappointed, which brings us to issue #6: is it good?
Superman: American Alien #6 (DC Comics)
Last month we witnessed Superman in a handmade costume (complete with a cape he stole from Batman) trying out the hero thing and encountering his first super villain. Now that he’s started to make a name for himself, why not have a few of his buddies visit? As DC Comics’ solicit reads:
Pete Ross and Kenny Braverman take a trip to Metropolis to catch up with their old friend Clark Kent, only to find that the “Superman” phenomenon has taken the city by storm! As Clark’s alter ego grows more famous, so do Pete’s concerns, and the rising tensions between the two friends inadvertently result in an epic encounter of an extraterrestrial nature!
Why does this book matter?
Max Landis has without a doubt shown us a spunky and fun Lois that’s possibly the best rendition of her we’ve seen in years. Meanwhile a Clark Kent who’s filled with self doubt is brandishing the page in a way that’s ultimately more human than we’ve seen him in ages. That’s invigorating. The artist for this issue (each issue has a different artist) – is Jonathan Case, who has a hand-drawn style reminiscent of Simon Gane that captures the youthfulness of Clark during this period of his life. Sounds like a solid team up to me!
How does he not let that get to his head?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a well rendered version of Clark in his 20s, but more importantly this issue captures the energy and positivity one has when old friends come to visit. This issue feels like an accurate depiction of young men visiting their friend in college or someone who lives in another city for a weekend. They basically hang out, eat, drink, and eventually get into some s--t as they speak their mind and soak in the world around them. Landis captures the youthful vigor of the characters, but also the genuine friendship and care they have for each other. He also manages to show us how Clark has become a bit more cosmopolitan and, through his friends’ more low-key awe of it all, his country bumpkin roots.
While Clark catching up with old friends is well and good in showing how he’s changed, this issue brings up a bigger point, which is how his friends are worried about him. Landis subtly introduces it by having Clark’s friends bring up the “other…ones like you.” They’re essentially wondering if Superman has any backup because seeing him on the news taking bullets to the face and tackling super villains worries the crap out of them. It’s a touching element that shows how much they care about him and it’s told in a very natural way. Stuff like this is usually forced so it’s a breath of fresh air to see it done well here.
The issue also has a major surprise near the end which is sort of like the Superman version of getting way too drunk and waking up filled with regret. Leave it to Landis to come up with something we’ve all learned the hard way but in a superhero version that’s clever as hell.
Case expertly keeps the panels and pages interesting even though it’s dialogue heavy and light on action. All of the characters emote clearly and you’re never at a loss as far as what they’re feeling. It’s clear Clark wants to impress his friends and give them a trip to remember early on, but as the pages turn it’s clear it’s not all fun and their emotions slowly bubble out due to Case’s ability to capture the emotional side to the characters.
When things do culminate in the big surprise–not spoiling it here folks–Case makes an awkward and difficult situation to draw feel effortless. There’s one moment where a character judges Clark and in four panels we get a reminder Clark is not even close to being mature enough to be the Superman we know and love just yet.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I was at a loss as far as why Peter takes the front stage on attacking Clark. In three panels Peter does a lot of talking and finger pointing with Kenny hanging back saying not a peep. This makes Kenny’s inclusion almost seem pointless aside from some moments of nice guy chiming in, but by the end of the issue I pondered whether removing Kenny entirely would have made the issue stronger.
Big city boy!
Is It Good?
Max Landis shines a light on Clark even further and this time it’s through his friends. We get some fun things to ponder with a real world lens (like how long it would take Superman to fly to the Moon) and see how Clark is growing up now that he’s in the big city. If you’ve ever hung out with old buddies who are staying the night you’ll be able to relate to this story.
Read this to see a side of Superman that’s very human and relatable as he grows up right on the page issue to issue.