PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

Superman is arguably the greatest superhero of all time, as well as being the most important superhero in comic book history. He was the starting-point for superheroes in general and became the archetype for us to aspire to; he represents the hope and compassion that humanity is capable of, a symbol of hope in our darkest of times. So many great writers have translated this core philosophy and mythology in many great works, like Mark Waid with Birthright and Grant Morrison with All-Star Superman. Now, Max Landis has joined that club as American Alien arguably goes down as one of the greatest Superman stories of all time.

There are criticisms out there about Superman being unrelatable due to how OP he is or that because of how much of a good person he is, he’s too boring as a result. Landis’ revisionist origin story sideswipes those criticisms easily as he delves deep into the early years of Clark Kent, instead of going the easy route of exploring Krypton and its imminent destruction or Superman’s first duel with Lex Luthor. This is a tale about the Man behind the Superman. That allows Landis to delve into and explore Clark’s emotional struggle and evolution over the course of the story, as well as his physical growth as Clark learns to harness his powers for the first time. We also see Jonathan and Martha Kent’s fears and aspirations as they come to terms with being the parents of this superhuman, and you do get a sense that Clark took a lot of the compassion and optimism from the people who raised him.

What’s so brilliant about American Alien is that Landis is almost telling a standalone tale in each of the seven issues, yet when all are combined, they manage to convey a strong, insightful portrait of a man who’s trying to find his place in the world and becoming the symbol of hope and justice. Along his journey to becoming Superman, he comes across characters that help define him in years to come; we see the blossoming romance between Clark and Lois, a hilarious spin on the Batman/Superman dynamic, as well as the first encounters between Superman and Lex. Surprisingly, Landis creates a heartfelt bond between Clark and Barbara Ann Minerva (the woman who becomes Cheetah), and it is actually poignant and adds real depth to both characters. Landis’ terrific characterisation works well across the board and perfectly taps into Clark’s human side without losing any of the core aspects about his character.

Despite the fact that there are many artists involved, each and every artstyle complements the story perfectly and it’s clear a lot of attention and care was involved when choosing the selected artists. Artists like Tommy Lee Edwards, Jae Lee and Jock are surprising choices in terms of drawing an emotional Superman story, yet they manage to convey the emotions beautifully. Nick Dragotta in particular makes pages flow majestically, especially during the sequence where a young Clark is shown sweeping through the Kansas cornfields for the first time. Both Joelle Jones and Jonathan Case do great at landing the narrative’s sentimentality perfectly, and firing on all cylinders as usual is Francis Manapul as he depicts Clark’s first ever battle with Parasite. Special plaudits must also go to Ryan Cook’s eye-catching covers that instantly grab the reader’s attention, all amounting to a gorgeous collection.

Superman: American Alien is a terrific, poignant coming-of-age story about Clark Kent’s evolution from a confused farm-boy from Kansas to the legendary Man of Steel. Despite the awesome array of powers he possesses, this story shows just how normal and relatable Clark is despite the naysayers out there, whilst also conveying perfectly the character’s fundamental decency, kindness and optimism. If only the DC Films nowadays would understand that…


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