Jeffrey Taylor, a longtime Superman fan, frequent contributor to The Superman Homepage and co-host of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast, provides ComicBook.com with a review of Superman: American Alien #1 from writer Max Landis and artist Nick Dragotta.
A preteen Clark Kent struggles to control his burgeoning superpowers, especially flight. He finds himself floating into the air, unable to return to the ground. He even accidentally floats while watching E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial at a drive in movie with his friends. Because of his frustration, he hides in a bathroom and breaks the door, a mirror and a wall. His parents, Jonathan and Martha, try to help him with self-control, both with his attitude and his abilities. Soon Clark finds himself floating again and unable to come down, leading Jonathan to tell his secret to their neighbor, and risk his life to bring Clark back to the ground.
Review – 4 out of 5 Stars.
These kinds of stories tend to go one of two ways for long-time Superman fans. Either the new information and alteration serve the story and it works, or it all becomes overwhelming and takes away from what could have been a good story. And fans are often split on which side a story takes. Some fans may take issue with him flying at such a young age, while other may have the same problem with him not flying as a baby.
One of the most important plot points that this story had to skip, was the Kryptonian origin, which will probably receive a mention in a later issue, but hopefully without great detail. There are no mentions of Krypton, nor need to show Jor-El and Lara putting baby Kal-El into the ship to go to Earth. This is the story of a young Clark, and the plot gets a star just for skipping those moments, and simply having a page of flashback to the Kents finding Clark’s ship, and jumping into what matters to this story.
Jonathan’s reaction to Clark’s temper tantrum was harsh. “Here’s a tip, Clark. When you’re mad, don’t act like a jerk.” That moment felt unbecoming of the Jonathan Kent of the past in Superman: The Movie, Lois & Clark, Smallville and so on. But after some thought, it absolutely makes sense for this father who loves his son, but is completely lost when it comes to raising a boy with super powers. He came off almost as frustrated as Clark, but perhaps he was simply being direct, which is a trait that Jonathan of other iterations personifies. Later when Clark told his father that he felt like a jerk, Jonathan assured him that he was not. And to be fair, he never actually called him one.
There were a few subtle Easter Egg inclusions. Some of Clark’s school friends are classic characters like Pete Ross and Lana Lang, but there is also a boy named Kenny who is most likely Kenny Braverman who was the villain Conduit in the comics of 1994-1995. Jonathan also has a conversation with his neighbor Ben, who is the same Ben Hubbard who was first mentioned (but did not appear) in the 1978 Superman movie.
The best moment of this issue was when Clark came to the realization that when he lost his temper and broke the door, the wall with the mirror at the movie theater, that he was essentially hurting all the people who had put their hard work into making and constructing those things. It was the moment that the child Clark learned empathy, which is something that often happens a bit later in life, if ever for some. He was describing something inanimate that has value and use. And that value will easily translate to living things, especially sentient ones.
Art: 4 out of 5 Stars
From the pencil designs to the inks to the coloring, the art absolutely pops in this issue. Jonathan and Martha look very different from any other version, but that’s allowed. The single page flashback to when the Kents found Clark’s ship was the highlight of the issue. As always, judging an art style is subjective, but the only reason the art loses a star is because certain moments came out entirely too cartoony in an otherwise realistic setting.
The opening page draws in the reader, but Clark and Martha falling looks goofy by comparison. Clark and Pete Ross getting in trouble for talking during class was meant to be a comedy beat that wasn’t actually funny. And the motion lines of floating Clark warding off Jonathan’s rescue near the end felt more like a Looney Tunes moment than something that belonged here. But then again, the reviewer’s job is to nitpick these things.
Ryan Sook Primary Cover Art: 4 out of 5 Stars
It there’s one thing it’s ok to hate about the modern take on Superman, it’s the over use of the Angry Red Eyes of Anger. The idea is that Superman is so angry that his heat vision is welling up in his eyes, which Dan Jurgens first used in the early 90’s, but it only showed up once in a while. Because a Superman who is just pissed off all the time for no reason isn’t Super. These days every third Superman cover uses this ridiculous trope. And this cover gets a pass because of the Children of the Corn reference that actually does call for glowing eyes. It’s a rare time when it’s actually used well.
Dragotta/ Guimarães 1:25 Variant Cover Art: 5 out of 5 Stars
This cover is overwhelmingly dynamic. Many stores will charge a huge premium, but it’s worth it. This one needs to be a poster. The glow of the circuitry against the Super-Baby uniform pops out of the page. It’s hard to tell if the planet in the extreme background is Earth or Krypton. He could be coming or going. I would personally like to see him heading to Earth with clearly visible continents. But this version keeps us guessing and thinking about it.
Max Landis: Writer
Nick Dragotta: Illustrator
Alex Guimarães: Colorist
John Workman: Letterer
Ryan Sook: Cover Artist
Dragotta & Guimarães Variant Cover Artists
Brittany Holzherr: Assistant Editor
Alex Antone: Editor
Cover Price: $3.99