Natural Born Killer
Written by: Max Landis
Art by: Tommy Lee Edwards and John Workman
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 16, 2015
I really liked the first issue of American Alien, but I can see where some might have been turned off by it. There really wasn't anything fresh or new about seeing another Superman origin story that shows the struggle little Clark had with his blossoming powers. However, beneath the cute as a button exterior, the book had an undercurrent of darkness in regards to the Kent's fear of their adopted son. Throw in the fact that most of Smallville seemed to be aware of Clark's natural talents and the issue was charming with a tinge of mystery. I really liked it and was eagerly awaiting this issue. Now that I've read it, was it more of the same? Let's find out...
The second that the reader opens up this issue, they are well aware that this isn't picking up where we left cute, little Clark last issue. Nope, he's a teenager now and Tommy Lee Edwards' art gives the issue a darker and grittier tone than last issue's cartoony style. If that's not enough to show we aren't in Kansas anymore, there is blood, a dead body and a bullet riddled sign welcoming us to Smallville. Oh wait, we are in Kansas still...silly me!
When we see Clark, he is studying and obviously infatuated with Lana Lang. Max Landis' dialogue here is so natural and through that and the subtle art touches, you realize that Clark is smitten and Lana feels the same way. When Pete Ross shows up revving his car engine, it ends an opening scene with great dialogue, humor and a feeling that this is something really different for fans of Superman.
As the story continues, little things keep popping up that at first might make Superman fans feel a little uncomfortable, but if they just sit back and relax, they can enjoy a ride that feels new, fresh and a little dangerous. It starts with Clark telling Pete to kiss his ass and while it's odd thinking of Superman saying that, this isn't Superman, it's a teen aged Clark Kent acting like...a teen aged Clark Kent. I loved it!
The issue than leaves Clark and Pete to introduce the villain of the issue, a real piece of shit with family issues who's back in town...with a few days to kill. It's obvious that him and his gang are responsible for the dead body in the opener and they make quick work to add to the body count. Again, straight up mass murder is something you rarely see in a Superman book and Landis just throws it in your face.
Landis then lightens the mood while playing with the reader's prenotions when we return to Clark and Pete who have joined their friend Kenny (Braverman?) for some beer and guy talk. It's all about whether Clark uses his x-ray vision to see people "nekkid" and again stresses that everyone in Smallville knows about Clark. It's also a question that every kid who ever read Superman asks and wants to know! That's when the police show up and the issue takes off into the stratosphere.
The police inform the boys of the shooting in town and take them there so Pete can give his uncle, who saw everything, a ride home. However, the Sheriff seems to want a little more out of Clark. He tells him where the U.S. Marshals are looking for the murderers and asks if Clark can help out and when Clark says no, he really seems pissed off. I may be reading things wrong, but through the dialogue, situation and art in this scene, I got that the Sheriff has helped to keep Clark a secret and now he wants something back in exchange.
The Sheriff isn't the only one, either. Pete calls out Clark for not doing anything and pretty much forces him into action. Pete doesn't notice or care that Clark is both scared and doesn't want to get involved...he should do something because he can. The whole with great power line that keeps old Spiderman in check is thrown out the window...Clark has powers and he should damn well use them!
This is where Max Landis starts turning up the tension to the point that I couldn't put the issue down. Clark does do something...he heads to where Owen (the piece of shit) and his gang are. Owen is paying his family a visit and he is none too happy. He shoots the family dog and then poor Clark who pretty much arrives and interrupts the proceedings. Of course, bullets aren't going to stop the future Man of Steel and that's the beginning of one of the best and horrific versions of Clark Kent learning just how powerful he can be. There is not a heroic pose to be found anywhere, but instead Clark is crying and saying he's sorry as he makes quick work of the murderers.
The scene ends with Pete showing up to help his buddy and after the police try to figure out how to keep hiding Clark from the outside world, the issue ends with Clark and Martha just talking. Landis again nails the dialogue as Martha's love shines through the page and the reader is left with hope for the future.
I loved this issue. It's not anywhere near the usual Superman story we are used to and that's the thrill of it. We've seen so many versions of the same old story, but this one is new and dangerous and I hope that's what Max Landis keeps giving us. I recommend this to anyone and everyone because even if you hate it, you'll at least get something very different. However, my money is on most liking it.
After a page or two, I didn't know if I liked Tommy Lee Edwards' art, but as the issue progressed, it was not just how much I liked the art, but how perfect it was to the story. I said it above, but I'll repeat myself here, the dark and gritty nature of the art fit the tone of the issue to a T.
Bits and Pieces:
Max Landis turns Clark Kent's world upside down and takes his fans along for the ride. Fans who only want their Big Blue Boyscout will probably be turned off by this issue, but those who want a realistic teen aged Clark Kent will love it. Of course, he still has super powers, but the question here is, is he ready for them? By the end, the answer isn't clear cut, but one thing that is certain is that I am really enjoying American Alien and can't wait to read the next issue.