Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Superman: American Alien #2 Review

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.



  1. Good review of a great comic. Max Landis has actually got me interested in Superman, one DC's least interesting characters to me. I tend to gravitate towards more fringe characters and titles from DCs past such as Deadman, Phantom Stranger, Kubert war stories, etc... But Landis has shown me a couple great stories with a different 'take' on Superman and I can't wait to read more from this writer and this series.

    PS. Keep up the great work with the podcast guys! I stumbled onto your podcast after trolling the Comic Podcast network a few months for interesting shows to listen to while woodworking in my sparetime. Man, I had to sift through a lot shitty podcasts and casters before I found yours. I appreciate your humor, banter, sprawling conversations (on comics and otherwise) and possible most importantly, the length of your podcast is perfect! I can stretch out one installment of your show over a day couple days, while with other shows, I have to constantly stop what I am doing to load up another commercial filled 35-minute snoozefest of a podcast produced by dudes who most likely will not be interested in comics in a year or two anyways... sorry about the rant Jim and Eric (of Eric and Jim), keep up the good, hard work!


    1. How dare you with the "Eric and Jim"!!! First, I am not a Max landis fan by any stretch and I thought the first issue of American Alien was good, but this one was like you said, GREAT! This issue may be the best version of teen Clark Kent I've ever read because it is not just a clean cut, same old Clark.

      Thanks so much for everything you said about the podcast! I listen to a ton of podcasts as well and I can't imagine how some do an hour show, though it would be nice to go to bed before 4 AM!!! I'm expecting a listener mail from you this week!!! The more mail, the more pissed off Eric gets and it's always fun to piss him off.

    2. Another listener who loves a nice long one.

  2. Recent reader/listener, first time commentor. This has been a much better mini than I thought it would be initially. I swear I heard the "record skip" sound when Pete and Kenny asked Clark about his x-ray vision. It makes sense that the town would know about Clark (especially his friends), but I never really thought about it. Looking forward to more.

    While I'm here, want to echo the thoughts of anonymous. Love the podcast, and really dig the length of you guys' shows. Working my way through your back-catalog now, and having a great time. You guys have a great chemistry, and don't bombard us with ads and/or pleads for us to visit a damn patreon page. Thanks fellas.

    1. Yea, threw me off at first that everyone knows Clark'St secret, but now that i'very wrapped my head around it, i see that it opens up so many new opportunities.

      Thanks about the guys telling us you like it is all we need to keep going. We didn't start the site or the podcast to make money by begging people for it and no matter what anyone says, it doesn't cost a lot "to keep the lights on". It drives me nuts when I hear that. It's funny about the length, we kept thinking it's too long, but everyone seems to really like long podcasts. Thanks again and now I expect mail from you as well!

  3. Clark heat visioned that dudes arms off!! That's what the creep gets for acting like Bueno Excellente... heh heh heh aaaaaaaaaaaah.

  4. Why do I have no luck and only fall into the trap of buying the shitty Superman books. Ill have to check these last two out after good reviews.

    1. it is so good...just finished the podcast and both of us gushed about it.