Monday, 28 November 2016
Superman: American Alien Review (Max Landis, Jock)
A criticism I’ve heard from some people who’ve read a Superman comic goes something like “He’s not interesting because I can’t relate to him - he’s too powerful, he’s too perfect, it’s too much. He’s a frikkin’ god!” American Alien is Max Landis’ attempt to humanise Superman and make him an approachable character to those readers. And it’s not a bad comic but it’s definitely flawed.
From what I’ve seen of Landis’ work, his writing doesn’t have a shred of originality to it, which is ironic because whenever I’ve seen him on Screen Junkies he’s always complaining about remakes/reboots and how studios don’t take chances on new stories. His scripts are all rehashes of existing stories whether it’s Frankenstein, Jason Bourne or Akira, and American Alien is the same: it’s simply another retelling of the Superman origin. So, once again, we see Clark learning his powers on the Kent family farm, learning about Krypton, choosing to become a hero, and meeting other emerging heroes in the world like Bruce Wayne (Batman), Ollie Queen (Green Arrow), and Abin Sur (Green Lantern), as well as his nemesis Lex Luthor, his future love Lois Lane and best friend Jimmy Olsen.
Landis does write a really compelling Lex. His Lex is so frighteningly above everyday concerns that it feels like he’s surpassed his humanity. He doesn’t come off as villainous so much as that’s a by-product of his hyper-intelligence and the path he’s chosen. I didn’t like Landis’ revised Clark though. His approach of making Clark relatable is turning him into a silly hipster who’s kinda stupid which doesn’t really jibe with who the character is. Superman’s meant to be a genius but you wouldn’t know that from this book.
There’s a backup story called The Castaways which is a splash page of bits and pieces that shows you Jon and Martha’s lives before Clark arrived and it’s really clever. Matthew Clark’s layout is fantastic and from this unconventional storytelling approach you see a picture emerging of these two people from all the detail. Clark’s contribution here was about the only art that felt like it was doing something different.
Each of the seven issues is drawn by a different artist who all do fine work but aren’t doing anything exceptional. Joelle Jones and Jonathan Case’s issues looked great, as did Jock and Francis Manapul’s, though Jae Lee makes Clark, Lois and Dick Grayson all look Asian for some reason! It’s fitting that the artwork doesn’t excite as neither does Landis’ writing.
American Alien is a decent retelling of Superman’s origin for a contemporary audience and the generally positive response to the book seems to show that Max Landis was successful in endearing the character to some new readers - Clark does come off as a more human, albeit annoyingly hipster-ish, dude here. But I didn’t feel that it was a very special Superman origin and these unremarkable and unmemorable stories won’t impress those who’ve read books like Birthright, Earth One, Secret Origin, Superman For All Seasons and numerous other origin retellings as it’s really just more of the same.
“This Is Not A Superman Comic” says the blurb - yeah it is, and it’s one we’ve seen many times before.