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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Random Thoughts On… Superman: American Alien

I thought I’d change it up a little for this post. Next up for the month is a pretty recent miniseries called Superman: American Alien. The book is more or less a look at the early days of Clark Kent before he became The Man of Steel. If that sounds familiar to you, then join the club. As I said before, it seems like the thing to do with Superman now is to look at his early days. Secret Origin, Birthright, the Earth One universe, and the movies have done it. Heck, there was a hit TV show that centered on them! It’s gotten to the point where I might as well pull out my notebook and do an origin for the guy.

So, here comes Max Landis with his own version what made Clark Kent into… Clark Kent? Well, that’s what he said in an interview about the miniseries. For those who don’t know, Max Landis is a writer in Hollywood. He’s well known for writing the script for Chronicle, a found-footage movie with superpowers. It’s sitting in my collection unseen but I've heard good things about it. He’s also known for a short film/parody where he talks about The Death and Return of Superman. Some Superman fans were peeved about that film. I saw it myself, laughed little, and thought his message was a little flawed. Landis then made his way into comics writing a few stories for the character. He’s even been online talking about the character, so I see why DC decided to let him do his own take on Superman’s myth.
With the way some folk are, I can see this happening.

After I had heard some interesting things about the first issue, I added it to my pull list. Landis wrote all seven issues for the mini. The art team varies for each issue. The artists are Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jonelle Jones, Jae Lee,  Francis Manapual, Jonathan Jones, and Jock. Ryan Sook did all of the covers to the issues. Each issue take place sometime in Clark’s past. Their titles reference either a bird or figure that flies.

  1. “Dove” takes place during his childhood years. His power of flight has kicked and he’s having a little trouble managing it.
  2. “Hawk” takes place a few years later in high school. He’s gotten more used to his powers but a situation with some criminals call him to wonder what he wants to do.
  3. “Parrot” takes place when he’s around 21. While on a plane trip, the plane crashes into the ocean around a yacht carrying young rich folk. He gets mistaken for some rich kid named Bruce Wayne and ends up meeting a red-head by the name of Barbara Minerva.
  4. “Owl” takes place as he has finally made it to Metropolis and is just out of college. He’s trying to intern for the Daily Planet. He ends up meeting and interviewing some people that’ll be important in his life. He also has a weird run-in with that Wayne guy at his apartment.
  5. “Eagle” is when he starts to really experiment with using his powers in public. He dons a cape and goggles (to keep bugs out) and starts to help people. He also has a big run-in with Lex Luthor.
  6. “Angel” has Pete Ross and Kenny Bravermen come from Smallville to meet Clark.  He’s 24 and he’s finally dawned the red and blue. He also got rid of the googles. He even has a run-in with a soon-to-be former Green Lantern.
  7. The mini concludes with “Valkyrie.” While Clark is having problems with Lois, The Main Man known as Lobo comes to town and stuff goes down.

Kinda seeing why Clark would fall for Lois.

Even though Landis’s style is a bit weird to me, I thought this was an interesting retelling of Superman’s origins. It’s one that’s pretty light on action, so if you’re expecting big action in each issue, you won’t get that. We basically see what goes into Clark leaving Smallville, going to the Daily Planet, and ultimately becoming Superman. Each issue centers on a certain aspect of the mythos. It also has a decent amount of humor in it. While it does take itself seriously at times, it doesn’t forget to have fun with the character and his world. My favorite stories were “Dove”, “Parrot”, “Owl”, and “Eagle”.
Well, if she said that to me, I doubt I could get away with passing for Courtney B. Vance. I'd try it though.

Clark himself was pretty interesting here. When it comes down to it, he’s just a normal guy from Kansas. He just happens to also be an alien from another world. He’s not super-popular nor is he reclusive to the point of barely existing. His parents are there and a few folk even know about his powers. That would be hard to keep down in a small town, so I liked that some folk like Pete Ross and the sheriff knew about them. He’s also not perfect and does slip up. He does it as a kid and even does it a couple of times as an adult. I think it’s also easy to say that this version is a bit of a dork. His dance moves definitely show that.

I think he could teach some a few moves.

While we get a whole lot of Clark and his world, we also get a few cameos from other DCU characters. We get pre-island Oliver Queen, a few Superman villains, a hilarious appearance from Deathstroke, Dick Grayson, and a non-spotted Cheetah. Of course, Batman has to show up since it’s the Flea-Eatin’ Batman. He even plays a role in the story that I’ve heard some fans don’t necessarily like. He basically inspires Clark to go into the superhero business. Clark even wears the cape he tore off of Batman. I think it’s a weird way to go personally, but I guess someone would like that.
You know, it kind of sucks that their first meetings usually start like this now.

The artwork was pretty good for the most part. I didn’t recognize most of the names but I do know of Manapual, Lee, and Jock. They all added something different to each issue. If the issue was lighthearted, the artwork perfectly mirrored that. If it was more serious, it reflected that as well. What action that was around was pretty good. Of course, the smaller moments between characters are pretty good and that's nice since there are a lot of those. The only artist I wasn’t too fond of was Jock but the artwork itself wasn’t bad. I’m just not a fan of Jock’s style.
Not a fan of the artwork, but this part was funny.

Is there anything about it I don’t like? Not really. Some of the dialogue is a bit off to me though that’s probably Landis’s style. I did feel like the story petered out after he spends some time in Metropolis. It starts to feel like most of the other origins I mentioned and less unique. The last issue was a little disappointing. It was fine, but there wasn’t much to it. I also thought “Hawk” was a little subpar but not bad. I think the art style for that story wasn’t to my tasting as well

Overall, this was an interesting and different retelling of Superman’s origin. If you haven’t read it, try it out. I know that the writer has a bit of a reputation, but he did well here. I just hope this the last origin (canon or non-canon) we get for a while. It was getting old when the New 52 happened. In saying that, next time will be a return to the Grant Morrison’s Action Comics. It’s time to finish that run out. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and be careful when you hit Earth’s atmosphere. It’ll hurt anyone including the Man of Steel.
Huh... so this is why I barely drink!

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