During a time when Superman has never been more popular in mainstream media, it’s not hard to imagine that multiple iterations and adaptations of the man of steel would garner mixed reactions. With Warner Brothers. movies like Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice bringing the legend of the most iconic superhero to the modern audience, feeling a lack of connection to the on-screen character and his seeming deviation from a lot of the factors that make Superman so iconic is unavoidable.
That’s where Max Landis and DC Comics comes in with American Alien. Superman: American Alien is not a Superman comic. It’s Clark Kent’s story: The story of a Kansas farm boy who just happens to be from a lost planet. It’s the story of a terrified young kid with unimaginable powers, of a teenage delinquent with a lot to learn, of a dedicated reporter with a nose for the truth…who just so happens to be keeping one of the world’s biggest secrets for himself.
This series by writer Max Landis, acclaimed for the screenplay of Chronicle, presents seven stories from the life of the boy who will grow up to be the Man of Steel; seven moments that shaped young Clark Kent into the greatest superhero the world has ever known. Landis’s love for the character is well known, as he is an outspoken advocate of Superman, and how he feels the current media iterations have strayed too far from what makes Superman click. Despite his often obnoxious demeanour and attitude, Landis’s understanding of Superman, his motivations, and the world he inhabits is unquestionable.
Joining Landis on American Alien are some of the finest artists in the comic industry today – including no less than Jock (Batman: The Black Mirror), Francis Manapaul (Detective Comics), Jae Lee (Batman/Superman), Joelle Jones (LadyKiller), Nick Dragotta (East of West), Tommy Lee Edwards (The Invisibles) and Jonathan Case (Batman ’66). Each artist brings a unique and well placed visual tone to each individual issue, one that perfectly matches up to the story being told in that specific chapter at the time, an occurrence that makes the reading experience so much more worthwhile.
American Alien isn’t radical storytelling by any means. It doesn’t seek to shake up the status quo. What it does, however, is let nostalgia kick in. It lets you feel the heart of the Man of Steel. It lets you feel the world he inhabits, a world alien to him yet something he’s known his entire life, with powers that can change the course of events for decades to come. Through several moments of levity, pain, humour and discovery, American Alien humanizes the man who will be Superman. And while doing so also gives us insights into the amazing world he inhabits. We meet all the constant mainstays of Superman’s life: his enemies, his friends, his comrades, the forces which ground him to this planet and this world. And without having to worry about decades of continuity or story to muddle through, it is a perfect, contained starting point for both people who want to delve into the character, as well as old-school Superman fans. American Alien has something for everyone. I won’t give away any spoilers for the issues, but I do guarantee that you will find what you’re looking for there.
So it’s safe to say that if you want to read a Superman story that’s not a Superman story, American Alien is your go to comic. Whether you’re new to the character, or someone who’s enjoyed the likes of Mark Millar’s Red Son and/or Grant Morrisson’s All Star Superman; Max Landis and his love letter to the Man of Steel is something to cherish and be hopeful about, and personally for me, is the realization of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s greatest creation, and the most important superhero the world has ever seen: one that is sometimes good, sometimes angry, sometimes funny, always human.
Superman: American Alien is a 7 issue mini-series published in 2016 under DC Comics by writer Max Landis and artists Jock, Francis Manapaul, Jae Lee, Joelle Jones, Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards and Jonathan Case.