Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On Superman: American Alien #2

Writer Max Landis is working with a murderers' row of great artists on his American Alien maxi-series, which is kind of too bad for the rest of the Superman line, given how much better the first two issues of this series have looked compared to, say, the last two issues of Superman, drawn by Howard Porter. In this issue, Landis is working with artist Tommy Lee Edwards, whose pages are filled with panels in his particular style, which balances realism with slightly scratchy, sketch-accented cartooning.

Landis' version of the young Clark Kent–this has so far been more of a Superboy, in a "The Adventures of Superman When He Was a Boy" sense, than a Superman comic–is markedly different than past ones. It's far more realistic, for better or worse, and it features a different take on just how secret the Kent boy's abilities really are/were. Here, they are something of an open-secret, with several other local adults knowing there was something very unusual about Kent in the last issue, and, in this issue, there are several characters–including Pete Ross and another unnamed school friend and the sheriff–who know that Kent has x-ray vision and other abilities.

Two issues in, American Alien is at the least rather engaging, as the departures are great enough that a reader really has no idea what to expect (except that Superman will fight Doomsday at some point, as both issues ended with a one-page, Evan Shaner-drawn strip featuring Doomsday narrating like he's The Hulk as he floats through space).

Landis' version of Superman-as-a-teenager is perhaps not just unique, but weird in how realistic it is. I mean, this is a Clark Kent who gets horny, swears, uses his x-ray vision to peep on girls, drink beer while underage and even lies about the underage drinking ...to an officer of the law! I guess that makes him more real, but it also makes him less...Superman...?

I'm a little ambivalent about this particular portrayal of Clark Kent as a regular kid–that is, not a paragon of morality, a Christ-like sin-less figure to aspire to emulating–and it sort of depresses me a bit that his using his powers more selfishly, or behaving like we might (or the bad kids in our high school classes might have) is regarding as more realistic.

The issue did contain one thing I really liked, and one that I didn't really like at all, however.

Kent offers an explanation for why he doesn't really use his x-ray vision to look through women's clothes constantly, which rationalizes this saintly decision to not just be a 24/7 peeping tom, but is also realistic and something I've never thought of.
I...can't imagine what a woman's breasts might look like while in a bra, not having x-ray vision myself, but I'll buy that. That makes sense.

The part I didn't like?

Clark Kent straight-up melts a dude's arms off with his heat-vision. This is Clark's first apparent attempt at crime-fighting, and he does it quite reluctantly and obviously doesn't have control of his powers yet, but holy shit, that is some graphic, gory action in a Superman/Superboy comic, isn't it?


I do like to imagine DC's Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, a big fan of severed arms in superhero comics, reading Landis' script for this, nodding slowly and thoughtfully and thinking to himself, "Two arms, severed simultaneously...Yes, yes...I like the cut of this Landis kid's jib."

1 comment:

Brian said...

So, you're saying that the portrayal of young Clark Kent here was...disarming?

*puts on David Caruso sunglasses*