Writer Max Landis is slowly progressing through Superman’s life from childhood to adulthood and with issue #5 we’re focusing on his first days as a hero. That’s a tantalizing prospect, but is it good?
Superman: American Alien #5 (DC Comics)
This issue opens with, what do you expect, two thugs robbing a convenience store. They’re put out of commission with a quick “whoosh” and Clark Kent decked out in aviation goggles, a t-shirt with a Superman logo, and what looks like Batman’s cape. This should be good.
Why does this book matter?
Superstar artist Francis Manapul is drawing this issue so you know it’s going to hammer home the emotional resonance of our characters. Meanwhile Landis has proven to get inside these characters’ heads incredibly well–he captured Lois Lane and Lex Luthor fantastically in the last issue. Plus, Clark’s growth is fascinating to read.
Super cape there Clark.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue comes down to three things working quite well. The first is Lois Lane spitballing her opinion on who this super person flying around Metropolis is and their motivation. The second is Superman facing his first supervillain, and finally there’s a great scene between Lex Luthor and Superman. All three deliver well crafted dialogue and overall a good sense of Clark Kent finding himself in his earlier years.
I’m not certain what age Clark is, but if how often his parents call him is any indication, I’d guess he’s probably in his mid to late 20’s. As Clark discusses this flying superman with Lois you get a sense that Clark is attempting to figure himself out in the process. That’s a cool idea and also a rather logical experience, given the stage of his life Clark is in. Eventually when Clark is faced with Lex’s superior intellect (and superior ability to talk his way out of a problem) it’s rather obvious Clark is outmatched in the early days. Landis masterfully hammers home the boy scout mentality of Clark and a believable early version that’s trying to figure all that out.
The voice and character of Lois is nailed perfectly as well. From the fast-talking, always curious dialogue to her expressions and body language, Landis and Manapul simply blew my expectations away with her characterization. The color is particularly easy on the eyes and resembles a lighter sepia sort of tone though it is of course in full color.
The backgrounds are also very easy on the eyes–they’re slightly less detailed and you can tell they’re mostly painted rather than drawn, with a thicker and more prominent line than the characters. That not only makes the characters pop, but gives it a flashback sort of feel.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Presumably Superman gets the idea of the name Superman in this issue after a conversation with Lex, but what’s the deal with the Superman t-shirt? I suppose it’s the crest of his family, but it seems backwards he’d have that before coming up with the Superman name. A minor quibble that gave me pause, but it wasn’t a bother as far as the narrative goes.
I also didn’t find myself laughing at the humor in this issue, albeit there wasn’t a lot of it to speak of. Previous issues were funnier than this, that’s for sure.
Lois is endearing.
Is It Good?
Without question the best Superman comic you can read today, this month and probably this year.