Superman: American Alien #1
Story: Max Landis
Art: Nick Dragotta
Color: Alex Guimaraes
Publisher: DC Comics
It’s a story that’s been told for generations. A baby refugee from a dying alien world crashes in the middle of Kansas who later grows up to become the greatest hero the world has ever seen. You know it, your parents know it, even your great grandparents probably know it. Often times you roll your eyes at it being told again and again by movies, TV, or even other comics. With good reason; it’s become the modern day equivalent of Paul Bunyan or Casey at the Bat. Great tales, but not much can be added to them… or so you think. What sets Superman American Alien apart from the numerous origin stories of the Man of Steel is a focus that hardly gets its due. What it means to handle moving to a foreign land, but you know… Super.
Screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle) dichotomizes a point in the life of young Clark Kent where he’s overwhelmed with the fear of not only his biological changes but also with not knowing who he is. The other side of Landis narrative is a tale anyone immigrated from one part of the world to another can understand. Clark Kent simply wants to be like everyone else, but he knows he isn’t. This first issue shows Clark trying to teach himself how to keep himself grounded, literally. Readers will also understand how important the complex challenge Johnathan and Martha Kent underwent fostering a child from another planet with unchecked power.
Each issue of American Alien will have its own distinct artist and Nick Dragotta was a perfect fit for the opening. It’s work best described as shots from a movie. Each panel feels like a moment in time that captures how enthusiastic and uncertain this tiny Clark Kent is. The figure work in the book is uncanny. Most stories about a young Clark Kent either posture him too certain or too clunky, however here Dragotta draws a more natural early coming of age kid; out of sorts but with an energy that makes up for it. Series that feature different artist usually try to one up each other with the real winner being readers. It’ll be fun to see how each interpret their period of Clark Kent. But with these pages topping Dragotta won’t be an easy task.
Ultimately you won’t get a sense of the overall big picture of Landis story from the first issue, if there even is one. The writer is opting for a vignette style of storytelling which works great here. It’s no easy task to mine something new out of coal that’s already been turned to diamond, but Superman American Alien manages to make you want to hear this old story time and time again.