Superman: American Alien #1
By Max Landis, Nick Dragotta & Alex Guimarães
Max Landis, most known for his screenwriting work on Chronicle, American Ultra, and Victor Frankenstein, makes his move into the world of comics. He’s no stranger to geek culture, just look at his filmography, and especially Superman. He did a short fan film entitled The Death and Return of Superman, which has a cult following. With American Alien, Landis aims to take a closer look at Clark Kent’s formative years and infuse it with a little edge and “realism”. This premiere issue focuses on Clark learning to handle his flying ability.
There have been several stories in the past that chronicle these early days of a young Superman, so already Max Landis has tough shoes to fill. He really focuses on the point of Clark being misunderstood and an outcast…alien. His helplessness and how he tries to cope with his extraordinary problems in this book will no doubt resonate with readers. Making Jonathan and Martha young parents also helps differentiate this tale from other interpretations. Some of the dialogue though, needed to have more emotional and dramatic impact. Film and comics are two very different visual mediums and sometimes a scene needs a little more in comics to really convey the intended tone.
Nick Dragotta definitely seems to have influences from Japanese art, specifically manga and anime. His characters have the large, emotive eyes that are common within those art forms. Sometimes it makes some of the reactions of characters a bit overdramatic or cartoonish. That’s not to say his artwork is bad by any means, it just didn’t suit some of the scenes. His depiction of Kal-El landing on Earth is stunning though! Alex Guimarães brings colorful life to moments like this. Guimarães’ color work is very bright and clean, which suits Dragotta’s artwork and makes it vibrant. They are a strong artistic team.
Landis definitely had a specific vision in mind for this story, but that doesn’t always mean that the material is good. In this case, American Alien shows promise; Max has the talent and is worth giving a few issues to find his voice. Since there will be a new artist on every installment, there is opportunity for this series to find its sweet spot. Some readers will like this comic more than others, but Superman fans should take the time and give this title a shot.