In Review: Superman: American Alien #1

A fun story that shows a devoted family at the cusp of one member recognizing his abilities.

The covers: A pair to track down for this first issue. The Main cover is by Ryan Sook and has a night scene on the Kent family farm. The top third of the image shows the moon rising over the flat land, the Kent farm visible in silhouette, with the iconic Superman S plowed into the cornfield. The bottom two-thirds of the image shows the cornfield close up and young Clark Kent walking down a row of the crop, his eyes blazing an unearthly red. This is one of those covers that has a lot going on in it, and if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss the fine details. The Variant cover is by Nick Dragotta and Alex Guimaraes, the interior artist and colorist. This is a close up of the interior of little Kal-El’s ship as he’s flying to Earth. He’s as cute as can be, even if he’s got a lot of high tech surrounding him. It’s good, but I prefer the moody atmosphere of the Main cover. Overall grades: Main A and Variant B+

The story: This issue begins in quite the dramatic way: fifth grader (or there about) Clark Kent is flying into the air with his mother Martha holding on to one of legs. He’s yelling, “Don’t let go! Don’t let me go!” His mother screams back, “Clark, stay calm, I’m here!” They continue to climb higher and higher, with each becoming more worried at their circumstance. Seeing the hole in the ceiling of his house, Jonathan Kent realizes what’s happened and runs out into the darkness with a flashlight, screaming his wife and son’s names. Unfortunately, Martha’s grip begins to slip and she lets go of Clark’s leg. Her son spins himself upside down and grabs her hand, but he’s having trouble supporting her weight. It’s at that moment that Clark no longer can fly and the pair tumble to the ground. Back in the kitchen, Martha bandages up Jonathan’s foot, which he hurt while running through the corn. Clark feels miserable at what he’s caused, but his mother takes him in her arms in a tight embrace. Just another night on the Kent homestead. This story is set early in Clark’s life and has him grappling with his powers, flight being just one of them, and how his parents try to help him. The Kents are a major part of this story as opportunities arrive to take the boy elsewhere, but they won’t do anything to hurt their son. A very humorous and heartwarming scene occurs on 13 and 14, but turns into a very tense situation just after. I was impressed with how much writer Max Landis captures the loving nature of this family unit without drowning in sap; a reader will believe the devotion and love each has for the other without resorting to cliches. I was really impressed with Jonathan’s solution to the problem and how it worked out. This was a neat look into someone becoming. Overall grade: A

The art: The book opens with a spectacular shot of the two Kents rising uncontrollably into the sky with only the tippy top of the barn and silo showing. Martha’s slippers have just slipped off, giving a good sense of motion to the illustration. It’s on the second page where I started to have issues: the face of Pa in the ninth panel on Page 2 and Ma in the fifth on 3 just didn’t look right. I liked Ma in the third panel on 3 and the last panel on the page is good, though really manga-ish. That’s a good adjective to use for the characters, manga-ish. Nick Dragotta is doing an Americanized version of manga characters. It’s not working for me. I’d rather he just gone entirely into the pool, than just stick his toes in. There are some really neat things about his art: the large panel on Page 5, the faces in profile on 6, the melding with a famous character on 11, all of 13, 18, and 19. The faces are taking me out of the reading experience. Each time a character bellows something, which is often, all I can hear is a scream of “Tetsuo!” from Akira. The action scene on 18 is great, except when there’s yelling. The big panel of 20 should be the climax of the book, but the face, and the one that follows in the next panel, kill it for me. Very disappointing. Overall grade: C

The colors: It is this contribution that really flies. Alex Guimaraes has done a spectacular job in coloring this book. The opening page has a great illustration, but the colors make this real. I love the transition from the black sky of space at the top of page that changes to a light blue the closer the eye goes to the ground. Guimaraes tries to add colors to the characters’ faces on 4 to provide some depth, but it doesn’t help enough. Page 5 has a terrific sequence involving flame that is magnificent and segues into a spectacular dawn. Page 13 has the best coloring of the issue, focusing on a father and son moment trying to move a character into his fated place. The first panel on the page is flawless. Guimaraes is gold on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, opening title and credits, a teacher’s drone, yells, film dialogue, sounds, and next issue’s tease are created by John Workman. They all look good, and I was so happy to see dialogue overlap panels to allow for a smooth reading experience, such as on Page 2 and 4. Overall grade: A

The final line: A fun story that shows a devoted family at the cusp of one member recognizing his abilities. The art, however, bothered with its attempts to mix American and Japanese styles, unsuccessfully. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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