by Max Landis, Nick Dragrotta, Mathew Clark, Alex Guimaraes & Rob Schwager
As I debated whether or not to purchase this issue, I had to ask myself, “Do we really need another retelling of Superman’s origin? Why shouldn’t I just turn on Smallville or flip open any of the infinite comics versions?” Despite my reservations, I tossed it in the already huge comic book stack because of the names on the cover.
First, there’s Superman. I’ve written many times on NBC! about my love of the kryptonian, so my bias is no secret. If the boy scout is on the cover, I’m likely to at least check it out. Second is Nick Dragotta, who is kicking so much butt over on East of West. And third, Max Landis. I mean, how could you not love Chronicle? Beautifully crafted, it is one of the best non-superhero superhero movies ever made. No other movie in that genre filled me with both awesome and terror simultaneously like Chronicle did. And then there was the short Joker story he wrote in The Adventures of Superman, in which Clark meets Gotham’s Prince of Crime. The contrast was fantastic.
So, picking up Superman: American Alien #1 made perfect sense.
The goal of any writer should be to lure the audience into the story as soon as possible. If the reader is not invested, or at least mildly interested, there is no reason for him/her to continue with the rest of the narrative. Landis had me at page one.
The first page gives us a young, terrified Clark Kent, suspended high above the ground and Martha, his mother, holding his leg, her only lifeline. He’s pleading with her not to let go. From the look in his eyes, amazingly drawn by the fantastic Nick Dragotta, this is a boy not worried of his own predicament but for his mother. Whatever happens to him doesn’t matter; it’s his mother he needs to save. Maybe this isn’t going to be about Superman after all.
While watching a sci-fi movie with his friends at the drive-in, the studies conducted on the film’s alien become a terrifying what-if for Clark. If the world discovers his secret, will they do the same? Will they poke and prod him, stopping at nothing to unveil his truths? In his panic, his inconveniently flight kicks in and he is sent rocketing into the sky. Ashamed and confused, he stares into a mirror and sees himself as the green alien he fears the world will see him as. Enraged, he punches the glass, breaking the mirror and the brick wall behind it.
On the car ride home, Jonathan, his father, explains that releasing anger through destruction is something only jerks do. The boy is crushed to hear his dad’s words, but he knows that they are the truth. Eventually, he learns that his actions do not exist within a bubble. When he smashed the mirror, he broke more than just glass. He destroyed something that someone took time to make, to sell, to hang. Clark realizes the need to find a way to channel his emotions in another way.
And that is the heart of this issue and the answer to my question. Superman does not master his powers or save the world, but a boy learns what it means to be a good person.
This isn’t the birth of Superman. This is the birth of Clark Kent.