TITLE: Superman: American Alien #4
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Jae Lee. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASED: February 18, 2016
***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Superman: American Alien #4.***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Ugh. Max Landis, you were doing so well. I’d never have pegged such a good writer who cares so much about Superman to make such a textbook mistake.
You played the Batman card. Hell, you even played the Dick Grayson card! Not to mention the Oliver Queen card! What the hell, bro?
Shortly after moving to Metropolis, Clark Kent wins a student essay contest run by The Daily Planet. As such, he gets to attend the Cerberus Summit, a meeting of the three most important young businessmen in America: Oliver Queen, Lex Luthor, and Bruce Wayne. During his time at the summit, Clark gets some quality time with both Queen and Luthor. But he also gets to interview Bruce Wayne’s young ward, Dick Grayson. This garners the attention of a certain Dark Knight Detective.
I think I get what Landis was trying to do with Batman here. He was making a point about how Superman and Batman coexist in the same universe, and that Batman wouldn’t always have the upper hand in a fight. I appreciate that mindset. But frankly, I resent Batman’s shadow being cast over half of this issue, when this is supposed to be “an important juncture” in Clark’s development as a person.
On the last page, Clark even tries on Batman’s cape, with the caption reading “…do something big.” As a Superman fan, I find the notion that Batman helped inspire Clark to be a hero as the light to contrast his darkness to be offensive. And for the record, I love Batman as much as anybody. But it would be just as ridiculous the other way around. Picture a scene where Bruce Wayne somehow beats up a young Superman, then tries on his cape and an idea is sparked. Again, we go back to the idea of the DC Universe becoming “Over-Baturated,” with Batman being central to so many crucial events in this universe.
I’m tempted to think this might have been an editorial mandate, what with Batman v Superman coming out next month. But Landis did pitch a gratuitous Batman element in what would have been his Death of Superman story. Following Superman’s fight with Doomsday, Landis would have had Clark spend an extended period of time learning how to fight, courtesy of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. That was needless and disappointing, just like the Batman stuff here is needless and disappointing. Especially coming from Landis, who’s proven he can do so much better.
Less offensive are the appearances of Oliver Queen and Lex Luthor. Mind you, an early Superman/Green Arrow meeting still feels like something we’d see on Smallville. But given what happened with Batman, it’s tough to be cranky about this. Frankly, had Ollie and Lex been our only guest stars, the issue might have been just fine. Landis contrasts the perspectives of the two characters nicely, giving a young Clark something to think about. Queen sees himself as a spoiled rich kid given a chance to use his resources for good, while Lex predictably has a messiah complex. Lois Lane is also in this issue simply to foreshadow, which is something of a waste.
I stand by what I’ve said about Jae Lee being an ill-fit for Superman, his Art Deco-ish style being much more suited for Batman. Still, good art is good art. Lee draws a nice Lex Luthor here, fittingly in a dark and shadowy style typical of Lee. And while Dick Grayson is completely out of place in this story, Lee gives him a nice wisdom beyond his years. Our introduction to Lois Lane is also cool, with her figure drawn in front enlarged text.
Superman: American Alien #4 is a surprising letdown, considering what’s come before has been mostly good. I maintain that Max Landis is a great writer. He went on record saying this issue was supposed to make us think. Sadly, I wasn’t exactly thinking good things…
Image 1 from author’s collection. Image 2 from dangermart.blogspot.com.
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