A Superman #6 Review – Like Father, Like Son

Superman #6, 2016, Patrick GleasonTITLE: Superman #6
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Patrick Gleason. Cover by Doug Mahnke.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 7, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a page in Superman #6 that I absolutely adore (shown below). It’s a callback to the cover of the original Superman #6 from 1939, with our hero striking the classic hands-on-hips pose. We’ve even got the American flag in the background for good measure. I will neither confirm nor deny swooning upon seeing that page for the first time.

For yours truly, the best Superman writers and artists don’t shy away from the character’s status as a symbol for hope and idealism. They don’t try to modernize him, or God forbid darken him. They embrace who and what he is, which naturally leads to good storytelling. That’s mostly what we’ve gotten from Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and team on Superman these last few months. No more stupid armor, no more bare-knuckle fighting. Just Superman doing what Superman does. We didn’t need to give him a son to create good stories. It just so happens that parenting brings out the best in Big Blue.

Superman continues to battle the Eradicator in a bunker on the moon, as Lois and Jon look on. The Eradicator, who holds the life force of so many deceased Kryptonians within him, is determined to kill the half-human Jon and “purify” the House of El. But as the Man of Steel tirelessly fights to save his family, Earth may come to a shocking realization: One way or another, Superman is back.

Superman #6, callback, Patrick GleasonThe Superman books are in a complex spot right now. We’ve got the pre-New 52 Superman, Lois Lane, and their son Jon as our lead characters in Superman. Then we’ve got a Clark Kent doppleganger in Action Comics, and the New 52 Lois over in Superwoman. But as complex as things have become, most of the books have surged upward in terms of quality. Look no further than this book as an example. This is the best Superman has been in at least five years.

One of the keys to that is this book’s heart. It’s not afraid to be a little sappy as it shows us the love shared by the Kent family. It’s also not afraid of embracing some of the corny, but feel-good and classic elements of the Superman legend. Not just the pose and the American flag, but the glasses, the superpowered dog, the adoration of Metropolis. The issue also bucks the isolated, lonely, brooding Superman trope we’re often subjected to. In one glorious, yet understated panel, Superman looks up at the reader and says: “I’ve never felt alone.”

Can I get an amen?

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about DC restoring hope and positivity to its books and movies. The DC Universe’s first stop for both those things should be Superman. For some, that’s a turn off, which is fair enough. But if you’re looking for the brooding, isolated superhero, they’ve got a guy for that. Actually, they’ve got a few guys for that. So lets stop trying to make this character something he’s not. These attempts to darken Superman always end up fizzling out anyway.

Superman #6, 2016I understand the notion of comics not being for kids anymore. But I’d be curious to see what would happen if I gave these Superman issues to a young reader. If they kept coming back, would it be for Superman? Would it be for Jon? Perhaps both? Either way, Jon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As indicated by the end of this issue, he’ll have an even bigger role going forward. And for the time being at least, that’s a good thing.

We bordered on the edge of Over-Baturation in this story with the climactic battle taking place in Batman’s moon bunker (Yeah, he has one. Don’t you?), and the inclusion of the Hellbat, a carry over from Tomasi and Gleason’s run on Batman & Robin. But I’m giving this book a pass, as we see very little of Batman himself. It’s even established that Superman followed the Dark Knight without him knowing, which was a nice touch. Also, Lois using the Hellcat to protect Jon managed to be pretty cool.

This is an exciting time to be a Superman fan. Given the relaunch, Superman has more readers now than in quite awhile, and DC is making the most of those new eyes. Quite honestly, there’s no one I’d rather see on this title right now than Tomasi, Gleason, and their crew. I’m hopeful they’re only beginning to take flight.

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A Superman #2 Review – Superman Smiles

Superman #2, 2016, Patrick GleasonTITLE: Superman #2
AUTHORS: Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
PENCILLER: Gleason
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: July 6, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m aware this series doesn’t mark the first time Superman has smiled in the last five years. But it sure feels like it. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s effort to inject optimism back into the character makes for a refreshing departure from recent attempts to darken him. Truth, justice, hope. Dare I say, love? These are the things we need from Superman in 2016.

The Superman of the pre-New 52 Earth has finally put the cape on again in this new universe. At the same time, his young son Jon is discovering super powers of his own. When we open this issue, the Man of Steel has taken his son to observe him on a routine rescue. But when things go awry, Jon is pulled into the action. Will this new “Superboy” see his run tragically cut short?

In working on Superman, Peter Tomasi has two tremendous advantages over many of his peers. First, he’s inherently good at writing heart-felt stories that highlight the humanity of these iconic, often god-like heroes. As evidence, I direct you to yet another of father and son story by he and Gleason, Batman & Robin: Born to Kill.

Superman #2, Patrick Gleason, family shot, 2016Second, and more importantly, he understands Superman. (I assume Gleason does too. I speak of Tomasi because we’ve obviously seen more of his writing. Gleason has mainly been an artist.) Case in point, our hero saying the following to his son: “It’s not about our powers, or strength, or heat vision. It’s about character. It means doing the right thing when no one else will, even when you’re scared…even when you think no one is looking.”

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

What so many people either don’t understand or don’t appreciate about Superman is the importance of what he stands for. He’s not a boy scout. He’s not a sell out. He’s not an outdated product of a bygone era. It’s not as simple as that. He’s a man with a set of principles, and he acts on those principles in the hopes of making the world a better place. Tomasi understands all of this, and knows it’s critical that Clark and Lois raise Jon with these same principles. As Clark himself says in this issue, Jon may be need to wear the iconic S symbol sooner than later.

It’s very fitting that we’ve re-emphazied these elements in a story that has brought back a previous version of Clark. In a very real sense, this feels like Superman is back.

From an artistic stance, the colors are on point. In particular, John Kalisz’s reds and oranges really pop. Superman’s cape looks fantastic, which makes me miss his red boots even more. There’s also a sequence where Jon is trying to hone his heat vision, and the scene becomes engulfed in an intense red that really brings you into the moment.

Superman #2, 2016, Patrick GleasonIn interviews, I seem to recall Tomasi and Gleason talking about being fathers themselves. In Gleason’s case, that would explain why much of the body language in Superman, as well as Batman & Robin, seems very natural. Not always real, per se. But natural within the context of this world. The panel to the right is my favorite in the issue. That face says a lot. We’ve got patience, compassion, reassurance, protectiveness, and of course, love. Where has this Superman been?

Obviously this new Superman series is meant to be a starting point for new readers. But I maintain that the replacement of the New 52 Superman with the post-Crisis Superman from another universe makes things confusing for new readers. Especially once you get to the end of the issue, where a villain from the post-Crisis era seems to resurface. Mind you, this isn’t Tomasi or Gleason’s fault. And for the record, I’m in favor of this new direction for the Superman books. But this shake-up has come at a price. Picture yourself as a newbie picking up this series. You’d have all kinds of questions about where this Superman came from, what that other universe was like, and where it went. The upside is that might entice one to buy trade paperbacks. But someone on the fence might simply drop the book.

Either way, once you get past the confusion, this is good stuff. Tomasi and Gleason did about 40 issues on Batman & Robin. Obviously Gleason can’t be expected to do that many consecutive issues on a bi-weekly series. But if this team sticks with Superman for the foreseeable future, the smart bet is they’ll deliver quality comics. More often than not, that’s what they do.

Images from readcomics.net.

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A Superman: Rebirth #1 Review – Death and Rebirth

Superman: Rebirth #1, 2016TITLE: Superman: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Doug Mahnke
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 1, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman was created to thin out the number of “super” characters in the DCU. The idea was to restore his status as the Last Son of Krypton. Now, more than 30 years later, DC is using this same version of Superman to do the exact opposite. With this character comes a new Superboy, and a new Superwoman. Now that’s what you call, ironic.

The Superman we met when the New 52 launched is dead, having succumbed to Kryptonite poisoning. As the world mourns the loss of the Man of Steel, one man is certain he will return: Clark Kent. That is, the Clark Kent of another Earth, who has hid out on this world along with his wife and son. But Lana Lang isn’t convinced. She also has no idea there’s another Superman on her world. Thus when the two meet, emotions run high.

I’d love to hear someone try to explain the new Superman status quo to a newbie. It’s putting up X-Men numbers in terms of how convoluted it is. That being said, I’m very pleased to see the old Superman back. Why he’s not allowed to have red boots in this new “Rebirth” era is beyond me. But having him back has shaken things up nicely.

doug mahnke, death of supermanIn this issue, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke acknowledge the elephant in the room in the aftermath of the New 52 Superman’s death. They take us back to The Death of Superman, and we get Mahnke’s take on some of those iconic moments from the fight with Doomsday. Considering how many big event comics Mahnke’s fingerprints have been on in the last decade, there’s something fitting about him getting a crack at this one. Later, we see Clark’s resurrection, and he and Lana even search for a New 52verse version of the regeneration matrix. As a longtime fan, it’s gratifying to see them go back and look at this stuff from a new perspective. I never understood why DC omitted this story from the New 52 continuity. It crossed over into pop culture, and kids who grew up in the early ’90s typically remember it. So why eliminate it?

Clark has an odd line during this issue, when he tells Lana: “…two Clark Kents on two different worlds were very lucky to have Lana Langs in our lives.” They need to be careful with this kind of thing, especially now that we have an infinite multiverse again. The idea that you’ve got an infinite number of Clark Kents on different worlds, some of which might be interchangeable, seems like the kind of thing that could lead to apathy from the audience. What do we care if our main character dies, if we can simply replace him with one from another world?

Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Superman Rebirth #1, 2016Mahnke’s versatility is on display here. On one hand, the flashbacks to the fight with Doomsday are very intense and high-octane. In contrast, we have a scene with Clark at the memorial that’s very somber. We also have scenes with Clark and Lana that, while they have a certain tension, are fairly quiet. But Mahnke manages to stay consistently strong throughout.

With this relaunch, DC has managed to make the Superman books more interesting than they’ve been in years. At face value, at least. How ironic that death winds up being the element that freshens the Man of Steel up a little bit. But who knows? Maybe a little family time is exactly what Superman needs.

Image 1 from comicvine.com. Image 2 from bleedingcool.com.  

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A Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – Why So Serious?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeTITLE: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
STUDIOS: Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Cruel and Unusual films
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 151 min
RELEASED: March 25, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This movie had a lot of mud thrown its way before even one shot was in the can. Some of that was fair. Much of it wasn’t. Man of Steel wasn’t as well received as many would have liked. Then people jumped on the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman. There was also a lot of skepticism about the inclusion of all the Justice League characters, not to mention Doomsday. And that’s just some of it. So after all that, what’s the bottom line on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Is this movie as bad as so many critics say it is? No. Is it a deeply flawed movie? Yes.

After the destruction left in the wake of Superman’s battle with Zod, the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) unknowingly has an enemy in Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman (Ben Affleck). Then, 18 months later Superman causes an international incident when he swoops in to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from a terrorist group. While his intentions are good, Superman’s actions have sparked a mass debate about if and how he should be monitored and regulated. Meanwhile, young business tycoon and hereditary CEO of Lexcorp Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) has plans of his own regarding the Man of Steel…

Batman v Superman, image 1

Audiences hoping for something in the vein of a Marvel movie likely got a rude awakening from Batman v Superman. Zack Snyder’s superhero films, going as far back as Watchmen, are very serious, and at times very grim. This is a stark contrast to what we get from Marvel Studios, and also Fox’s X-Men movies. Those various superhero franchises (Iron Man, X-Men, Captain America, etc.) have all found their own balance between action blockbuster and comedy. That comedy is more important than a lot of people think. While I’ve always maintained superhero stories can be more than simple escapist tales about people punching each other, people should also be able to have fun when they see these movies. And that fun pays dividends. For proof, look no further than Deadpool, a movie made for $58 million that went on to make $745 million worldwide.

Fun doesn’t mean belittling the story or universe, either. There’s a moment in Batman v Superman when Batman saves Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and tells her “I’m a friend of your son.” She replies with a simple: “I figured. The cape…” There are precious few moments like this in the movie. But humor and levity are such valuable storytelling tools, particularly in terms of endearing the characters to us. And they’ve largely been cast aside in Batman v Superman. The notion that levity somehow takes away from a movie’s epic factor, or even it’s “dark tone,” is simply a fallacy. Cast in point: Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Those films weren’t funny, per se. But they had little moments of levity that made the dark and chaotic stuff that much more impactful. By comparison, this movie feels like darkness on top of darkness.

Batman v. Superman, image 2The movie also has slow build-up to the confrontation between the two titular characters. This results in the first half of the proceedings being flat-out boring at times. We get a lot of good information regarding the characters and their world. But between the bleak and dreary look these movies have been given, and the lack of levity or fun, I can see many a casual moviegoer falling asleep here. Batman v Superman tries to slap a band-aid on this problem with some nightmare sequences in which Batman fights against a tyrannical Superman. While they do have a certain appeal, they contribute little to the actual story, and end up being more frustrating than anything else.

But let’s not pile on, here. The movie isn’t devoid of positives by any means. Batman fans jumped all over the casting of Ben Affleck like a pack of rabid dogs, and perhaps justifiably so. But as a lifelong Batman buff, I say Affleck gets a passing grade as The Dark Knight. I maintain Affleck wasn’t a bad choice for Daredevil either. Both Daredevil and Batman v Superman had problems. In the case of Daredevil, Affleck took the heat for those flaws because he was the face of the film. Hopefully, history won’t point the finger at him again.

Batman v Superman, image 3, Jesse EisenbergJesse Eisenberg is partially channelling Heath Ledger’s Joker in his portrayal of Lex Luthor. That’s fine, I suppose. Once he gets into full blown supervillain mode, he’s very good. To those of us who saw him in The Social Network, that should be no surprise. Heck, the Lex Luthor we see here isn’t unlike Mark Zuckerberg, really.

Perhaps the single best aspect of Batman v Superman is that Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets put over like a million bucks. In my theater, when she finally showed up in costume, the audience cheered. That’s a hell of a sign. I’d never seen Gal Gadot before, but she carries herself well in the role. This obviously bodes well for a Wonder Woman movie.

As one might have guessed with the presence of Doomsday, this movie goes the Death of Superman route. On paper it sounds risky. But it works on the screen, particularly in setting up a Justice League movie. Superman’s death can galvanize the other heroes into working together for the greater good. What’s more, the fight with Doomsday is amazing. It’s almost as if they met their entire action quota with that one fight. They also seemingly learned their lesson from Man of Steel, and didn’t destroy an entire city this time.

Batman v Superman, image 4There will be lessons to learn from Batman v Superman as well. The biggest one being not taking things so damn seriously. Not every superhero movie needs to conform to the Marvel formula. But it would be silly not to learn from the success of something that spawned an entire cinematic universe. Batman v Superman should have been a fanboy classic for the ages. While it’s not quite as bad as it’s been made out to be, what we got was definitely not that. Frankly, that’s a crime. All the tools were there, but they couldn’t get the job done. As a long time DC Comics fan, that’s an awful miscarriage of justice.

Maybe that should have been the title.

Images courtesy of rottentomatoes.com. 

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Best of Batman & Superman: “Super/Bat”

***Batman and Superman are friends. It’s an unlikely friendship, and one that can put them at odds. But ultimately, it’s a friendship based on mutual respect and trust. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on the horizon, we’re going to hear a lot about these two fighting. “Best of Batman & Superman” will show us the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the moments that showed us why Superman and Batman are better friends than enemies.***

Superman/Batman #55, 2008TITLE: Superman/Batman #53#56 (“Super/Bat”)
AUTHORS: Michael Green, Mike Johnson
PENCILLERS: Rags Morales
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
ORIGINAL PRICE: $2.99 per issue
RELEASED: October 2008 – March 2009

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman with Superman’s powers. It’s a pretty simple concept. It’s not as though we haven’t seen stories where Batman gets super powers. And of course, Superman has lost his powers before. But while “Super/Bat” isn’t perfect, there’s some great character work on display here. Ultimately, that’s been the key to this story’s resiliency over the years. Granted, Rags Morales’ art doesn’t hurt.

After an encounter with Silver Banshee, Superman’s powers have mysteriously been transferred to Batman. But Bruce Wayne is a very different Superman than Clark Kent. Opting to forgo eating and sleeping, Batman devotes his existence to fighting injustice. On the other hand, Clark Kent can now be the average joe he’s always pretended to be. While positives do arise from this predicament, things are going to get ugly…

Superman/Batman #53, Rags Morales, Clark Kent, Bruce WayneGreen and Johnson kick off the story much like Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness started the series at large. We get a splash page split down the middle, with inner monologue from both Superman and Batman, essentially shining a light on their philosophical differences. From there we jump to a museum gathering, as Bruce Wayne is loaning antique armor and weapons to the collection. Rags Morales starts this scene a little too cartoony for my taste, particularly in the above image of Bruce Wayne. Still, Morales is charmingly old school in the way he draws certain characters, particularly Clark Kent. He’s got the classic suit and hat, as if he’s straight out of the ’40s. If you’re a fan of Morales and Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, there’s an aura of familiarity about this story that’s very welcoming. My only major complaint outside of this initial one is that he Morales gives Superman the “S” spit curl. I HATE the spit curl. There’s a difference between art being cartoony, and making Superman actually look like a cartoon character. The spit curl does the latter.

In issue #54, Zatanna is brought in as Clark is teaching Bruce how to use his powers. Later, Alfred and Robin (Tim Drake) find Bruce handing upside down next to some of the bats in the Batcave, meditating to focus his newly sharpened senses.

Superman/Batman #55, Rags Morales, Suoerman shotFrom there we go to a scene where Clark and Lois Lane ponder his next move. Lois eventually opens Clark’s shirt to find that even without powers, he’s still wearing his Superman uniform. Maybe that’s hokey, but I love it. There’s a pathetic quality about it that’s very fitting of a powerless Superman. But to her credit, Lois sticks by him. Even when Clark gets shot trying to stop a mugging in an alley, much like the one that resulted in the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents…

We also get a sequence where Batman brings down Bane by punching a hole through his stomach. A teary-eyed Dark Knight then floats over Earth teary-eyed over the fact that he can now save everyone. Batman is now a god, at least in his own mind.

And an increasingly violent god, at that. After the Justice League pulls Clark up to their satellite base and heal him with some magic courtesy of Zatanna, they wonder if Bruce’s new powers have effected his mind. Batman, who just happens to be waiting in the wing, then lays into Clark with a rant that hits home for both the characters and the readers.

“You don’t get it. For me it’s not hard at all. You’re always talking about not being human. About how your gifts are a curse. … Your powers aren’t a curse. They’re what I’ve always wanted. To never have to stop. To be everywhere, anytime. To save everyone. I never realized it until now. The responsibility you have. And all you want to be is normal?”

Superman/Batman #55, 2008, Rags Morales, rantThis idea that Superman should always be busy has been floated before. In a world full of so many hazards and dangers, why should an all-powerful superhero ever take a break? Personally, I don’t subscribe to that theory. I think this story refutes it as well as any ever has. One can’t always be so single-minded, even when saving lives. It leads to bad things down the road. Case in point, the very next sequence where Batman has become so detached from reason and humanity that he injures Catwoman, and severely debilitates Nightwing.

Knowing Batman has to be stopped, Alfred give Clark a modified Batsuit with the “S” symbol on it, While the Justice League take on Batman, Superman and Zatanna find Silver Banshee and learn the powers were switched by way of a magic brooch. It grants a person their heart’s desire, but does so at the expense of someone else. When exposed to the brooch, Batman was unknowingly given what he’s always wanted: The power to save everyone.

A short time later, Zatanna creates an illusion of Bruce’s parents that lures him in allows she and Superman to switch the powers back. In the final scene, Batman admits that the powers ultimately cost him his mind, and he credits Superman with thinking tactically the way he normally would. In the end, Clark admits part of him has always wanted a normal life, and Bruce admits he secretly misses the power…

Superman/Batman #56, Rags Morales, Batman, Clark KentI like to think Bruce’s mind wasn’t compromised when he had Clark’s powers. At least not to the point where he had no control over his decisions. It makes a certain amount of sense for Bruce to react the way he did, given all the awful things that have happened to him. His mission is for no one to go through what he did. So why wouldn’t he try to save everyone? That doesn’t make him a bad guy. It just makes him a guy who lost control.

“Super/Bat” is also a great illustration of why Superman is the role Clark Kent was born to play. We see here that while Batman is largely isolated, Superman is a likable guy who cares about his friends, and his friends reciprocate. Even Commissioner Gordon seems rather fond of him. He cares about people. He’s grounded, which ironically makes him deserving of the power of flight.

“Super/Bat” isn’t nearly as well known, or renowned, as The Search For Kryptonite or a lot of the others stuff to come out of that Superman/Batman title. But for my money, it’s one of the better stories starring this duo to come out in the last 10 years. From a character perspective, it’s certainly better than anything we’ve seen since the New 52 reboot.

For more “Best of Batman & Superman,” check out Gotham Knights #27, Superman #165, Man of Steel #3, and Action Comics #654

Image 1 from comic vine.com. Image 2 from batmanytb.com. Images 3 and 4 from comicnewbies.com. 

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A Superman: American Alien #5 Review – The Wrong Cape!

Superman: American Alien #5, Ryan SookTITLE: Superman: American Alien #5
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Francis Manapul. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: March 16, 2016

***Need a refresher? Head back to the beginning with Superman: American Alien #5.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s something about this issue that drives me absolutely nuts. We saw it on the final page of last issue, but it’s plastered all over this one. That’s a damn shame, because in almost every other respect this issue is damn good.

Now an intern at The Daily Planet, Clark Kent is still trying to find his place in the world. For six months, a mysterious “Flying Man” has been a super-powered good samaritan for Metropolis. As Clark’s fellow intern Lois Lane ponders the hero’s motivations, The Parasite makes his first appearance. Now, the Flying Man has no choice but to start communicating not only with the police, but with Lex Luthor…

I understand I may be hung up about this, but it drives me absolutely insane: Clark Kent is wearing Batman’s cape. I talked about this at length last time, but it bears repeating. To me, Superman and Batman have always represented two sides of the same coin. Light and darkness, hope and cynicism, etc. Superman drawing inspiration from Batman implies the latter has a certain wisdom and seniority the former doesn’t, which inherently positions the Dark Knight above the Man of Steel. As a fan, that offends me. Once again, we see Batman is far too central to so much in the DC Universe. It’s what I call “Over-Baturation.”

Superman: American Alien #5, title pageWhat’s more, it ruins a really charming costume. The black “S” shirt and jeans are reminiscent of Superboy’s old look. And the old school pilot headgear has a nice quirkiness to it. The outfit makes sense for a Superman who hasn’t found himself yet, and has simply thrown something together to start his mission. The dark colors also have a cool factor befitting a young adult trying to impress people.

Traditionally, The Parasite isn’t portrayed as a giant. But that’s how we see him in this issue. It suits Landis’ purposes well, and not surprisingly, Francis Manapul is really able to run with it. The explosive moments between Clark and Parasite are really well done, particularly the page when our hero simply grabs the giant by the foot and pulls him through the roof of a building. It’s a tribute to how well-rounded Manapul’s work is that he’s able to pull off both the action sequences, and the more intimate one-on-one scenes between Clark and Lois, with equal amount of finesse. And look at those colors. Wow.

Clark spends much of the issue with Lois Lane. But we also get our first meeting between Clark and Lex Luthor. Like Batman, Luthor is very much the yin to Superman’s yang, but obviously in a different way. So it’s fitting that as Clark is just starting out as a hero, he’s learning from both friends and enemies. We’re seeing portions of Superman’s philosophy and modus operandi molded before our eyes, and it’s true to the essence of the character.

Superman: American Alien #5, Francis ManapulThe exchanges between Clark and Lois are the strongest I’ve seen in awhile. Landis gives them a nice chemistry that has a certain modern vibe without coming off as obnoxious. I imagine that’s what a lot of fans are looking to Max Landis for. He’s made it clear he’s passionate about Superman, and he obviously has his share of ideas. Now he has an outlet for some of them, and at times they’ve been very refreshing.

Portions of American Alien have been extremely annoying. But I can’t deny it’s been a worthwhile read thus far. Landis’ heart is in the right place. I get the sense he understands Superman in a way that few writers do. In that sense, when you open one of these issues, the battle is already half won.

Image 1 from gamespot.com. Image 2 from author’s collection.

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A Superman: American Alien #4 Review – Playing the Batman Card

Superman: American Alien #4, 2016TITLE: Superman: American Alien #4
AUTHOR: Max Landis
PENCILLER: Jae Lee. Cover by Ryan Sook.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
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.

Superman: American Alien #4, Batman capeI 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.

Lex Luthor, Superman: American Alien #4Less 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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