By Max Landis, Francis Manapul, John Workman
Clark Kent in the Big City, but is he ready for all the tribulations ahead of him?
Clark faces a question of identity, the Parasite and Lex Luthor’s cunning after having moved to Metropolis and beginning to establish himself as Superman. The issue while technically succeeding in writing and art, ultimately fails in ways that previous issues hadn’t.
What marked Landis’ American Alien mini until now was his gumption in portraying Clark as more contemporary than a Midwestern archetype. While some might view that as sacrilegious, he retained Clark’s basic humanism and willingness to help others. Here though, Landis swung the other way and wrote what is essentially the classic Superman (albeit one that is more than a little green). While that is laudable, it makes me question why he was given a 6 issue mini to reinvent Superman when he could just write an arc for any of the four ongoing titles.
Despite that disappointing aspect, he shows a clear grasp of Clark, Lois and Lex. Each one is different from how we usually see them (since in this issue they’re less established than in series running continuously since 1939), but bares enough signature traits as to feel instantly familiar.
Francis Manapul’s art is simply stunning. His illustrations carries its usual watercolor feel but also appears more solid with impressive one-point perspective city-scapes and defined architecture. The way he depicts Clark flying, as well as resting and eating some food, look wonderfully relaxed and purposeful. It’s reminiscent of his work on Superboy with Geoff Johns but refined well with years of improvement. His panel composition during the action scenes and even conversation pieces are inspired and eye-catching. It’s clear from viewing his art here how much energy Manapul put into making this issue look fantastic.
As much as I wanted to like this issue, Max Landis writing Superman with art by Francis Manapul, it felt by-the-numbers aside from the art. There are literally millions of Superman stories out there and while I disagree with the belief that he is inherently boring, just doing a story with Superman in it only adds weight to that myth. There do not seem to be any emotional or physical stakes for Clark to overcome in this issue aside from his question of identity or fighting the Parasite, but both of those are obstacles easily solved. Landis’ second issue had more drama and weight to it as we saw Clark acting more human and seeing the possibility that he would ignore a threat to innocent lives. There are moments with Clark at rest, enjoying brief moments of relaxation or even chastising robbers, which show him as a person and instill a feeling of fun into the story. If the majority of the issue had been composed of those moments then I would consider the comic more successful alongside stories such as the last volume of Adventures of Superman. My only other criticism is the black costume Clark wears. There is precedent for it because it’s appeared before, but after seeing its use in Smallville I’m fully sick of it.
As it stands, Superman American Alien #5 is a lacking story with great art and not much else to offer.
Rating: Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Excellent