Review: Superman: American Alien #3

Superman: American Alien #3 is quite literally a comic in which Superman parties, gets roofied, and gets laid.  It's not news to any reader of superhero comics that new ideas are in short supply, and as such, one has to admire Max Landis's attempt to portray Superman in previously unexplored situations. That said, beyond the novelty of Clark Kent on a cruise ship, this issue feels somewhat arbitrary as it sheds little new light on Superman and his development (ostensibly the purpose of the series). On the other hand, if you have ever wondered if Superman had time, pre-metropolis, to sow his wild Kryptonian oats, this is the book for you. The first issue of Superman: AA explored Clark learning to fly as a child while the second looked at him as a rebellious teen.  In this issue Clark is chafing under the small town limitations of Smallville when he wins a Bahamas vacation (oddly convenient). On the trip, his single passenger plane crashes (doubly convenient) and he rescues the pilot and is mistaken for a millionaire playboy by a passing yacht (triply convenient).  This series of coincidences is a bit hard to swallow, but perhaps Landis plans to reveal a more believable explanation in future issues.

SMAA_Cv3_1_25_varAnyhow, the playboy Clark is mistaken for is, you guessed it, Bruce Wayne, and onboard are young pre-superhero versions of Green Arrow, Cheetah, and the Question. This is an entertaining situation, but also a somewhat pointless one. It feels like more than a bit of a stretch to tie Clark's life to the wider DC Universe by have him accidentally run into three future heroes. That said, the meat of the issue, and the part that works the best, is Superman's fling with Barbara (a.k.a. young Cheetah). The dialogue between the two is suitably over-confident and pretentious, nicely showing that both are young and trying to figure themselves as well as themselves out. One moment I specifically like has Clark yell at the stars, to his unknown parents, that is doing just fine 'down here' which a confused Barbara finds hilarious. Nice character beats like this give the issue some sense of purpose it otherwise lacks.

Unfortunately, the issue's hypothesis about the importance of his brief relationship with Barbara is that it makes Clark Kent realize the potential of the world outside Kansas. Unfortunately, this is a little too simple especially considering how easily the two part at the issue's end.  Simply put, if meeting and having a fling with Barbara was that important to Clark, I have trouble believing he would be so emotionally secure in not seeing her again. Perhaps with a little more development this aspect would have worked, but unfortunately Landis wastes a lot of time on a comedic subplot involving an assassination attempt on the Faux-Bruce Wayne which quite literally adds nothing to the story (beyond a glorified cameo). It does however make this the only Superman issue I have read where Clark Kent gets roofied.

The stylized art by Joelle Jones works extremely well in bringing to light how Clark perceives the world. The party life on board is rendered in bright colors and thick, simple outlines that makes it look like a spring break montage from a teenage comedy (a compliment in this situation). Similarly, Jones draws Barbara as being vividly, painfully beautiful, an idealized girl in an wild, adventurous world.  The touches of humor are also improved by the art which manages to balance cartoony action and facial expressions with a fairly realistic world.

The book ends with a mini-comic (illustrated by the great Mark Buckingham). It's a one-page story where Mr. Mxyzptlk poses a philosophical question to the readers. The format is clever and one central panel contains a touch which perfectly explains the character. But the underlying ideas are unoriginal and not particularly interesting with an irritating touch of pretentiousness.  It does not in the end provide much insight into the main character and in the end proves to be little more than a curiosity. Sadly, these many problems (and a few strengths) apply exactly to the issue as a whole.

Score: 2/5

Superman American Alien #3 Author: Max Landis Artist: Joelle Jones Publisher: DC Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/13/15 Format:Mini-Series; Print, Digital