Superman: American Alien #7 Review

Written by: Max Landis

Art by: Jock

Publisher: DC Comics

I’d like to start this review by sincerely thanking Max Landis for delivering the Superman story I’ve been dying to read for years. Finally, we have a writer unafraid to portray Superman as he truly is; brave, fearless, and a totally out of his depth farmboy from Kansas. Superman has been absent from DC Comics and other media for a long time, but we finally got the modern update we deserved. While the final installment may not be a perfect issue, it is undoubtedly the perfect ending to a series that has rectified the status quo and placed Clark Kent back at the heart of the Superman mythos, as should always be the case.

American Alien #6 was, for my money, the greatest single Superman issue since All Star Superman #10, and ranks alongside Action Comics #775 as my all time favourite. As such, this finale was going to be hard to top, and to put it bluntly, it’s definitely not the highpoint of the series. What I’ve loved so far is the character drama, with most of the Superman stuff happening between issues and the focus being primarily on Clark. Here we see the trend reversed, as Clark’s drama has been happening off panel while this focuses on Superman’s first encounter with an extra-terrestrial. While I was initially disappointed, I can completely see why Landis does this. After building Clark back up to his rightful place over 6 issues, we finally see the two characters come together as a whole and realise they’re one and the same. While I don’t want to spoil it, Landis delivers a line that manages to summarise Superman’s character better than most other stories or adaptations before it, and certainly better than the recent movies.

It’s a raw, bloody issue than feels a lot of ways like the Man of Steel climax, but one that understands what that did wrong and rectifying it. It almost feels like Landis’ personal victory lap after proving time and time again how to do Man of Steel right that he quite literally delivers Man of Steel done right. While again, I was a little disappointed this final issue was a punch fest, we got our cathartic moments in issue 6, so really this metaphorical culmination is what we needed to end on, and it at least looks beautiful. What helps is Jock’s absolute brutal art managing to hit home every gut punch beautifully. This series has seen a lot of incredible artistic talent, and Jock’s art is the perfect way to carry the torch home. The final few pages in particular are rendered so beautifully and emotionally that it’s hard not to get choked up.

The ending too is so utterly fitting for this series. Part of me wishes Landis would be promoted to the main Superman title, or be allowed to continue his story somewhere, but then I don’t know if anything further he writes could top the masterpiece he’s given us. Landis instead leaves us with the notion that the story will continue and taps into the fundamental core of Superman stories, and indeed the superhero genre, it’s a never ending battle. Landis has offered us over 7 issues a series just like the title character, charming and sweet, touching and innocent, and powerful but subtle. From here, it’s up to the readers and anyone who loves Superman to carry on the story. He’s a character bigger than us all, and Landis perfectly shows how to handle such a huge task, and why exactly getting to play with Superman is such a big deal. It’s hard to talk specifically about the ending because it’s something you have to experience, but while reading it I was reminded of everything I love about Superman, and could feel the emotions Landis poured into the story leaking off the page.

Superman: American Alien will undoubtedly go down as one of the best modern Superman stories, and perhaps even one of the greatest Superman stories of all time. Max Landis trims all the fat and cuts the character straight to his core, placing the key elements at the forefront without ever simply retreading old ground. Landis simply understands Superman, he’s up there with Morrison and Waid in the understanding and respect he offers the mythos. It can’t be overstated how much I loved this series, and while this issue isn’t the series’ best issue, it’s the perfect way to send off this series. It’s a little early to tell where it ranks overall in terms of Superman stories, right now it’s probably in my top 3, but staying power will need to be tested. I’m not sure if I want to put it on All-Star Superman level, as it’s my favourite comic of all time, but the two definitely complement each other well; one is about Superman, the other about Clark, they’re the same, but different, and these series both highlight that debate very well. Landis has done the unthinkable and shown that Superman can be modern, relevant and still be Superman, for that he has my utmost respect.