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Superman: American Alien #3 by Max Landis & Joelle Jones Review

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<i>Superman: American Alien</i> #3 by Max Landis & Joelle Jones Review

Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Joelle Jones
Publisher: DC Comics

Somewhere in the multiverse, a different Max Landis wrote a terrific alternate reality counterpart of Parrot—the third installment in his Superman coming-of-agesaga, American Alien.

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Hidden behind the distracting missteps, necessary and fine ideas half-heartedly raise their hands to get our attention, only to be drowned out by flashy, vapid impulses—the only elements of this book you’ll remember if you read it once. That, and Joelle Jones’ savvy conflation of reality show/lifestyle porn visuals with all-too familiar aspects from the DCU. It’s a bummer that she wasn’t assigned one of American Alien’s better entries.

Light Spoilers.

Parrot begins with Clark Kent serendipitously finding himself mistaken for Bruce Wayne on a Grenada-bound cruise ship where a gaggle of hyper-privileged youths have set about celebrating Wayne’s 21st birthday. Landis offers a satisfactory enough explanation for a few dozen trust fundies’ inability to distinguish their billionaire so-called buddy from a stranger. Unfortunately, by that point, onboard guests have already been identified as other future DC heavies Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), Sue Dibny and Barbara Minerva (Cheetah), and so much for the suspension of disbelief.

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Superman: American Alien #3 Interior Art by Joelle Jones

It’s not coincidental enough for undergrad Clark Kent to just-so-happen, by sheer fluke, to crash besides a cruise ship hosting a shindig for Bruce Wayne in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Also by random accident, several attendees on this ship just-so-happen to be future superpeople or superassociates. I will accept the notion of a flying man who shoots heat beams out of his ass long before I swallow this towering of stack of “...and it just-so-happens”es.

Remember the scene (minor Star Wars: TFA spoiler) when Rey and Finn are fleeing The First Order on Jakku, and the closest functional ship they can steal and escape in just-so-happens to be, out of the however-many-billions of ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon? The premise of Parrot is that times three. In a bad way. Only one of the three aforementioned DCU regulars serves any narrative purpose, and they could’ve done so more effectively as an entirely new character.

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Superman: American Alien #3 Interior Art by Joelle Jones

Speaking of new: if an American pop culture icon can blaze up without reprisals or hints of satire, we’ve made great strides toward a mindset of legalization, so hurray for stoned Superman. But whoever decided that meaningful life-altering epiphanies are frequently experienced during psychedelic episodes either never did any drugs, or did drugs constantly and thus never recognized the absurdity of the temporarily important conclusions we often form while tripping. And while it can often be a good idea to smoke marijuana, and it was a good idea for Superman to smoke marijuana, drugs have never made anyone smarter. Except for Grant Morrison, which is why he’s the only comic book writer allowed to crash through the fourth wall for any reason.

But without the needless cameos, exaggerated benefits of pot use and stilted attempt at pop philosophy, what remains is a story about Clark Kent enjoying a low-stakes fling with a young woman who isn’t from the Midwest—therefore, by his standards, exotic—and realizing the world has more to offer him than Smallville, just as he has more to offer the world. Not only does that seem like an important beat to hit for Superman’s life story on its way to Metropolis, it could’ve been a really neat comic, and absolutely did not need a silly Batman thing shoehorned in….Although that one scene where mega-baked Clark slaps Deathstroke around was pretty fun, and the Batman Begins reference was a nice touch. Still unnecessary, though!

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