Exclusive First Look: Superman: American Alien #2 by Max Landis & Tommy Lee Edwards

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Exclusive First Look: <i>Superman: American Alien</i> #2 by Max Landis & Tommy Lee Edwards

Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Tommy Lee Edwards
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: December 16, 2015

While reviewing Superman: American Alien #1, I spent a substantial fraction of my word count drawing parallels between the manifestation of Clark Kent’s kryptonian abilities and mutant powers emerging in X-Men stories. As much as I’d still like to read a comic about emo outsider Superman learning to be “okay” with his otherness, Max Landis squashes any potential for further X-comparisons in American Alien #2—Hawk.

Landis’ iteration of Smallville is not the neurotic Marvel Universe, and definitely doesn’t resemble stereotypical xenophobic Midwestern America. In American Alien’s Smallville, the townspeople all know what Clark can do, but their instincts are to protect him as one of their own while deflecting nosy government agents who may want to conduct who-knows-what morbid experiments. Instead of a metaphor for marginalized youth, it’s more like Clark Kent is Gordon Shumway and everyone else in Smallville is the Tanner Family.

Is that an unrealistic or overly optimistic rendering of typical backwater USA? Probably! It’s also the only way Smallville makes sense. A Clark Kent who has been disowned by his friends and family and run out of his hometown for being a freak would have a difficult time believing in the fundamental goodness of humanity. If, on the other hand, Kent was raised in a community that treated him like he belonged, despite the ample evidence that he did no such thing, well, that explains why he doesn’t share the surly disposition of the Wolverines or Magnetos of the world.

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

In this sophomore chapter, it follows that the Smallville Police Department doesn’t generally deal with crimes much harsher than underaged drinking, while Kent’s benevolence mostly entails tiny gestures like rescuing cats from trees. However, when a spree of random homicides rattles Smallville to its core in Hawk, Kent finds himself at an unsettling crossroads. He knows he can kill people very easily, even by accident if he gets clumsy, and that potential for lethal force makes him profoundly uncomfortable. Nonetheless, some argue that he has a degree of social responsibility to slap some folks around a bit should they cross certain lines— for instance, if they unload a handgun into an arbitrarily selected bunch of convenience store customers.

The plot revolves around Kent’s moral quandary, but its execution relies on artist Tommy Lee Edwards’ drawing wholesome, Wonder Years-esque scenes like Lana Lang helping Kent with his French homework at a malt shop on one page, and brutal mayhem on the next, without any of it looking hammy. Though it might not be enough to inspire Jesse Eisenberg to base a character off him in his next movie, Edwards probably deserves 55/60 percent of the credit here.

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Superman: American Alien #2 Interior Art by Tommy Lee Edwards

Superman: American Alien #2 Variant Cover by Tommy Lee Edwards