Writer: Max Landis / Artist: Jae Lee / DC Comics
Have you ever seen that flashback episode of Family Guy about how Peter Griffin came to marry Lois? Peter was told he wasn’t good enough for this woman raised in high society and sent on a sort of road trip where he meets all these members of the (later) supporting cast along the way via ridiculous situations. It was obvious, on-the-nose and contrived, but we rolled with it because it’s Seth McFarlane, who we all know to be a self indulgent, derivative, lowest common denominator comedy writer. For better or worse (primarily worse), that’s what Superman: American Alien is starting to feel like: a story imagined by a 10 year old fanboy playing with his favorite DC super hero action figures.
Issue #4 picks up with Clark Kent’s first time at bat as a reporter (really, he’s a Journalism student in college, but he’s handed The Big Scoop so easily, he might as well be the editor and chief of the New York Times, so let’s go with “reporter”). Part of the story serves as a callback to the “mistaken identity on Bruce Wayne’s pleasure yacht” events of Issue #3 that reunites Clark with Oliver Queen. Of course, since he now has an “in,” he gets to (kinda) interview Lex Luthor. And because Max Landis is so on the nose, the interview Luthor gave was such a blatant establishment of villainy, any rational human being who heard it should be saying to themselves, “That guy is going to destroy the world some day.”
Don’t get me wrong… there were some redeeming moments like our introduction to Lois Lane or Clark’s interview with young Dick Grayson (yes, Dick Grayson just happens to be here in Metropolis for reasons unknown), but claiming you’re writing a story about Clark Kent as a character outside of the Superman stuff and then giving us an prequel that is almost completely Superman stuff makes Landis guilty of the same sins as Jeph Loeb when he worked on Smallville. The saving grace, as usual with this series, is the artwork. It was actually surprising the way Jae Lee switched up his style to fit the old school utopian feel of Metropolis. His character work is so definitive and striking, the individual personalities just radiate off of the cast even without the dialogue.
Bottom Line: There are two different writers running around in the industry named Max Landis. The first one is the brilliant albeit intolerable douche who wrote Chronicle, should have written Fantastic Four and changed how we look at Mickey Mouse. The other one is the self indulgent man child who writes this good looking, visually charming drivel. DC needs to put out an APB for the first guy.