Max Landis’ “Superman: American Alien” #7 starts off unremarkably enough, but — upon turning to the second page — readers will be asking if this issue really has to be the final installment of the series. Jock takes his turn on art to close out Landis’ story, and he chronicles a decisive battle for the rookie Man of Steel. Landis completes Clark’s journey from boy to man to Superman and does so with the same kind of unique spin he’s used throughout this story of a boy who just happens to become one of the world’s finest superheroes.
The foe Landis chooses to pit against Clark is probably one of the last characters readers would expect to play a role in Superman’s formative years, but a moment’s pause yields the realization that this villain is the perfect antithesis to Clark’s fledgling super-identity. Immediately, Landis shows readers he’s not content to simply let the series coast to its conclusion just because his arc is wrapping up and throws one last surprise readers’ way. Rarely has this character acted like a bigger jerk, and that’s saying a lot.
Clark’s opponent has gone through his fair share of changes, but Jock delivers the incarnation readers know and love to hate. Jock’s gritty style is well-suited to the character’s similarly gritty nature, and anyone who hasn’t guessed the issue’s mystery villain by now will likely be pleasantly surprised when he shows up. Jock’s technique also plays well with the destructive nature of this super-showdown.
Ryan Sook’s beautiful, symbolic and neo-iconic cover image shows Superman looking down on his world from high above. The image summarizes Clark’s ongoing mindset throughout the series that, regardless of his planet of origin, it is this world that is his home. The sun peeking over the planet’s horizon represents the dawn of Clark’s recently-adopted role, a notion Landis so skillfully brings home in this conclusion. Though this character looks like the Man of Tomorrow and wears his costume, Landis makes it clear that — at this point — Clark is definitely a super man, yes, but not yet Superman.
Superheroes are synonymous with super-fights, but Landis’ Clark Kent isn’t a fighter in the least, although he does learn quickly. Clark’s inherently positive and optimistic nature is almost a detriment to him here, and Landis is careful to portray this nature as pure, but not naÃ¯ve. When Clark has to get tough (and he most impressively does), it becomes a defining moment for not just him, but for his inner circle, as well as the entire world. Just as Superman lifting a car full of crooks over his head or catching Lois as she falls from a helicopter were worthwhile introductions, Landis crafts another one here, one that should rightfully sit alongside those classic debuts.
Jock gets a little too raw with the art at times and it takes a couple of looks at some panels to identify exactly what’s happening, but — overall — his style works well to support the idea of a bright hero who has to get his hands dirty sometimes. Additionally, colorist Lee Loughridge employs the elementary but perfectly suitable approach of letting the primary color brightness of Superman’s costume stand out against largely grey backgrounds.
“Superman: American Alien” #7 is excellent as both a standalone story and the final chapter of Superman’s pre-history, which not only sets up the character’s iconic status as an American hero but also the hopeful possibility of a sequel.