I have been a fan of Max Landis’ for quite some time, I enjoyed his cinematic work, along with his Internet videos he has made (The Death and Return of Superman and his story on wrestling are great to watch- I highly recommend them) and his comic work has been interesting to read. I liked his Adventures of Superman story where Supes meets The Joker for the first time, and deals with him handily, and we see The Clown Prince of Crime phase through all his different incarnations, only to have Superman confront Batman about him allowing The Joker into Metropolis so that Batman could “size up” Superman’s abilities.
Some people had been hesitant about this series, and much more harsh in their reviews of Max’s comic work before now (and I don’t think the harsh commentary is going to stop anytime soon after his words regarding The Force Awakens…) but I was excited for his Superman story, and the idea that each issue would be drawn by a different artist (much like Grant Morrison’s Multiversity series, which I hold in high regard). This issue takes a much darker look at a teenaged Clark Kent, and how he is dealing with constantly feeling like an outsider, and struggling to control his powers and still wanting to fit in. Add in some gorgeous artwork, and you’ve got some pretty emotional stuff on hand for a really unique Superman story…
I really like how this issue opens with a wordless first page, giving the reader a look at the violence that has come to Smallville like some sort of man-made tornado. This is followed by a very intimate and close encounter between Clark and Lana in a diner, where Lana is teaching Clark to speak French (obviously some high school class cooperation happening here) where we see Clark lost in his admiration for Lana’s beauty. Then as Clark’s friend Pete shows up honking his horn obnoxiously (like any teenager with wheels would do at the drop of a hat) Clark sets up a follow-up study session- one that Lana accepts, and plans to have at her house, while her parents are away. Ill let that sink in for a moment- for those of you unaware still: This means that two attractive and hormone-riddled teenagers will be alone and unsupervised, practicing French. If I have to spell it out for you, I’m sorry- I wont do that… go ask your parents.
We then see the violence that has come to Smallville, and it is shown in a very cinematic and grand fashion- which is something I appreciate. I liked the way it looked, without being too graphic. The moment of the female patron begging for them not to shoot people was a really dark and harrowing moment that I was not expecting… This grizzly scene is bookended with another seemingly mundane back and forth between Clark and his friends, openly discussing his powers, in this case his x-ray vision, which as I was reading it, reminded me of the conversation that Donnie and his friends had about The Smurfs from Donnie Darko.
Following that we see that the local Sheriff has come to call on Clark for help in figuring out what happened there, and to track down who shot and killed all those people, because apparently EVERYONE KNOWS CLARK KENT IS A SUPERHERO ALIEN MONSTER!!!! This wont end badly or anything, because obviously, secrets like this can be kept forever… but that is a conversation for another time. Clark is hesitant to help, because for whatever reason, he thinks by not doing the right thing he can maybe have some sort of normal and mundane life? Even though he is, at his core, bound to do the right thing…
The issue then ends with Clark hunting down the criminals to their family’s home in Smallville, where Owen (apparently the one who was from Smallville) is holding his family hostage at gunpoint. This is where things go all coco-banana-bonkers… Clark confronts them, and is shot point blank range out the front door of the house, we see after he gets up from the gunshot that it hit him full on in the face, and the shooter is completely dumbfounded as to how he isn’t dead. Clark then backhands Owen back into the house through the front window and across the living room where he lay in a pile of broken wood and glass, unconscious.
Then Clark kicks it up a notch with his powers, after taking a shotgun blast to the torso (or so we think, there wasn’t much specific as to the location of the gunshot) he uses his laser vision to melt the shooter’s weapon and his arms from the elbow down. This was a moment that totally floored me, because Superman is typically one to shy away from wanton violence, let alone something so graphic and off the cuff…
The end of the issue serves as a nice downturn in the action of the story, because Clark saves the day, but is taken into police custody, and told that the criminals who he subdued are claiming they were attacked by some fiery-eyed demon (aka- Superman). Then Clark and Martha have a bit of a rough conversation, because Martha throws Clark’s inability to be a normal “human teenager” in his face, but they reconcile in a way that feels very fitting for the character, and it sets up the personality of Superman and his avoidance of grotesque violence for the future.
I liked that it ended on a bit of a hopeful note with Clark and Martha in a warm mother-son embrace as the sun was rising, leading into the backup story for the book- which was an unexpected treat… Doomsday makes his appearance in this book, and we are given a glimpse into his mind. he speaks in clipped sentences and with poor grammar, but he has a clear goal in mind- “want to die. Cant. Want to kill. Cant.” It was a very blunt explanation of Doomsday’s mindset- he is bred to want violence, that will only end when he is dead. Which is why he was the big test for Superman, but why there were so many problems with someone who matched Superman in every possible way physically to engage in a straightforward punchfight to the death… but, once again, that is a story for another time. I hope to see more from Doomsday in this book, because I think it will be something that Max Landis takes great care with, and does very well.
This book was a lot of fun to read, it was beautiful and a bit funny, while still very serious and dark and violent. I think that this series could serve as a nice primer for anyone new to the Superman mythos that wants a bit of a crash course in what it was like growing up Superman. I really hope this book continues with it’s high quality output, and that this means more good things for Max Landis in comic books for the future, because he is someone who I would very much like to see do more stories, and I doubt I am alone in that.