In case I wasn’t clear enough last month, let me be blunt now: if you’re not reading Superman: American Alien then you’re making a huge mistake. For this issue, artist Jae Lee joins series writer Max Landis to show us the next step in Clark Kent’s journey toward becoming the Man of Steel.
When the issue starts, it seems like it’s going to be about the meet-cute between Clark and his great love, Lois Lane, but the intrepid reporter quickly leaves the scene and Clark meets up with post-island trauma Oliver Queen instead. Last issue, Ollie was just a self-centered party boy. Now, he’s the humbled CEO of Queen Consolidated who just wants to make the world a better place. Clark, on the other hand, is almost exactly the same person he was before—a bumbling nerd who’s holding back the best of himself.
It’s a striking contrast considering Clark is usually one of the more sefl-actualized heroes in DC’s pantheon, but it’s nothing compared to Clark’s interaction with his future nemesis, Lex Luthor. Admittedly, it’s a somewhat heavy-handed device to have Clark hear speeches about helping people and finding oneself from his future friends and allies, but it’s effective nonetheless. The Kents may have raised Clark to be a good man, but something had to force him to look outside himself and choose to be a hero. Listening to Lex talk about how he doesn’t care about people and wants to shape the world into his perfect vision certainly had a hand in that evolution. However, the ultimate push comes from Superman’s most important ally: Bruce Wayne.
Bruce has been flitting about the edges of the comic for awhile and he finally appears here, cape and all. At one point, a young Dick Grayson says to Clark, “Batman needs a counterpoint.” And while Clark may not understand the full truth of that statement at this stage, the issue makes it clear just how true that is. All the heroes Clark meats in this issue (Oliver, Dick and Bruce) chose to become more than what they were because of trauma. Clark is the only one who chooses to help people because he’s good and he can. He embodies hope. Realizing how important that is is what makes Superman a hero.