The first six issues of Superman: American Alien all but cemented the series as one of the best Superman comics ever published. The finale issue would have to fail pretty spectacularly to screw that up. And to the surprise of absolutely no one, it doesn’t. American Alien #7 is a bit more rough around the edges than its predecessors, but it still manages to bring the series home and complete Max Landis’ examination of a hero finding his place in the world.
This issue opens with Superman firmly entrenched as the defender of Metropolis. He has his costume, his sterling reputation and basically all the trappings of a traditional Superman. He hasn’t, however, had to deal with extraterrestrial threats threatening his city, and that changes in a major way when Lobo arrives in Metropolis and begins wreaking havoc on on the city. As Clark finds himself tested in ways he never has before, he’s also forced to finally confront his murky origins and decide – is he outsider alien or homegrown hero?
There’s a lot to like about Landis’ characterization in this issue. Once again, the book seems like almost a direct attack on Man of Steel and its portrayal of the character, with Clark reacting to Lobo’s destruction not with anger and violence but shock, confusion and sadness. He’s still naive in some ways, but Landis shows how his fundamental decency, compassion and bravery are the traits that truly define Superman. And as much as this issue focuses on the confrontation between rival aliens and the resulting devastation in the city, it’s great to see Landis end his story on such a personal and intimate note. This issue completes Clark’s long character arc and journey of self-discovery in a profoundly satisfying way.
So what doesn’t quite work about this finale? For one thing, Lobo himself comes across as an odd choice of villain. He makes sense in terms of both he and Superman being the last survivors of dead civilizations, but his goofy personality doesn’t really mesh with the 9/11-esque imagery and the general tone of shock and horror driving the conflict. Also, Jock’s art isn’t quite as successful as some in bringing a key chapter of Clark’s journey to life. Jock’s murky, noir-flavored visuals suit the general tone of the story, but his storytelling lacks the clarity needed for epic, citywide battle scenes. His art is more impressive during the quieter epilogue sequence than during the main conflict.
Superman: American Alien #7 may be the weakest installment of the series, but that doesn’t say much considering how terrific this comic has been. While this finale may suffer from a misplaced villain and some muddled action scenes, it still caps off Clark’s extended character arc and delivers the final words on the series’ overarching themes. Landis can now officially enter the pantheon of great Superman writers.