Imagine if a young Clark Kent thought he knew better than his parents about everything—just like everyone does when they’re a teenager! Middle grade readers will see a lot of themselves in the Clark Kent we’re introduced to in Clark & Lex. The new all-ages graphic novel by Brendan Reichs and Jerry Gaylord reimagines the future Superman as a boastful middle school football star who longs to stand out, no matter what his father says.

When he gets the opportunity to be recognized for being special, Clark jumps at the chance. But he’ll soon learn that even superheroes can’t go it alone…

Big Fish in a Smallville Pond

The Kents raise Clark to keep his head down, but he can’t help wanting to rise above and be more than normal. He uses his powers to score touchdowns and gain popularity, while his father constantly reminds him to blend in and be a team player, much to Clark’s frustration.

A LuthorCorp contest for a summer internship in Metropolis seems like the impatient teen’s ticket off the farm. Clark uses his powers to his full advantage and manages to score a coveted spot in the finals. His father can’t shake the feeling that it’s a bad idea, but allows him to go to Metropolis to compete.

As soon as he arrives all by himself in the big city, however, Clark is overwhelmed. Just as he’s ready to turn around and go home, a friendly hand on his shoulder offers a helping hand. It’s fellow contestant…Lex Luthor!

Unlikely Friendship

Lex entered the contest, a special project of his father’s, under an alias as a small act of rebellion. Clark admires the charmed life Lex leads and the two quickly hit it off as friends. They find common ground in dealing with their fathers’ expectations and eventually decide to team up and win the two internship spots together.

But when the competition heats up, Clark and Lex start to struggle under the pressure, and a rift forms between them. Clark realizes there’s more to the contest—and the other contestants—than it seems. LuthorCorp is running experiments to find kids with special abilities they can research and exploit. The other kids begin disappearing.

Like Father, Like Son

When the situation looks grim, Clark and Lex both turn to their fathers’ lessons with very different results. Clark recalls Jon Kent teaching him to help others even when it’s inconvenient and finally understands where he’s coming from. He teams up with another contestant to rescue the missing kids, which now include Lex. But when Clark finally finds Lex, he’s shocked to see him standing in their way. He refuses to make his overbearing dad disappointed one more time.

Will Clark and Lex ever find common ground again? And how is Clark going to get out of this?

For parents, Clark & Lex is a gentle reminder that kids do hear what their parents say, for better or worse. Despite the eyerolls, Jon Kent’s words sink in and are there for Clark when he needs them the most. On the other hand, Lionel Luthor’s constant berating and scolding also stick with Lex and shape the person he becomes. Teens might rebel and choose to not obey, but they still listen to their parents—no super-hearing needed.

Clark & Lex is for the kids who’ve imagined having superpowers and using them to get everything they want, which is just about every kid. This graphic novel is well suited for young readers who might find it hard to connect with a super do-gooder like Clark Kent, whose virtue feels out of reach. This Clark feels like a real, modern-day teen who struggles with finding his place in the world, and kids will understand his feelings well, while hopefully gaining some new appreciation for one of DC’s most storied superheroes.

Clark & Lex by Brendan Reichs and Jerry Gaylord is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.

Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and pop culture.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.