DC’s latest YA graphic novel, Superman Smashes the Klan, is a narrative with layers. Written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by artist group Gurihiru, the e-book is—clearly—about Superman taking down some “bigots in bedsheets” (a phrase I’ve pulled from the e-book that’s completely *chef’s kiss*), however it’s additionally a narrative about being true to oneself within the face of harsh scrutiny and worry.
Set in 1946, the e-book facilities on a Chinese language-American household, the Lees, who transfer out of Chinatown and into a unique a part of Metropolis. There, they arrive face-to-face with a severely evil hate group and the Man of Metal himself. And whereas Tommy Lee finds his place rapidly and simply, his youthful sister Roberta struggles with feeling typically out of sync with the world round her.
Let’s break it down!
Very like a yellow visitors gentle, the mustard-yellow background of the quilt of Superman Smashes the Klan tells readers to pause and listen. It’s totally title-forward, focusing as a substitute on the textual content reasonably than the characters, however the title actually does catch your consideration. (Who does not wish to see Supes smashing some racists?) I additionally love how the characters are practically the identical dimension. It reveals that though this can be a Superman story, it is not solely his.
Inform Me a Story:
Roberta and Tommy Lee are the youngsters of the Metropolis Well being Division’s latest Chief Bacteriologist, and as such, discover themselves transferring to a very completely different—some would say “nicer”—a part of Metropolis. Because of their new neighbor, Jimmy Olsen, who simply so occurs to handle a local people heart baseball group, Tommy makes pals rapidly when he proves to be an ace pitcher. This rankles the group’s present pitcher, Chuck Riggs, however it actually rankles Chuck’s uncle, the Grand Scorpion of the Klan of the Fiery Kross, a robe-wearing white supremacist group that goals to “burn away America’s impurities.” They go away their flaming mark on the Lee’s garden, and the morning after, Day by day Planet reporters Lois Lane and Clark Kent arrive to doc the story.
Clark makes an attempt to concentrate, however everyone knows how simply distracted he can get. And he is much more distracted than common after a battle with a Nazi villain who relied on an unknown inexperienced energy supply that gave off a weird-yet-familiar scent and has Clark seeing unusual visions of aliens who inform him issues about himself that he does not (but) wish to imagine.
Though the 2 conditions might sound disparate at first look, there is a connection simply ready to be revealed—and revelations about what it means to be “completely different” to be made.
Let’s Speak Artwork:
Superman Smashes the Klan is a full-color e-book, however there is a muted high quality to the entire tones—even Superman’s outfit—that works properly with the e-book’s historic setting. The reds are barely dusty, the greens are extra sages and sea foams as a substitute of shiny grasses. All of them work superbly collectively to make the e-book really feel aged with out seeming vintage.
However I feel the characters’ seems are the true standouts in relation to the artwork on this e-book. Gurihiru nails the character of Superman all the way down to the brow curl, and the range of the opposite characters is properly assorted with out ever resorting to problematic stereotypes.
Very like Superman when he is smashing, Gene Luen Yang pulls no punches with the dialog of Superman Smashes the Klan. I actually flinched greater than as soon as whereas studying, because of the brutal honesty with which the blatant racism is portrayed. It is a e-book that offers with the worst of the worst type of racists, and, sadly, precisely displays the tradition of an enormous metropolis within the 1940s—blended, however not totally pleased about it.
Characters threaten youngsters and spew vitriol with a ardour. It isn’t straightforward to learn at occasions, however I respect being made uncomfortable whereas doing so. The matters on this e-book aren’t snug ones, however a frank dialogue of them should not be shied away from.
Voted Most Possible:
You would possibly count on that, being a e-book about Superman, I would counsel that Superman Smashes the Klan can be voted “Most Well-liked” in its highschool yearbook. Nonetheless, given the complexities of the e-book, and the way a lot Roberta’s story is the same as the Man of Metal’s in it, I would say it will extra precisely be named “Most Prone to Change the World.” Each of these children are going locations, and I do not simply imply into the stratosphere.
Most Crushworthy Character:
This is likely to be an sudden selection, however I fell fairly laborious and rapidly for the random little boy from the group heart who’s satisfied that Superman smells like cotton sweet clouds. I like how fixated he’s on that one facet of Superman’s individual, and it is one thing I would by no means considered earlier than. (In my thoughts, Superman smells like clear wind, newsprint and spandex.) Positive, he is a personality who does not actually have a title, however he looks like an avatar for all of us Superman followers who really feel like we all know Supes properly sufficient, however all the time wish to know extra.
The Last Phrase:
The best way Yang connects Superman’s story to Roberta’s is one thing to be applauded. Superman’s usually seen as an American hero, however it’s vital to do not forget that he is extra of an immigrant than anybody else on the complete planet. And though he is practically invincible, he is received emotions identical to the remainder of us, together with these of inadequacy and worry of the unknown.
Studying about Superman—who, in most individuals’s eyes, is an individual who has all of it collectively—experiencing comparable inner turmoil to a younger lady is extraordinarily highly effective. And that facet of the e-book, mixed with the simple commentary on racism (and, fortunately, its downfall), makes for a narrative that ought to be learn by individuals of all ages, Superman fan or no and YA fan or no.
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru is now out there in bookstores, comedian outlets, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
When Mandy Curtis isn’t studying books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting dangerous guys with Marvel Lady—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she received’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and popular culture at Endlessly Younger Grownup. Comply with her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.
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