Review: SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN #2
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Letters: Janice Chiang
Reviewed by: Alex McDonald
Superman Smashes the Klan #2: Teenager Tommy Lee is missing, and Superman is on the case! It can’t be a coincidence that just last night, Tommy bravely confronted the Klan of the Fiery Cross when they surrounded the Lee family’s Metropolis house and told them to go back to Chinatown. The year is 1946, and Clark Kent is so new to being Superman that he hasn’t yet learned to fly-so his search for Tommy is conducted in huge, gravity-defying leaps that make Tommy’s sister, Roberta, suspect the Man of Tomorrow may not be an earthling at all!
But if this strange, young hero can adjust to his adopted home, perhaps she can, too. First, though, they must stop the Klan from blowing up Unity House, which has welcomed the Chinese-American Lee family into their community. But could the real target be across town, where Superman’s friends Jimmy, Lois, and Perry work at the Daily Planet? Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us part two of his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!
This time around readers get more of Superman himself ‘coming of age’ as his powers develop. This is still mirrored with the Lee family as they make friends in high school. Following the events of the last issue Chuck has become more tolerant of those different from him. This issue delves into how racism is formed within young people and offers suggestions for how it tackle it.
It’s great to see a book tackle topics like these. The childlike innocence the story portrays allows for poignant discussion on discriminatory talking points. Roberta displays striking observations of racism around her like the “bigots in bedsheets” but is surprised when confronted by her former friends from Chinatown. While Roberta struggles from genuine carsickness, her friends believe she avoided meeting them because she and her family feel they’ve ‘escaped’ Chinatown, that they’re better than others. This isn’t true for Roberta but gives the character another dimension as she grows and her understanding of racism develops.
Superman’s issues within the story offers moments of levity. Yang’s use of humour in sections with Clark and Lois adds to the cartoonish tone the art showcases. In essence Superman’s story here is no different from the Lee family, he’s just a different type of ‘Other.’ By contrasting his struggles with the Lee family, it reminds readers why they love Superman, and why we all connect with him.
Like last time the artwork is phenomenal. It’s always great when the writing and artwork match perfectly, but Guirihiru and Gene Luen Yang work in tandem. Superman manages to look like your pal as well as a superhero, while the cartoony aesthetic makes readers feel like kids again. This is a great story for readers of just about all ages.
Just like last time there’s not much to criticise. Similar to the last issue there is the minor complaint of historical revisionism, with everyone 1946 to be fairly virtuous and accepting of minorities (excluding the bad guys). It’s understandable why this is, but it detracts ever so slightly from the themes of discrimination and prejudice to consider Post War America as this accepting. However, this is a Superman comic and this is a nit-pick.
If you’re not reading this then you should be. In a time that really needs it, Gene Luen Yang is reminding people who Superman is and why we need him. Gurihiru’s artwork makes us feel like kids reading our first Superman comic again. This is an action comic that manages to prove that Superman doesn’t have to battle aliens the size of the moon to be powerful. A must read for Superman fans, and a huge recommendation for comics fans.