Superman Smashes the Klan #3 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Gurihiru, Artist
Ray – 10/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru have put together what’s destined to be a DC classic, a story that ends perfecting in Superman Smashes the Klan #3. Essentially an oversized all-ages OGN split into three parts, Superman Smashes the Klan manages to be both a thrilling adventure featuring a rookie Superman as he grapples with his identity, and an immigrant story featuring some fascinating original characters in the Lee family – and particularly their teen daughter Roberta. When we last left off, the title had come into play in brutal fashion as Metropolis’ Klan moved from intimidation and assault to full terrorism, bombing Unity House and taking the Daily Planet hostage. Roberta is able to get Superman’s attention fast enough for him to get to the base, rescue Lois, Perry, and Inspector Henderson, and arrest the Klan, but it’s clear this is far from over.
There’s relatively little action in the middle section of this book, but it’s a testament to just how good the creators are that it doesn’t feel like it drags for a second. Instead we get an incredibly emotional and beautifully drawn segment as Superman discovers his true origins. Coupled with a flashback segment set at a Smallville circus where Clark gets his inspiration to put on a costume, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the Kents and the rest of Smallville written this well. We see a little more of Chuck’s rough road to redemption and rejecting his family’s racist past, but the big development is exactly who’s funding the Metropolis Klan and why. There’s an interesting message here about how corrupt people are more than happy to fan the flames of white supremacy in order to accomplish their larger goals, but the battle between manipulative racism and fanatical racism is solved surprisingly quickly and brutally.
Yang and Gurihiru build to a fantastic final showdown at a charity ballgame that gathers the whole cast, just in time for the true villain of this series to arrive with a new weapon that threatens Superman and push him to the limit. This final showdown sees Superman finally overcome his own anxiety as an immigrant and embrace his power and potential in brilliant fashion. It’s one of the best Superman stories I’ve read in a while, but there really isn’t a character here who isn’t handled brilliantly. Lois Lane doesn’t have too many scenes, but there’s a little touch towards the end that’s one of the best Lois scenes I’ve read recently. Yang ties it up perfectly, but I still hope he has more to say with these characters and this era. It’s one of the very best books DC has put out in recent years.
Corrina: Every now and then, you find a story that you don’t want to review, you simply want to shove it into someone’s hands and say “READ THIS NOW.”
Superman Smashes the Klan #3 is that kind of story. I could go one about the Superman aspect, about how it adds a layer to his origin that feels organic and lovely, and finalizes his growing up to be the hero he is today. I could say that his supporting cast is handled wonderfully, from Perry to Jimmy to Inspector Henderson and, yes, Lois.
But it’s the original characters that will stick with me and the scenes focused on racism and hate that will linger when other parts of the story are forgotten. There’s a scene with Chuck, who’s struggling with his family’s racism, and trying to reconcile their racist beliefs with people he loves and who finally comes out and yells that he just wants to know his family isn’t evil, okay?
It’s relatively easy in a story to point to overt racism. But it’s harder to write something that shows just how insidious it can be, as it connected to the belief that whites can’t be racist because that would make them evil and they don’t ever want to believe they’re evil or want to believe the ones they love are evil. The panel where Chuck yells about this drips with emotion, you can practically hear his scream off the page. All the emotions seep through so well in this story due to art that, while it’s suited for children, is never, ever simple.
I need more of the Lee family. I need more of this world. I need more of this creative team.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.