Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

This graphic novel really has it all. History, action, and the icon that is Superman. The story starts when the Lee family moves out of Metropolis’s Chinatown and into a ‘regular’ neighborhood. Unfortunately, this catches the eye of the bigots in the Ku Klux Klan. While the father, Dr. Lee, adjusts to his new position in the city’s health department, his children Roberta and Tommy find themselves at the front lines of racism in post-WW2 Metropolis.

Superman opens up the great novel with punching out a villain of his own: a leftover super Nazi named Mr. Atom. Yet, in this action he finds is found one of Superman’s rare  weaknesses, a metal that takes away his strength. This leads him to more discoveries about his backstory because in this book he isn’t aware of much of his mythos. There is an internal conflict between the life the Kent’s have set forth for him and the aliens who start to appear to Superman during the course of the book. He’s scared and unsure of their purpose.

Yes, the artwork is fulfilling. Yes, the pacing is perfect. Yes, the juxtaposition between Superman’s alienness and the Lees as “other” provides a depth that just sucks you in. But the part that did it for me was Yang’s essay at the end of the book about his connection to Superman. It tells the story of the original legacy of his fight against bigotry and how Yang chose to update the story while still holding true to the roots of history, style, and diction.

Superman Smashes the Klan is broken up into three part and at just under 250 pages, this is a book where you can truly follow complete arcs of many of the characters. I’d love for this book to be in my school’s library and I will be recommending to my students as well as my history teacher friends. I see a huge audience for this wonderful graphic novel.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, DC Comics, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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