Goodreads: Superman Smashes the Klan
Series: Collects issues #1-3
Published: May 12, 2020
When their father gets a new job, Tommy and Roberta Lee move out of Chinatown into Metropolis. Tommy is excited to live in the same city as his hero, Superman, but Roberta struggles to fit in. Then the Klan of the Fiery Cross starts targeting the Lee family. Can Tommy and Roberta help Superman stop the Klan from hurting more people?
Superman Smashes the Klan is Gene Luen Yang’s take on a 1940s radio serial that featured Superman defending a Chinese-American family against the brutalities of white supremacists. Decades later, in the midst of a pandemic that has seen an increase of racist attacks against Asian Americans, the message remains timely. Readers will be inspired to see two Chinese-American protagonists leading the fight for acceptance and equality, along with their hero Superman–who, as it turns out, may also need a little encouragement from his new friends. Gene Luen Yang delivers another unforgettable story with Superman Smashes the Klan.
Superman Smashes the Klan is the perfect entry story for readers who have little to no knowledge of Superman–and it is especially perfect for younger readers. The two protagonists are, of course, children: Tommy and Roberta Lee. But Superman, even though an established hero, is still learning about himself and his powers. The stories of the Lees and Superman intertwine as the Lees struggle to find acceptance in their new home, but so does Superman. Because, as it turns out, Superman is an outsider, too–an immigrant from another planet! Superman Smashes the Klan is thus sort of an origin story, with Superman learning more about his past and more about what he is able to do. Readers do not need to possess any prior knowledge about Superman to enjoy this story.
Genen Luen Yang is a phenomenal writer and that shows here, not only in how the stories intertwine, but also in the characterizations of our heroes. At first, it seems like Tommy Lee might be the main protagonist. He is utterly charming and able to make friends and fit in with just about anyone. His sister, meanwhile, gets anxious easily, has trouble making friends, and never feels like she really belongs. Roberta, however, ends up as the real hero of the story, saving her brother when he is kidnapped and finding her voice with the help of her role model/mentor Lois Lane. Most importantly, however, Roberta is able to use her experiences to connect with Superman and teach him something about himself. She is a far cry from the “unnamed” sister of the original radio serial!
Superman Smashes the Klan is just as amazing a story as one would expect from the pen of Gene Luen Yang. It teaches a pertinent message, but without ever feeling preachy. Rather, it relies on its incredible storytelling and its lovable characters to make its point. The brilliant illustrations by Gurihiru make the book complete. You don’t have to be a Superman fan to enjoy Superman Smashes the Klan. You only have to love a good story.