Superman Smashes the Klan #1 (of 3) Review

by Olivier Roth on October 17, 2019

Written by: Gene Luen Yang

Art by: Gurihiru

Lettering by: Janice Chiang

Published by: DC


Before this comic came out, I was very curious to see how the team of Yang and Gurihiru would tackle the subject matter of Superman going up against a fictionalized version of one of the historically large hate groups in the United States. After reading this first issue, my answer was given to me: with tact and a clear cut reason why Superman is the good guy and why the Klan are not. 


For those who may not know, this is a story adaptation of the Superman serial “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” and Yang and Gurihiru do it justice.   


The comic is set in 1946 Metropolis and because of this, Yang chooses to portray Superman with the power set that he had in comics back then. If you know your Superman history, you’ll know that Superman couldn’t fly back then - Yang gives a couple of nods to this in the comic - but could only leap “20 stories”. With Superman, our second protagonist is Roberta Lee - a second-generation Chinese-American who, along with her parents and brother, move from Metropolis’ Chinatown, to what appears to be the Suburbs.


Moving to a new house and neighborhood already poses a set of new problems for any kid, but Roberta soon learns to feel out of place not only as the new kid, but also as the child of immigrants. Yang contrasts this with Roberta’s brother who is athletic, very open, and seems to make friends easily, regardless of who he is. 


This contrast is important as any book dealing with a fictionalized version of the Ku Klux Klan, racism and its effects need to be discussed and shown in its different lights. Yang portrays this with a deft hand throughout as it is not only the outward expression of hatred from the Klan he shows, but also the covert racism that can permeate. He makes sure to touch upon, even if for only a few panels, more than one form. 


When I saw that Gurihiru was chosen as the artist for a comic that would have such heavy subject matter, I was a little taken aback at first, I’ll admit. However, after reading the issue and marveling at Gurihiru’s work - which is always clean, vibrant, and full of color - I saw exactly why they were chosen. This comic is an important one and is one that if I had children, I would show to them, as a whole is a great way of analyzing racism in some of its forms. Not many artists offer an almost pleasing to all style like Gurihiru does. In the end, this could easily have been a grim and gritty showcase, but then it wouldn’t have appealed to a wider audience. 


Superman Smashes the Klan is a must read for me. Tackling the subject matter of racism is not always easy, but Yang and Gurihiru do a marvelous job of breaking it down so that anyone can understand the message.

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