Writer Gene Luen Yang is an ambassador of comic storytelling (literally). Superman Smashes the Klan #1 is a prime example why. Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial, the comic is a retro story in a way. Superman fights a KKK like organization who wants a new Chinese family to leave the neighborhood.
Yang is an amazing writer who infuses his own personal history, and history in general, with compelling stories. They can be enjoyed on a surface level or in a deeper way. They also often make you think.
Superman Smashes the Klan #1 is an example of his talent with an almost innocent style about it. It’s clear who the bad guys are and who the hero is. There’s no ambiguity about that. There’s a childlike clarity to it. With two children, Tommy and Roberta Lee, as the main characters, it’s fitting the story has this tone and sense of right and wrong.
Characters are depicted of the time with racist and now cringeworthy words coming out of their mouths. It captures the pervasive racism of the time and thought that anyone not white (which itself was defined differently then) was other. That’s on display here.
The story too gets Superman back to his roots. When he debuted in 1939 he fought crooked landlords and politicians not supervillains and here his battling hooded racists is on that level. There’s clearly more to come infusing a sci-fi aspect to it as the comic opens with him battling a Nazi powered by Kryptonite.
The art has a hint of Fleischer’s iconic Superman cartoons and Darwyn Cooke’s Justice League: New Frontier. Gurihiru’s art is amazing with an animated quality about it. There’s an innocence and such pure style about it that it makes the more uncomfortable scenes that much more so. Roberta Lee is adorable in so many ways, not just Yang’s writing, but Gurihiru’s detail in her body language. It’s just beyond perfect in so many ways.
This is an amazing release that exceeds expectations in every way and near perfection, if not achieving it. Beyond the story, Yang delivers a history of the KKK in the United States including some of his personal experiences with racism. In a world with right-wing fascism, hatred on the rise, and it all front and center, to have Nazi/racist punching so clear is a breath of fresh air. Superman is a symbol for fighting for what’s right and this comic embodies that clearly in every way.
Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Gurihiru Letters: Janice Chiang
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy