Now that the introductions from part 1 of Superman Slashes the Klan are out of the way, we dig deeper into the thoughts of the main players and the theme here is about identity. This is a long read, coming at you with 80 pages, but these pages are packed with drama and character. Let us take a dive into this issue.
Last issue we were introduced to the Lee family and their two kids, Tommy and Roberta, who are some of the main characters. Their struggle is really intense because they are young children dealing with being the new kids on the block, but also of a different culture. I love how the two siblings have different personalities and while they clash, they come together as family. Gene Luen Yang, the writer, does a great job of getting their voices and struggles on point, and as Gene has stated, this a deep, personal story for him. Tommy’s voice is great, because this is a kid who has bonded very quickly with the new kids and also is now going to be the “big shot” with the group since he is a great baseball pitcher. I like that Tommy stays positive throughout the story as he doesn’t want to show fear or despair which could make his family want to move out of Metropolis.
His sister Roberta is a very wise young girl and she has some of the best characterization in the book. Roberta hasn’t made it big with the new group of kids and she doesn’t play baseball…if anything, she only provides the new kids with awkward stories and a weak stomach. She grows up into a confident woman quickly this issue, after her encounter with Superman while saving her brother. She is now surer and more confident; plus, she is very much on her way to being a detective as she can put the pieces together in order to see what is happening. One encounter that was interesting was Roberta running into her old friends from “Chinatown” and that got Roberta to think about how her actions can be perceived by others — this was interesting since we only know stories from our own point of view.
Young Chuck is in a really bad situation due to the actions of his uncle. I liked how Gene gave a voice to Chuck that projected doing the right thing, but also trying to protect family. Chuck’s uncle is a high-ranking leader in the KKK and is causing all kinds of trouble in town, but at the same time this uncle is taking care of Chuck and his mother. Chuck has seen his uncle be a good man, but also understands that his uncle’s actions are not the right thing to be doing. This puts Chuck in a very hard situation because the Daily Planet is offering a cash reward that would be enough money for Chuck and his mom to get on their feet. So, what should he do in this situation? Well, that is to be continued.
The best struggle of all in this issue, naturally, is Superman’s — how can a small-town farm boy accept that he is a strange visitor from another planet? I love how Gene has the mirage of his parents show up and he is embarrassed about it and wants to ignore it. I love how the mirage of Clark’s parents are disguised as both Ma and Pa Kent then they eventually become Jor-El and Lara of Krypton. The flashback to Clark’s childhood is also interesting as what would a small town think of a boy who could fly and shoot heat vision from his eyes? Yup, that’s right…the Kent boy is a demon. I love that Clark struggles with it all but in this issue, he calls forth his mirage parents in order to have the powers so he can save others. Clark recognizes that these strange powers can really come handy, but they are not “normal.” I’m looking forward to how Clark resolves this.
This issue was great and read very smoothly, despite being an 80-page issue. Writer Gene Luen Yang does a great job advancing the characters’ voices and also putting them in situations that can both be issues with culture and acceptance, but also about how we treat others and ourselves. This is a great coming-of-age story for anyone who feels like an “outsider.” The art is still very top notch as delivered by the art team of Gurihiru; I hope that if DC does decide to do an animated adaptation of the story, they keep the character styles from Gurihiru as they are very down to Earth looking but also give off that heroic look as well.
Overall, this is a strong issue that really puts the characters into deep internal struggles that will affect them and also has them questioning themselves. Great coming-of-age and also a fantastic early adventure of Superman.