Thursday, September 10, 2015

Truth, Justice and the American Born Chinese Way

 Gene Yang comes to the writing duties on the monthly Superman comic with impressive credentials, among them American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel ever nominated for the National Book Award.  It shouldn't be so shocking then that he has managed to tell a fresh story with this venerable character, nor that he balances his own particular voice with the tried and true rhythms of the quintessential superhero comic (ably assisted, it must be said, by veteran John Romita Jr.'s dynamic visuals).  His most awe-inspiring achievement, though, is that he has perfected the central relationship of the piece and, more astounding still, managed to evolve it.  Over seventy-seven years, the Lois/Superman relationship has been done well often enough, but Mr. Yang gets it so right it makes you realize this is how it was supposed to be all along.  Lois doesn't need Superman because he's big and strong.  She needs him because she understands what he sacrifices for the sake of others and for his deep and honest (and necessary) innocence.  Superman doesn't need Lois because she's pretty.  He needs her because she understands things in a way he never can, an understanding which breeds a certain toughness in her, but which she still balances with humanity.     
      This relationship is proudly on display in Superman 43, where it reaches a new level as Lois makes an impossible decision for Superman that he fails to make for himself.  At the heart of all this, of course, is Mr. Yang's ability to write compelling characters and to find a certain heroism even in those who aren't superheroes.

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