by Matt De La Peña
Young Adult / Superhero
Published March 2019
Update: it has come to my attention that Matt De La Peña has been accused of sexual harassment. I was not aware of this when I wrote this review. It has generally been my policy to NOT separate art from artist unless the artist is no longer profiting from the work. I will not be reading any more of his books.
I mulled over which book to review today – it’s the Fourth of July, or Independence Day if you’re in the United States. I think the only superhero more all-American than Superman would be Captain America, but it’s Superman that I recently read! This is the fourth in the DC Icons series, all of which I have now reviewed. It started with Wonder Woman, then moved through Batman and Catwoman before culminating in Superman. All four books have been written by popular young adult authors, from Leigh Bardugo to Marie Lu to Sarah J. Maas. Superman went to Matt De La Peña, who I had not actually heard of before. He apparently wrote a book called Ball Don’t Lie that was made into a movie in 2011, and another book titled Mexican Whiteboy. What I’m trying to say is that De La Peña’s Hispanic background makes him a perfect choice for this book. Because whatever else can be said about Superman, his is the ultimate immigrant story.
And this book not only tells Superman’s immigrant story, but deals heavily with immigrant issues around him as well. Smallville is deliberating a new law that is basically stop-and-frisk; Hispanic people are going missing; undocumented immigrants are getting beaten in the streets. Clark is rightly horrified, and vows to get to the bottom of the disappearances.
The book is very timely, and I like what it says about one of our country’s greatest fictional heroes. It reminds me of Justice League: Gods and Monsters, in which Superman is the son of General Zod, and was raised by illegal Mexican immigrants instead of the all-American Kents. (It’s a fantastic animated movie, and well worth watching.)
Lex Luthor makes an appearance, and for a while I thought Clark’s best friend, Lana, was a stand-in for Lois, but Lois is mentioned ever-so-briefly late in the book.
This is the fourth and final book in the DC Icons series, and taken as a whole, they’re quite good. I wish they were a little more entwined with one another, but I understand that would be difficult with four different authors. But they are a very neat re-work of the four characters’ origin stories.
From the cover of Superman: Dawnbreaker:
HIS POWER IS BEYOND IMAGINING.
Clark Kent has always been faster, stronger – better – than everyone around him. But he wasn’t raised to show off, and drawing attention to himself could be dangerous. Plus, it’s not like he’s earned his powers . . . yet.
BUT POWER COMES WITH A PRICE.
Lately it’s becoming more difficult to hold back and keep his heroics in the shadows. When Clark follows the sound of a girl crying, he comes across Gloria Alvarez and learns that a dark secret lurks in Smallville. Turns out, Clark’s not the only one hiding something. Teaming up with his best friend, Lana Lang, he throws himself into the pursuit of the truth. What evil lies below the surface of his small town? And what will it cost Clark to face the truth about his past as he steps into the light to become the future Man of Steel?
BEFORE HE CAN SAVE THE WORLD, HE MUST SAVE SMALLVILLE.