cover image It's Superman!

It's Superman!

Tom De Haven, . . Chronicle, $24.95 (427pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-4435-2

A focus on Clark Kent's high school years only makes comparison to the popular WB show Smallville all the more inevitable—and intentional. De Haven, whose Derby Dugan trilogy beautifully reimagined 20th-century American history through a pleasant sheen of media-tized irony, presents the man of steel as a sullen Depression-era teen, a bad WII-era reporter and as ambivalent about his super powers throughout, all with a kind of knowing that reflects a deep immersion in pulp. De Haven drives his coming-of-age tale toward Superman's first showdown with Lex Luthor and his robot "Lexbots" in the middle of (the real!) New York City—prompted, of course, by the need to save Lois Lane. He gets knocked off his feet by the Lexbots and temporarily dazed. He doesn't want to continue, doesn't think he can win. Suddenly, in an echo of recent Batman and Spiderman film adaptations, a disembodied voice rings out: "Now get off that silly chair and go do something. Doesn't matter what. Just do something, Clark." (It's his mother.) If that's not over-the-top enough, plenty of short chapters begin with lines like "Despite Lex Luthor's savvy and sensitive draft report on the Harlem race riot...." De Haven gives readers X-ray vision for determining when his tongue is in his cheek here; using it is great fun.(Nov. 1)