Something foul’s afoot in Smallville, Kansas.
Thanks to hefty investment from the formidable Mankins Corporation, the town’s economy is booming. While Mankins’ technology has an impact on local farms, another shadowy company is buying them up for more nefarious reasons. Partnering with his best friend and hotshot student paper editor, Lana Lang, Clark Kent seeks to uncover the truth behind the mysterious developments in Smallville. Various threads come satisfyingly together in de la Peña’s (Carmela Full of Wishes, 2018, etc.) tribute to the young Man of Steel, but the author aims for more fertile ground with an immigration subplot. Woven throughout the novel are discussions of a stop-and-search initiative in Smallville. The proposed law ostensibly targets the town’s minority migrant community; meanwhile, migrant workers are disappearing at an alarming rate. As always, Smallville functions as a fictional microcosm of the U.S., but here there’s a blunt effort to examine the bigotry and discord lurking beneath the optimistic American facade. On a personal level, Clark struggles to manage his burgeoning powers as he ponders his place in Smallville High and beyond. The existential angst that torments the young hero elicits sympathy. Familiar characters make appearances—hello, Lex Luthor—but a few Mexican characters appear in minor roles, including Clark’s love interest Gloria Alvarez, a promising Dreamer.
A wonderful, bold interpretation of a DC icon that aspires to embrace all readers, new and old. (Superhero adventure. 12-18)