CONTENT WARNING: Superman: The Harvests of Youth contains online bullying and suicide. If you are sensitive to these topics, then Superman: The Harvests of Youth may not be right for you.
Recent Superman stories like My Adventures With Superman and Superman & Lois have treated fans to a more human side of Clark Kent. But Superman: The Harvests of Youth might be the most personal story yet in the character’s long history. The insightful YA graphic novel by Sina Grace tackles some tough and relevant topics for readers of any age by asking an important question: How does Superman handle a problem that his superpowers can do nothing about?
On the book’s eye-catching cover, a young man with dark hair and glasses sits atop a fence in the countryside. It can only be Clark Kent, although this isn’t how we’re used to seeing the future Superman. In typical Clark fashion, he’s looking straight-on at whatever awaits him, but his expression is melancholy. While he’s surrounded by his friends both new and familiar, you get the feeling that they’re all a little lonely in their own ways.
The rolling farm fields behind Clark firmly set the graphic novel in Smallville in the days of his youth. The small Kansas town is home to the Kents, Clark’s closest friends Lana Lang and Pete Ross…and a growing threat.
Tell Me a Story:
Clark Kent is a not-so-typical high school junior. He hides his unbelievable superpowers from everyone except his best friend, Pete, who’s unfazed by his abilities. One morning, however, the serenity of small-town life is broken by wailing sirens. Clark, worried that someone needs help, dashes to the school where the police have gathered. He uses his X-ray vision and what he sees inside the school is a shock: a student took his life inside one of the classrooms.
As Clark struggles with his own feelings of guilt—could he have stopped him somehow?—he offers his support to the student’s grieving sister, Amy. Clark and Amy grow closer, but he also feels a distance growing among his other friends. And how is a hostile online group connected to it all?
Let’s Talk Art:
Sina Grace is both writer and artist for this up-close and unhurried look at the Man of Steel’s early days as a superhero. Iconic Smallville characters like Clark, Lana, Pete and Chloe Sullivan are both recognizable and distinct in Grace’s flowing style. The warm colors by Cris Peter, with red, orange, yellow and pink on almost every page, evoke a sense of autumn and echo the “harvest” of the book’s title. Smallville is cozy and comfortably lived in, but there’s a little bit of a chill in the air as the teens tackle the challenges of growing up.
You know Jonathan and Martha Kent as the wholesome parents who raised one of the world’s greatest heroes, but in a refreshing change of pace, The Harvests of Youth shows that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. They call each other out. They snap at Clark. They’re occasionally at a loss for the right thing to say. (I appreciate your football metaphors though, Pa Kent.)
But as Ma tells a concerned Clark, disagreements don’t mean they don’t love each other. It’s a nice reminder—especially for those of us who are parents ourselves—that Ma and Pa Kent are human as well, with good days and bad days.
Voted Most Likely:
When Clark and Pete get to their senior year, there’s no question they’ll win the award that this entire graphic novel earns as well: Best Bromance!
Not only is Pete unbothered by Clark’s unusual abilities, but he’s also someone Clark can talk to any time. Pete is outgoing and caring, and a person who always goes the extra mile for his friends without a single complaint. Whether Pete learned that from Clark or Clark learned it from him, the two make a perfect pair of friends.
Most Crushworthy Character:
You’d think the answer would obviously be Clark Kent. While he is sweet and thoughtful and handsome and…wait, where was I going with this? Oh yes, Clark is always someone to swoon over, but there’s another character worthy of everyone’s admiration in this story. There’s a popular saying, “Do no harm, but take no sh*t,” and that’s Lana Lang in Superman: The Harvests of Youth.
Lana is one of Clark’s closest friends and, like the Teen of Steel, was adopted when she was a baby. (Her moms and her birth parents know each other, however.) Lana works with Clark on the school newspaper. By pitching a “getting to know you” feature for the paper, she teaches Clark that you don’t always need super speed or strength to help others. Sometimes, all you have to do is take the time to listen and make them feel seen.
She also stands up to bullying, even when it comes from a friend, with a loud and clear voice. When her supposed friend shushes her for making a scene, Lana responds that she’ll be as loud as she wants because he’s the one who started it. Instant. Crush.
One Perfect Page:
Clark is a writer at heart, and in just a few words, he eloquently sums up what it’s like to soar among the clouds. As Clark kisses Amy for the first time, he says it’s as close as you can get to actually flying. Grace couldn’t have painted a more perfect picture, figuratively or literally. I can practically feel the butterflies in my stomach that come with that first-kiss feeling that something wonderful is about to begin.
Superman: The Harvests of Youth beautifully balances those feelings of young love and hope with the reality that not every problem in life can be easily solved, not even with superpowers. The lack of looming super-villains, aliens or explosions make this graphic novel feel intimate and like a different kind of Superman story. We might not be lucky enough to call Clark Kent a friend in real life, but Superman: The Harvests of Youth makes us feel closer to him than ever before.
If you need help or know someone who does, call or text 988 to connect to a trained crisis counselor. 988 is confidential, free and available 24/7/365.
Superman: The Harvests of Youth by Sina Grace is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
Kelly Knox swoons over Superman and adores every story told about the first meeting of the World’s Finest. When she’s not reading comics, she’s waiting impatiently for the next book by Justina Ireland and Tessa Gratton. Find her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.
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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.