You might remember my Batgirl at Super Hero High review from a few months ago and how enthusiastic I was about author Lisa Yee’s continuing literary dip into the DC Super Hero Girls universe. If you don’t…well, the short version was that I really liked that book. It was a fun romp with the underlying message that intelligence and academic success are valuable. Plus, it introduced one of my long-standing favorite characters from the DC Comics Universe to the world.
Well, I am here to tell you that Katana at Super Hero High, now available from Random House Children’s Books, is even better!
As an adult person who loves the original source material, loves the idea of what DC Super Hero Girls is, and has both read and enjoyed all three books in the series that preceded this one, I can assure you that the fourth installment is singularly wonderful.
Author Lisa Yee weaves a thoughtful narrative for Katana, who is a character with a dark and complicated history that incorporates key beats from her comic book legacy while remaining true to her young audience. Perhaps it was my own limited knowledge of Katana that allowed me to fall in love with Yee’s intelligent reimagining of the superhero samurai, but within the first chapter I was completely enamored with this latest incarnation of Tatsu Yamashiro.
The Tatsu of Katana at Super Hero High is quiet, calm and measured. Up until now, she has displayed classic disciplinary elements of a samurai warrior from her very first appearance in Wonder Woman at Super Hero High. Now that fans get a peek inside her internal narrative, she is revealed to be a student who puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed academically in the shadow of her parents, who are both professors, and her grandmother, who was the first female samurai superhero. More than any of the other “supers” that have been highlighted in this series so far, Katana has a huge legacy to live up to.
When mysterious swords follow Katana into the aqueducts under Super Hero High and then later she’s followed around by Japanese ghost crabs, a pretty cool mystery begins to unfold around our protagonist. There is a good grounding in actual Japanese history and mythology that I very much appreciated. It’s always cool when popular culture can teach you something, and, as someone who is not from Japan, I found all of the unfolding pieces of Katana’s personal history running parallel to the mounting threat to Super Hero High to be highly fascinating.
Sidebar: There’s an adorable subplot where Katana is trying out to be the captain of the fencing team that is such a brilliant choice, I just had to mention it! I will also tease that the Super Hero High Fencing Team has an important role to play in the big battle toward the end of the book, as well! Keep them in mind when you read it!
Katana’s reserved personality allows her to take on the role of mentor throughout Katana at Super Hero High that I had not expected. She is responsible for convincing Miss Martian to come out of her shell (pun intended!). Working together as a team, Katana and Miss Martian are able to not only bring the best personality traits in each other to bear, but forge means of communication with potential allies that might have otherwise fallen to the wayside.
Toward the end of the book, Katana is forced to reconcile what she thinks she knows about her grandmother and what she thinks she knows about herself in order to battle with a classic DC villain that knows more about Tatsu Yamashiro than she could have imagined. Yee also weaves in a really wonderful tie to Katana’s iconic sword. In the comic book continuity, she possesses a soultaker sword that houses the souls of its victims. In Katana at Super Hero High, the sword is equally epic and allows Katana to keep in touch with someone who is no longer alive, although they did not die at her hand.
Katana at Super Hero High highlights a wonderful character in a softer light than adult fans may be used to seeing her. It reinvents some of the most interesting aspects of her character, opens up the cast of the literary DC Super Hero Girls Universe and, honestly, has one of the coolest end battles of the series to date. In my opinion, Lisa Yee has done some of her most creative storytelling of the series in this volume and it is absolutely my favorite DC Super Hero Girls novel so far. Its wonder doesn’t take anything away from its predecessors—it’s just that awesome!
"Katana at Super Hero High" is now available at bookstores and online retailers nationwide.