Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher have shared a lot of adventures, but they don’t always agree on how they all went down. Your Major Spoilers review of The Other History of the DC Universe #2 from DC Comics awaits!
THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE #2
Writer: John Ridley
Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Finishes: Andrea Cucchi
Colorist: Jose Villarrubia
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Mark Doyle/Andy Khouri/Amedeo Turturro
Publisher: DC Comics/Black Label
Cover Price: $6.99
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Previously in The Other History of the DC Universe: Before the New Teen Titans, there were the original Teen Titans. In the tumultuous 1970s, in an America that was very different than today but in many ways all too familiar, the trials and tribulations of these young heroes were witnessed by two of DC’s first Black superheroes: Karen Beecher-Duncan, better known as Bumblebee, and Mal Duncan, even if their versions of events are often at odds. And across that decade, they fought for their seats at the Titans’ table while joining the battle against injustice.
ONCE UPON A TIME, IN THE SEVENTIES
An important thing that many people don’t realize about the DC Universe; Mal Duncan may be the first Black hero in their history, debuting before John Stewart, before Cyborg, before Black LIghtning. This issue is an oral history, going back and forth between Mal and his wife Karen, going over the strange and fragmented history of the Teen Titans and Mal’s participation. Like last issue, it takes the tack that the stories happened mostly in real time, meaning that his 1970 debut takes place in 1970 and their adventures span the decade, tying in real-world events and the work of half a dozen writers. Mal’s back-and-forth switching from Guardian to Hornblower, Karen’s sudden creation of a technologically advanced superhero costume, the team’s breakups and reformations… It’s all laid out, including Karen’s resentment of the Titans for the way they treated Mal, as well as her discontent that none of the heroes of the DCU intervened in the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979.
YOU HAD ME WITH THE JERICHO RETCON
The main thrust of this comic is to provide actual historical perspective and parallels between the real world struggle of African-Americans, with Karen even calling out the slow gains and losses of the decade for Civil Rights. As a comic nerd, I really appreciate the attention to detail here, such as Mal’s discovery of the truth about the first Jericho, a superhero written to be Black whose origin story was heavily rewritten by editorial, afraid of how certain audience members would respond to him. It’s an important moment, and it also helps to explain (in-universe and out) the treatment of Mal Duncan by his fellow heroes and the constant editorial revamps. Ridley perfectly balances these textual and meta-textual influences into a persona, coherent story of two people becoming heroes and then a couple. I also love this issue’s visuals, emulating the work of Nick Cardy, George Perez and others as it moves through history, making for a truly attractive package that celebrates and respects the comics that came before it.
BOTTOM LINE: PERFECT
It must be incredibly hard to write a book like this, spanning so much time and trying to pull together the work of disparate creators while also addressing the reality of being Black in the United States, but The Other History of the DC Universe #2 pulls it off with grace and dignity, with the strong art working with an incredibly well-crafted story to make a must-buy issue that earns 5 out of 5 stars overall. I’d normally even complain about the book’s price-point, but 48 pages of excellence that also says something important about real-world issues is well worth the $6.99.
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THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE #2
This comic is remarkable, well-drawn, well-written and well-researched.
And frankly, it's well overdue.