The Other History of the DC Universe #2 – John Ridley, Writer; Giuseppe Camuncoli, Layouts; Andrea Cucchi, Finishes; Jose Villarrubia, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: With the second issue of John Ridley’s anthology, the focus shifts dramatically. Black Lightning’s issue put us deep in the thick of a blue-collar superhero’s world, with all the grit and pain it included. This issue’s focus is the dual heroes of Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher, and their story can’t be separated from that of the Teen Titans. Focusing on two black teenagers who get inducted into the flashiest world possible for teens, it starts by showing us their very different upbringings—Mal as a hard-luck Metropolis kid who spent much of his time battling white supremacist gangs, Karen as an up-and-coming scientist attending private school—as they quickly formed a bond that the narration make clear is a bit frayed today.
The Teen Titans segments are likely to be a little controversial, as Ridley’s take on these characters can be caustic at times. He takes all the things that lurk under the surface—Roy’s substance abuse, Donna’s isolated upbringing, Dick’s struggles with Batman, and Garth’s status as the “team weakling”—and brings them to dramatic life as we see the holes in the Teen Titans’ perfect exterior. Mal, as the team’s all-purpose custodian and eventual hero, gets to witness everything—but also finds himself on the outside looking in. Karen, always the more skeptical of the two about superheroes, finds herself pulled into their world almost against her will but soon becomes a natural thanks to her tech wizardry.
The most fascinating part of this series is the way it takes place in real time over decades, so we get to see an older Mal and Karen than ever before. This issue works in some real life events, like the brutal anti-Busing protests of the 1970s and the Atlanta child murders, alongside events from DC history. While we’ve seen Crisis on Infinite Earths plays out many times before, I don’t know if it’s ever carried as much emotional punch as in the scenes where Karen describes her unease with Supergirl’s arrival—and then her grief at her premature death in the Crisis. Teen Titans has always been a troubled franchise, with many retools and rough periods, and this issue somehow puts that all together in a devastatingly powerful emotional journey for two characters who finally get their moment in the spotlight.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.