THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE #2/ Story by JOHN RIDLEY/ Layouts by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI/ Finishes by ANDREA CUCCHI/ Colors by JOSE VILLARRUBIA/ Letters by STEVE WANDS/ Cover by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI & MARCO MASTRAZZO / Variant Cover by JAMAL CAMPBELL/Published by DC BLACK LABEL
The original Teen Titans book was weird.
I know that’s a loaded comment, given how superhero comics tend to the strange, but the original Teen Titans comics were truly “far out,” to borrow a line from the pseudo-hep-cat wordage that passed for modern slang at the time. Blame it on assigning the book to Robert Kanigher; a writer who was as skilled as writing realistic teenagers as he was writing strong women. (Kanigher was the writer responsible for making Wonder Woman obsessed with marrying Steve Trevor after William Moulton Marston died and for turning Lois Lane’s comic into a series of farces in which Lois tried to trick Superman into marrying her.) But I digress, though I think I can be forgiven the quick history lesson given the subject at hand.
The Other History of The DC Universe #2 continues John Ridley’s examination of DC Comics history and real world history through the eyes of minority heroes. This chapter looks back at the Teen Titans from the viewpoint of Mal Duncan (aka Guardian, aka Horn Blower, aka Herald) and Karen Beecher (aka Bumblebee), painting a picture of the classic Titans that is far from rosy. Not that Robin, Wonder Girl and the gang are portrayed as being racist, but more that they were rich kids who had no idea how lucky they were and no clue how to live on the mean streets of Hell’s Corner. This true history of the Teen Titans alternates between Mal and Karen’s viewpoints and under Ridley’s pen they come off as a real couple trying to tell a story together, with tangents as to what the other one forgot, left out, or just plain got wrong.
This adds a humorous undercurrent to the narrative, with Karen the scientist warning the reader that as much as she loves her husband he is prone to embellishment, as he relates how he beat up the Angel of Death twice and was given the horn of the archangel Gabriel himself. (As I said, the original Titans comic was WEIRD!) Conversely, Mal goes on to point out that Karen can’t seem to view the world outside of her science and that her solution to trying to scare him straight and prove that the other Titans only saw him as their black friend rather than an equal partner involved building a super-suit and accidentally becoming the first black superheroine.
As with the first chapter of this anthology series, Ridley weaves real world events into the narrative, with Karen discussing what a big deal Arthur Ashe’s victory at Wimbledon was for the African American community and the national nightmare inspired by the Atlanta Child Murders. There’s also an examination of one of the odder points of classic DC Comics history; how Superman raised Supergirl in secret and Karen’s speculation as to how things might have been different if she’d been allowed to join the Titans and grow up alongside other super-powered teens. This proves important later, as Karen realizes that Superman’s actions were born more of his fear of losing the one other person like him in the whole universe rather than any sort of misogynic quality and comes to confront her own tendency to assume the worst of people.
The artwork is as beautiful as before, with the text inserted admid the full-page layouts assembled by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi. The styles shift from page to page, as they emulate other artists like George Perez while dipping into photo-realism for the pages involving real events. This serves to draw the reader deeper into the story, even as the perspective keeps shifting. Steve Wands does a fantastic job of keeping things moving, however, with color shifts in the lettering denoting who is telling the story at any given moment.
With this second chapter, The Other History of The DC Universe continues to impress and be required reading for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of DC Comics or an expert on comics’ history. Even I learned some things from this book and it should go without saying you should check this out if you’re a Teen Titans fan.