Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #134 by Drew Barth
Is it still the most important series in DC’s recent canon?
What creators John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, José Villarrubia, and Steve Wands have made in this series isn’t simply a realistic historical grounding of the broader DC Universe, but it is a focus on characters who had been traditionally othered or pushed aside. Very literally, it is the Other history of heroes from the silver age and onward.
Bookended by the Pierce family—Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce and his daughter, Anissa “Thunder” Pierce—The Other Historytakes a handful of characters that have traditionally been on the fringes of DC’s history and examines who they are and what they mean as characters in this universe. From Jefferson Pierce’s foundational part in The Outsiders, to Karen and Mal Duncan’s time with the Teen Titans, to Tatsu Yamashiro’s further role in The Outsiders and what brought her there, to Renee Montoya and becoming The Question, and finally to Anissa Pierce and the genetic curse of being a super family. Every single one of these stories is told with a compassion that many of these characters don’t regularly receive—we get their joys and frustrations as they try to navigate being heroes of color in a world that only wants to ever see heroes wearing bright colors instead.
Even though many of these characters have been around for decades, there haven’t been that many opportunities to look at them in this historic lens. In this iteration of the DC Universe, everything is canon. And these characters that have been through mini-series after mini-series to try to get them to latch onto the popular consciousness—solo series or otherwise—get more depth and time to just sit than most of those other series really allowed.
The Other History of the DC Universe isn’t trying for bombast. Ridley Camuncoli, Cucchi, Villarrubia, and Wands know what they’re doing with this series and know what kind of audience would be seeking it out. These aren’t single cases or events that a character has to wade through in the moment. Rather, we’re given their history. Not just who they are and where they’re from, but how they’ve become who they are in the predominately white and straight DC Universe they’re fighting in.
There is a continual brilliance in The Other History of the DC Universe that you can sometimes lose when you’re flipping through the pages. This is a comic published by one of the big two comics publishers in the US and it is a take down of racism, misogyny, and homophobia that are inherent in that publisher’s comic universe. And it’s the kind of series that feels necessary just for that. But the combination of the creator’s talents melds critique and story so well that you want to see even more.
Get excited. Get this series.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.