Review: The Other History of the DC Universe #1
I had high expectations for John Ridley‘s The Other History of the DC Universe. But, I didn’t expect The Other History of the DC Universe #1 to crush those expectations so much. It’s that good and well worth the wait. Ridley is a producer and writer who has been behind such amazing productions as 12 Years a Slave and American Crime. The latter one being some of the best television in the last decade. And in this debut, Ridley does in one issue what others haven’t achieved in an entire run.
The Other History of the DC Universe #1 kicks off a new miniseries that explores the history of the DC Universe from the perspective of characters from disenfranchised groups. This isn’t the white-washed history written by winners, instead, it’s a brutal and honest take from perspectives we don’t get to often read and see.
The debut issue follows the story of Jefferson Pierce, the man who will one day become Black Lightning. Taking place between 1972 and 1995, we see Pierce’s growth from a young man to star athlete to teacher to hero. It shows us both the good and the bad in a condensed take on the character’s history. We get highs, lows, victories, and tragedies, all in one issue.
Ridley’s delivery is amazing. There’s a poetic flow to his narrative which forgoes traditional dialogue and instead pages are packed with Pierce’s thoughts. The issue feels more like a novel with amazing visuals than a traditional comic. This is more of a diary confession. Taken through the years we get a sense of how events impact Pierce and his decisions on each step of his journey. There’s good and bad as we see how those decisions both succeed and fail. It’s an honest assessment of the character and we can see his growth and failures as a person. In one comic Ridley gives us a fully fleshed out character full of flaws and an understandable perspective.
Through Pierce, Ridley explores the rise of DC’s superheroes including Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman, and their impact on the world. It’s a brutal and honest take highlighting the focus on global threats but ignoring everyday suffering. Any of these heroes could potentially reshape so much of the social injustice but they choose not to. They stay out of the day to day struggles and slip into their roles as Gods protecting mankind. Black Lightning and Pierce are the antitheses of that, shaping children at the school level and then shaping the community in a battle against street crime. He also sees it as white heroes ignoring those of a different skin color. The trio, Green Arrow, the Flash, with the only person not quite fitting that being Martian Manhunter. Ridley explores, through Black Lightning, that these heroes didn’t dare cross into his territory to help, only to scold him.
Ridley is boosted by the jaw-dropping layouts and art. Giuseppe Camuncoli handles the layouts with Andrea Cucchi‘s finishes and the result is amazing. The pages are unreal in style, perspective, and use of panel. The line art itself captures the look of DC Comics during the time. The duo are helped by José Villarubia‘s colors which again echo the style of the 70s and 80s. This is a love letter when it comes to the classic art style of DC Comics from Neal Adams to Denny O’Neil with a little Frank Miller thrown in as well. Everything comes together visually for a treat and one of the best looking issues this year.
Steve Wands‘ lettering too just adds so much. When I mentioned there was a lot of text, I wasn’t joking. Pages are near prose level and Wands makes it flow packing in so much into each page. The skill to pull that off and not impact the imagery is at master level. What’s more impressive is the lettering at times looks like it was worked into the art, spaces purposely left to fill in with Ridley’s prose.
The Other History of the DC Universe #1 is a triumph of a comic. Though it’s main character has amazing powers, in the end it’s the man that truly matters. We see his impact, both good and bad, in the streets fighting and his role in the school guiding. Ridley shows us the fallout, the bodies piled up, the marriage shattered. He gives us a realistic and honest take on the superhero. And he does all of this in one issue.
Story: John Ridley Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli Finishes: Andrea Cucchi
Color: José Villarubia Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review