John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi deliver readers an incredibly topical issue this week in The Other History of the DC Universe #3 that fleshes out a classic character and adds to the deep other history of the DC Universe. While Tatsu Yamashiro’s spotlight might not be for all readers, it addresses the specific issues of AAPI hate which Americans are dealing with at this very moment. So in the same way Ridley weaved the tragedies of African American communities in real America into The Other History of the DC Universe #1 and #2, he weaves the far less talked about tragedies of AAPI communities into issue #3.
This is the first issue Ridley stumbles out of the gate with. It takes him a while to fully grasp Yamashiro’s voice, and he initially makes some changes to the character’s traditional mythology that some readers might find hard to swallow. Once he settles into the story, though, these issues mostly evaporate, especially if readers give him leeway to tell the story he intends.
Ridley has a harder time getting away from other issues. He clearly has a harder time conveying the oppression of AAPI communities with the same linguistic clarity and power that he does for African American communities. It’s not terribly surprising, or a huge issue, but it should be noted. He also, for the first time in the series, struggles with nuance. While the book is overtly political, and it’s really good at it, throughout the first two issues the situations characters endured often spoke for themselves as testaments to oppression. In contrast, here Ridley is over-emphasizing the problems he’s trying to convey from the very beginning. It feels at times ham-fisted in an otherwise poignantly written book and series.
As the issue gets rolling, it becomes readily apparent that Yamashiro is an excellent counterpart to The Other History of the DC Universe #1’s Jefferson Peirce and issue #2’s Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher-Duncan. Her growth into a hero from a place of tragedy contrasts wonderfully with Peirce’s tragedy of Sisyphus style story.
Ridley develops her with a fulfilling arc that sees her growing from downtrodden mother to steely hero, and sees her tragedies addressed in a meaningful and impactful way. It’s some of the strongest work done with the character in over a decade. That’s not necessarily saying much considering how infrequently Yamashiro is given the spotlight, but it’s still true.
Most of her story in this issue starts in a storyline that was initially introduced in The Other History of the DC Universe #1: the formation of The Outsiders. It’s an indispensable part of her development, but readers might consider her development too entwined with that of the Outsider, and lacking a large degree of development outside of a team setting. This is especially true when compared to Pierce’s issues. It comes across more as an indictment of DC’s poor development of the character, as opposed to Ridley’s work.
Her most crucial relationship comes as part of the Outsiders, with fellows Outsider Halo. Her surrogate motherhood allows readers and Yamashiro herself to connect with much of the humanity in the story. It’s a great illustration of what she lost in the story’s opening, as well as the reason she develops as a character. It’s also one of the few joyous parts of the issue, which lifts the work as a whole.
The Outsiders is also when Ridley’s script issues rear their head again. Yamashiro is discussing the rape of Tara Markov by Deathstroke, and it’s evident what Ridely is commentating on based on the situation and the plot, but he feels the need to reiterate it over the top of what’s already being done. It makes what should be a very solemn moment feel like it’s being co-opted to make a statement.
In contrast, one of the best parts of the issue is when he steps back and simply lets the readers connect the dots for themselves when Yamashiro visits Manzana, CA, the site of Japanese Internment camps in World War 2.
This is also an illustration of the strongest element of this whole series: the integration of real world events into the DC Universe. Like the inclusion of the Atlanta Murders in The Other History of the DC Universe #1, it’s these small real life anecdotes that make this series feel so poignant and important. There’s a genuine sense of tragedy which the characters, and other elements of the story are able to borrow from these anecdotes.
It’s also important as it helps ground Yamashiro’s commentary throughout the issue. It brings the reality of oppression into the DC Universe, and that makes her more compelling and genuine.
Camuncoli and Cucchi continue over the almost picturebook style of the previous two issues. Their emulating of classic artists and covers brings the readers into the time period which these stories were initially told. It consistently shows characters at their most iconic statuses and makes the universe feel like the real and complete DC Universe.
The art and crossover of classic DC Comics with real world events visually is what truly sells this as what really happened in the DC Universe. The Death of Superman being portrayed in the same style just three pages after the depiction of Japanese Internment Camps creates a complex and interesting world which readers will be driven to explore more of.
The Other History of the DC Universe #3 is the worst issue of this series, but to borrow a cliche, that still makes it better than most other comics readers will pick up. Outside of a small lack of comfort in the issues as compared to the previous issues, and a slow start, Ridley still barrels forward with a complete re-envisioning of the DC Universe that is incredibly important for our time. This issue specifically, in this time specifically, couldn’t be a better pair.
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