In the current “Titans” series, the story of Bumblebee and Herald has been lurking quietly in the background for months. In the latest issue, the duo’s storyline jumps into the front seat and brings them back into the fold with the rest of the Titans, though it’s hard to not see some parallels to Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run in Dan Abnett, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund’s latest chapter. In order to appreciate what’s happening now, then, it’s important to take a look back on what’s happened before.
Flight of the Bumblebee
Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher were first introduced in the ’70s as part of the new recruits to the Teen Titans beyond the initial line-up. Mal Duncan’s had a handful of different names (Guardian, Hornblower, Herald, Vox) all of which involve a play on his ever-changing sonic abilities. Early on he had Gabriel’s Horn, blowing it to gain amazing abilities provided he never lost another battle. After “Crisis on Infinite Earths” the horn became less celestial/mystical and more technological, able to open up spatial warps. Near the end of the pre-“Flashpoint” continuity, Mal’s horn exploded in his face, with the pieces being fused to his body so that he then spoke with a computerized voice and was able to not only open up the warps but also blast people with sonics. During that time period, he was a new member of the Doom Patrol alongside his wife, Karen Beecher.
Karen Beecher’s introduction was somewhat straightforward; pre-“Crisis,” she used the Bumblebee suit to attack the Teen Titans in order to make her then-boyfriend, Mal Duncan, look like an effective hero. When she revealed her true identity later, they promptly offered her a spot on the team. (Hey, it was the ’70s.) She was never much more than a supporting cast character until “Infinite Crisis,” where in its aftermath, the same disaster that fused Mal to his horn also left her six inches tall. She, too, joined the Doom Patrol, still possessing her suit that let her fly and blast people. (Near the end of the continuity she was also divorced from Mal, but that idea seems to be quietly pushed to the side as part of the New 52/Rebirth continuity reset.)
Post-“Flashpoint,” the duo was still part of the secret Titans history that had been erased from everyone’s memories, as was slowly revealed during “Titans Hunt.” Mal Duncan had still been a member of the Titans under the name Herald, with his now-innate sonic powers the lynchpin of Mister Twister’s attempts to bring a demon into the current DC Universe. Karen Beecher was still his wife, but had never been a Titan. All of that changed with the revelation that Karen could fire energy blasts, using them to help defeat Mister Twister. As the character was nine months pregnant during “Titans Hunt,” though, she promptly went into labor, and the duo appeared to be destined for retirement once more.
The current storyline, “Made in Manhattan,” is where we’ve started to see some similarities between the goings on in “Titans” and “Astonishing X-Men.” The previous issue revealed to us that Herald had gone to a new mysterious organization that promised its clients that they could remove powers from those who didn’t want them. Sound familiar? “Astonishing X-Men” #1-6 introduced us to Dr. Kavita Rao and her employer Benetech, a new organization that could remove mutants’ powers. In “Astonishing X-Men” we had hundreds of mutants sign up for the “cure” of their mutant abilities, and even Beast himself seriously considered taking the serum in order to rid himself of his mutated appearance. (Ultimately, he refrained from doing so.)
Of course, in the end it was revealed that Benetech’s mission was hardly altruistic. It was really being funded by the alien Ord of the Breakworld, whose world was prophesied to be destroyed a mutant. By developing a serum that would remove mutants’ powers, he’d hoped to remove the threat before it materialized. Ultimately, Ord’s plan (which involved resurrecting Colossus) turned out to be his own undoing; it was Colossus himself that was at the heart of the plot to destroy the Breakworld, meaning that if Ord had just steered clear of Earth, his own race would have never been endangered in the first place.
In “Titans,” similar plots are starting to unfold. We’ve already learned that the power-removing Meta Solutions is really run by Psimon and the rest of the Fearsome Five. And at first, they claim altruism, even noting that Mammoth, Jinx and Shimmer had their powers removed. Beyond that, not only did they remove Herald’s powers at his request, they’ve given Bumblebee a new biometric suit that allows to control her powers with a greater degree of finesse, even allowing her to fly.
But of course, here too, not all is at it seems. Psimon isn’t really wiping out people’s powers, but rather has found a way to move them around from one host to another. The rest of the Five’s powers were easily restored when needed, and the man that Flash and Donna Troy fought in “Titans” #7 was a temporary recipient of powers courtesy Psimon. But just like Ord’s scheme that inadvertently destroyed him, Meta Solutions may have made a rather large mistake of their own. Psimon has said that Bumblebee’s abilities are “astounding” and an “unexpected source of alpha-class meta-powers.” Could it be that Bumblebee — who is livid at Psimon’s manipulation of both her and Herald — will be the ultimate destruction of Meta Solutions thanks to the biometric suit that they provided to her?
“Titans” #9 has placed Bumblebee front and center for a reason (possibly due to her raised profile as a founding character of the kid-friendly DC Super Hero Girls line-up), and somehow it feels hard to believe that she’s going to fade into the background without a fight. Maybe in the future, the Fearsome Five will learn their lesson: don’t go up against a bee unless you want to get stung.
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