Milestone and its newly launched world of Earth-M has just gotten bigger, with the debut of the new comic book miniseries Duo by Greg Pak, Khoi Pham, and Scott Hanna. Set in Milestone's rebooted continuity on Earth-M, the new series brings a brand-new superhero and title as part of Milestone’s rapid expansion of its DC-adjacent universe. Duo takes the concept of interpersonal connection to a completely different level, which when you add to it the tragic backstory revelaed in the first issue, delivers a new character set up to shake up Earth-M in a fresh way with a veteran creative team at the helm.
Here’s everything you need to know about Kelly Vu and David Kim, better known as the composite superhero Duo, how they gained their extraordinary powers and what their introduction means for the greater Milestone Universe.
What Is the Milestone Universe?
Milestone Media was founded in 1993 as a comic book company, with titles published and distributed through DC Comics. Founded by Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle, Milestone was created to address the glaring lack of Black characters and representation in mainstream American comic books. While published by DC, Milestone titles existed largely outside of DC editorial control – though DC maintained the right to refuse to publish any material they opposed – with Milestone retaining ownership for the characters created for it and the ability to approve or veto licensing deals with Milestone properties.
The inaugural four Milestone titles were Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Static all set within a shared comic book continuity dubbed the Dakota Universe after the fictional Midwestern city Dakota where the stories were located. The following year, the four titles participated in the crossover event Shadow War and the intercompany crossover Worlds Collide, where the characters from the DC Universe and Dakota Universe faced off.
As Milestone titles began to experience diminishing sales figures, Milestone Media shut down its publishing division in 1997 and oversaw licensing of its properties, including the Emmy Award-winning animated series Static Shock, based on Static and produced by Warner Bros. Animation. In 2008, elements of the Dakota Universe were incorporated into the DCU and its multimedia adaptations, including the Shadow Cabinet encountering the Justice League, Static joining the Teen Titans, and Static appearing in the animated series Young Justice, viewing fellow electricity-based hero Black Lightning as a mentor.
What Is Earth-M?
In 2015, Milestone Media announced its relaunch, with surviving founders Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle joined by writer Reginald Hudlin. The relaunch would feature a soft reboot of the Dakota Universe’s continuity, with several of the world’s heroes’ origins linked to a cataclysmic event in Dakota known as the Big Bang. While the original Dakota Universe’s Big Bang was the result of a massive gang war in the middle of the city, Earth-M’s Big Bang saw a protest against police brutality doused with a tear gas secretly containing an experimental mutagen that gave several individuals exposed to it superhuman powers depicted in the opening special Milestone Returns #0.
Following the reintroduction of several familiar Milestone heroes, including Static, Rocket, Icon, Hardware, and the Blood Syndicate, the next wave of Milestone titles expanded this reborn Dakota Universe to Earth-M, featuring new characters and fresh twists on established Milestone properties. While Milestone has teased the Earth-M characters may eventually meet the more familiar Milestone characters, Earth-M is meant to continue to, according to press releases, “broaden perspectives on the superhero genre as a whole with ideas you've never seen before” in its own separate pocket.
Who Is Duo?
Duo is a composite hero formed by the merger of nanotechnology experts Kelly Vu and David Kim, working together out of their advanced lab in San Francisco to develop medical applications from their research. The two scientists are engaged, with Kelly as the more impulsive of the two while David is considerably more reserved and calculating about their work; though both foresee the nanotechnology project being used towards human cellular regeneration.
Kelly and David’s project is overseen by Doctor Marius Chung, director of the Healerist New Research Initiative. With the cellular regeneration project potentially decades away from successful, widespread use for humans, the initiative pivots towards the possibility of using nanobots to virtually preserve human consciousness, though Chung firmly rejects this change.
After refusing to sell the research to Healerist, Kelly and David’s home lab containing their experimental nanobots mysteriously explodes. The couple are apparently consumed by the swirling nanobots, with David awakening fully healed from the accident but Kelly presumed dead. Attacked by Chung’s genetically engineered goons, David learns he has superhuman strength and speed, an accelerated healing factor, and the ability to deploy his nanobots offensively or to form an armor around himself.
David discovers that Kelly’s consciousness lives on in him, preserved by the nanobots as they intended with their experiment. The couple immediately suspects Chung of being behind the industrial sabotage while unveils his own plans, meeting with a family of immortals to deal with the escalating situation.
Who Are Duo’s Creators?
Duo is created by Denys Cowan and Reginald Hudlin as part of their plans for Earth-M, with the superhero series written by Greg Pak, penciled by Khoi Pham, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Chris Sotomayor, and lettered by Janice Chiang. The creative team previously worked together on the 2020 special one-shot Milestone Returns #0, which officially kicked off the Dakota Universe relaunch on Earth-M.
Duo is a modern reimagining of the prior Milestone property Xombi, created by John Rozum and Denys Cowan, debuting in 1994’s Xombi #0. In the original Dakota Universe, David Kim develops nanobots capable of cellular regeneration only to be attacked and left for dead by the villainous Doctor Sugarman. David’s lab assistant Kelly Sanborne saved his life by injecting him with the nanobots, only to be consumed since she was physically touching David during the regeneration process. Using his newly developed powers, David took on the superhero mantle Xombi to defend the Dakota Universe.
In contrast, Duo expands Kelly’s role, both in terms of her relationship to David and her prominence within the composite hero. Duo’s powers relatively align with Xombi’s but the shared consciousness aspect is reminiscent of the DC hero Firestorm, albeit without the latter’s matter transmutation abilities. In regards to antagonists, Chung isn’t a clear copy of Sugarman vying for immortality but something more ancient and sinisterly otherworldly. Duo updates the legacy of Xombi, taking familiar concepts, but presenting them with modern sensibilities that better fit with the Milestone’s mission statement for Earth-M.
The story of Duo continues June 21 in Duo #2 by Greg Pak, Khoi Pham, and Scott Hanna, published by Milestone Media and DC Comics.