New Challengers #1 – Scott Snyder, Aaron Gillespie, Writers; Andy Kubert, Penciller; Klaus Janson, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The New Age of DC Heroes has been plagued by issues since the start, with almost every title replacing its A-list artist after one arc. However, none has gone through more upheaval than New Challengers. Originally announced as a Scott Snyder ongoing series, it’s now a miniseries plotted by Snyder and written by DC Writer’s Workshop graduate Aaron Gillespie. Picking up from the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal, it starts with a tense, action-packed segment as a mysterious, heavily bandaged man parachutes out of a plane into a mysterious location filled with glowing energy. From there, the story cuts to the inside of Challenger Mountain, as a young woman named Trina Alvarez finds herself ported inside, alongside a former Spyral agent named Robert Brink, a nerdy man named Moses Barber, and a mysterious giant known only as Krunch. A flashback shows that Trina, a neighborhood medic, last remembers being in Gotham when the world ripped open and fighting a tentacle monster to protect her neighbors.
Then? She died. They all did. The four new Challengers are in a state between life and death, drafted into an interstellar mission to protect the world from the mysterious and bizarre. The concept here is interesting, with some nice and creepy visuals and a mysterious overseer who makes Amanda Waller seem warm and fuzzy. There are even some real stakes in the first issue – let’s just say the team that begins this issue isn’t the one that finishes it.
The problem is, it doesn’t feel like it really matters. Except for Alvarez, none of the four team members has any real personality. The one who dies is almost an extra, and their replacement is just dropped in with no context. It’s largely setting up the concept, and the concept is particularly intriguing. The “museum” is something I’d love to see more of. However, unlike The Terrifics, which partners strange and bizarre situations with strong characters, this doesn’t have that ability to pull us in immediately. I’m hoping the next five issues give us a little more to connect with because right now the challenger is there, but the Challengers are lacking.
Corrina: This issue is, yes, mostly setup but it is a setup with an intriguing concept, that of the Challengers being people grabbed from their deaths to combat threats as a second life.
It’s not a new concept (I actually just read a romance novel from the 1990s which had the very same setup, of a man chosen at the point of his death to do good) but it’s a solid idea for the Challengers of the Unknown, whose original concept was four men who’d survived a plane crash that should have killed them and decided to make the best use of their borrowed time.
In this issue, we can see those Challengers were part of a larger group of Challengers across the years. (It also implies that they’re all dead so if you’re looking for Ace, Red, Rocky and the Prof, you may be disappointed. Unless the Prof talking to the new team is that Professor.)
In one issue, background, concept, and reason for existence are settled. What’s not is who they are and why we should care about them. Trina makes an impression and the Professor is nicely mysterious but, as for the rest, it’s wait and see. Should we get attached to any of them or will they shortly be replaced?
Yet, if I were buying this off the shelf, there’s enough that would keep me reading while the title sorts itself out.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.