The Unexpected #1 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Ryan Sook, Cary Nord, Pencillers; Mick Gray, Wade von Grawbadger, Inkers; FCD Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Offbeat and Fun!
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Steve Orlando’s writing for DC has always trended towards the offbeat and obscure. Sometimes, that works brilliantly as in his reinvention of the Wildstorm Universe favorites Midnighter and Apollo, and his deep-cuts from Superman continuity for his Supergirl run. Other times, it just feels a little odd. This new team debut, the final entry in the New Age of DC Heroes line, definitely leans more towards the latter. A team book composed of one incredibly obscure DC hero and a bunch of originals with ties to other near-forgotten DC legacies, it might as well be an original property. It starts well, with introducing POV character Firebrand – a rescue worker who is currently playing host to the Conflict Engine after it was installed to replace her heart after she died in the field, she now has to get into a fight every 24 hours to “feed it” – despite being a pacifist and humanitarian in her day job. She’s an intriguing character, and I enjoyed all the scenes she was in.
Then, though, the plot gets here. Her workplace is invaded by the villain, an eldritch abomination in the shape of a man named Bad Samaritan. He turns the hospital into a horror show until Firebrand gets a bail-out by the rest of her team – leader Neon the Unknown, Viking Judge (who debuted in Supergirl last month) and intellectual Ogre Elligh. The battle that follows is chaotic, high-intensity, and gives us little to no time to get to know any of the characters. You’re seeing the conflict through Firebrand’s eyes, which is an effective way to sell the first issue – but maybe not for a team book with multiple leads. I’m intrigued by everyone here, but the end of the issue makes it seem like some of them may not be sticking around. The art on the issue looks good, but this is yet another issue where the solicited artist doesn’t get through the first issue (more on that in another review this week). Orlando clearly has a lot of big ideas here and I want to see where they go, but the first issue – like this line as a whole – feels a bit confused.
Corrina: Yeah, but it’s a good kind of confused, Ray!
Immortal Men and Challengers of the Unknown, also part of the DC Age of Heroes line, introduced teams and concepts in their first issues as well but I found Unexpected #1 more effective, largely because of how it stayed with Firebrand’s point of view. (Yes, I hate to compare books in the same line but, this time, the similarities were undeniable: teams with multiple dimensions/histories, a 90s vibe, and the quick death of some of the cast. I think one of the lead characters of Challengers was an EMT too.)
One of the things the award-winning Monstress by Majorie Liu and Sana Takeda did so well was to begin with a tight point of view that eventually opened to a wider world. That’s the same effect that staying focused on Firebrand does for the beginning of this story. Like Firebrand, I’m boggled at the appearance of the Bad Samaritan, I’m with her all the way about saving civilians, and, like her, I’m absolutely confused by this team who showed up to help her. Being deep in her point of view bonds me to the story.
As for the other team members, It looks like some of them are dead already. I’m okay with that, as it reads as if Firebrand stumbled into the middle of a story, rather than an awkward setup to show a reader the stakes. (And you if think the comparison to Monstress means this reads more like an indie title, you would be correct.)
My only niggle: if the Conflict Engine is that powerful, why would it be put in the chest of someone who may disappear on you? Perhaps that’s part of the mystery.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.