By Zack Quaintance — The Unexpected has featured locales, ideas, and lore from throughout the DCU…and now in issue #4, we get other heroes, too, right from page 1 panel 1. New characters in superhero comics often face world-ending threats, and a natural question becomes why don’t they reach out to the experienced shared universe heavy hitters? This story nicely addresses that, making for another strong single issue in one of my favorite new Big 2 books in ages.
As an individual issue, The Unexpected #4 clearly has a specific goal to reach before its end, and it definitely gets there, landing in a place that promises a new evolution for the book in #5. Along the way, we see our new heroes—Firebrand and Neon the Unknown—study their plight with the tense aid of Bat-family detectives. We also see another of the grandiose set pieces that have so far appeared in every issue, plus a continued push to address the aftermath of DC’s recent Dark Nights Metal event, extending plot points from that story to new and interesting places, essentially contextualizing what happened into the history and future of the DCU.
That’s all to say writer Steve Orlando’s main strengths are very much on display here: his vast and impressive command of continuity, his commitment to taking the shared universe concept seriously, and his ability to have muscle-bound folks punching each other with stakes.
Art-wise, the book is in transition. Cary Nord, on-board from issue one, is off to G. Willow Wilson’s forthcoming run on Wonder Woman, launching in November. That leaves us with the team of Yvel Guichet and Scott Hanna, plus Jeromy Cox providing colors. And this book looks good, to be sure. Next issue will see Mark Farmer drawing, followed by Ronan Cliquet. There’s no reason to believe future installments will suffer, but if we could just take a brief moment in honor of Nord’s contributions. He will be missed.
Anyway, with The Unexpected I remain impressed by how compelling the team has made original characters—no easy feat within a publishing line of adventures that span many decades. The book being a natural extension of Metal helps. Thematically, I think The Unexpected also addresses an idea prominent in the post-Metal DCU: restraint. In surviving Metal, the Justice League broke the source wall, ushering in complex threats. The Unexpected’s central use of the volatile Nth Metal builds on that. Here, we have a powerful character who must resist giving into violent urges, lest she destroy herself and maybe the world, as threats accelerate around her. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for 2018, and I love it.
Overall: The Unexpected continues to be a standout book of DC’s New Age of Heroes line, expertly incorporating bits of the DCU’s past while making an argument for being part of its future. Artist Cary Nord’s departure is a bummer, but this book clearly still has big plans. 8.5/10
For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.