NEW CHALLENGERS #2 by Aaron Gillespie, Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson
Despite some weak characterization and confusing plot points, NEW CHALLENGERS #2 is an enticing and fun read. It is an adrenaline rush from start to finish, with fantastic art by comics legend Andy Kubert.
91 %
Fun and Exciting
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The sea is a terrifying place. What humans know of the various creatures of the depths could keep a person up at night. This is especially true when you consider how little we actually know. That is why the ocean is one of my favorite settings in comics, and why NEW CHALLENGERS #2 is so exciting for me.

In the first installment of DC’s NEW CHALLENGERS, the team found themselves seemingly at the edge of the world. The oceans flowed off into the void as a giant crab monster attacked. Now, as NEW CHALLENGERS #2 begins, they must dive beneath the surface to locate a lost relic. But as team member Moses Barber quickly realizes, his past has a deep connection to these fearsome waters.

Before arriving at Challenger’s Mountain, Moses Barber lived alone in his RV. A self-proclaimed hacktivist, Moses used his programming skills to mine data from and blackmail large corporations. In his virtual journeys, though, he discovered something. Someone had hidden small fragments of code in all of the world’s biggest databases. This “Dark Frequency” led Moses on a path to his own death. In the present day, Moses and the Challengers delve beneath the surface in search of Prof’s hidden relic. After being attacked on all fronts, though, Moses soon learns that the Dark Frequency and this relic are inexplicably connected.

The Hacker

NEW CHALLENGERS #2 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Continuing the tradition from the first issue, NEW CHALLENGERS #2 focuses almost entirely on a single member of the team. Moses Barber, the bespectacled loner, takes center-stage in this issue. I can’t help but recognize the brilliance of this decision. As I noted in my previous review, this structure allows writer Aaron Gillespie to make this team book more personal.

Focusing on Moses and his connections to the plot give the reader solid ground to stand on. I can actually care about this adventure because I care about the heroes. In this way, I am content not knowing more about the other characters yet. Gillespie has developed an understanding that, in time, we will see each of them focused upon. They have strong enough personalities at the moment to hold my interest until they take their turns.

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With that said, I found Moses Barber’s characterization a little lacking. It isn’t bad, by any means. His story is rather interesting. While some of the details are missing, his obsession with the “Dark Frequency” conspiracy gives him a lot of personality and motivation. I just felt, though, that his story became far less personal than the doctors in the previous issue.

Trina Alvarez had a very distinct and human outlook with interesting insights about their situation. Barber, though, felt completely tied to the plot. His backstory fits nicely into the story of NEW CHALLENGERS #2, but it barely touches on him as a person. While his descriptions of his agoraphobia are interesting, I don’t particularly buy the disorder. This may simply be a limitation of the medium, but Moses seems to overcome his debilitating anxiety with extreme ease.

Exciting Chaos

NEW CHALLENGERS #2 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Despite these challenges with the characterization, I still consider NEW CHALLENGERS #2 a success for its plot. Unlike the slow building first issue, this book has a great deal of action from the start that never let’s go. Even in the flashback sequences, the mystery and intensity never die down. This makes NEW CHALLENGERS #2 an incredibly fast read. This is usually a very good thing. It feels like an adrenaline rush from the first page, and we finally get some answers (alongside even more questions). Gillespie essentially gives readers a crash course in how to do comic book action well, and it is a joy to see on every single page.

With the issue’s speed, though, I did feel that NEW CHALLENGERS #2 did lose some clarity. The story bounces around quite frequently, precariously balancing the flashbacks and present-day sequences. While this usually works, I sometimes found myself getting lost in the narrative. The jumps forced me to reread sections to try and remember where we were. I also felt that the JUSTICE LEAGUE cameo from Aquaman wasn’t entirely necessary. He saves the team once, hallucinates, then disappears. More importantly, his appearance only raised questions that I doubt will get answered. This cameo simply felt like a “want-to” moment for Gillespie, with very little context to welcome it.

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Brought Beneath the Surface

NEW CHALLENGERS #2 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As with my review of the first issue, there are very few negative things to say about the art in NEW CHALLENGERS #2. Andy Kubert returns with his fantastic pencils, proving that depicting characters underwater is not a challenge for him. Yes, there are a few hiccups in this issue. Some of the less detailed “transition” panels get a bit busy when two or more characters show up.

But his anatomy and character expressions are nearly flawless throughout. The same can be said for Klaus Janson’s heavy inking, which constantly provides a more serious atmosphere. Meanwhile, Brad Anderson’s colors simply astound again. He uses a heavily saturated palette, infusing the story with a sense of magic and wonder.

NEW CHALLENGERS #2: Final Thoughts

NEW CHALLENGERS #2 is a fun, action-packed adventure comic. At the moment, it isn’t particularly all that deep, but in its way, it is incredibly satisfying. While I didn’t necessarily believe every facet of Moses Barber’s story, I still enjoy the singular POV for each issue. Also, despite some confusing moments and an unnecessary cameo, the plot constantly enticed with its speed and intensity. NEW CHALLENGERS #2 is a very good comic book. It is not perfect by any means, but it is an entertaining start to a potentially groundbreaking series.

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