NEW CHALLENGERS #6 by Aaron Gillespie and V Ken Marion
NEW CHALLENGERS #6 is a fun, action-packed conclusion to this New Age of Heroes series. While it delivers an interesting villain, the overall characterization and pacing started to fall apart.
74 %
Disappointing but Fun
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Writer Aaron Gillespie’s NEW CHALLENGERS series has hit a lot of high points. It pays great homage to Jack Kirby’s original CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN series and to the pulp adventure stories that inspired it. Sadly, though, NEW CHALLENGERS #6 marks the end of this title. Bethany, Trina, Krush, and Moses have had many adventures in their short time together. From the depths of Atlantis to the heart of Dinosaur-infested jungles, this team has seen it all. Now, as the Dark Multiverse comes ever closer and the Frequency threatens to end reality as we know, only these adventurers have a hope of saving the world.

The Dark Multiverse Prof has won. With the help of his Challengers, he has assembled the pieces of an ancient space skeleton, giving him the power to erase the boundaries of the multiverse. Rifts have opened between dimensions, sending three of the New Challengers careening through reality. Meanwhile, Moses has betrayed his friends to learn more about the mysterious Frequency. With so much stacked against them, how can the team possibly survive this climactic battle?

Multiversal Action

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 is a fairly strong finish for this fun series. Gillespie brings these characters into contact with an army of multiversal monsters. This conclusion is packed with fireworks. Action explodes off every page, raising the tension and energy to a boiling point. This leads to a lot of benefits for this story. With so much action, the pacing is lightning quick. This forces readers into a deep suspension of disbelief. We don’t have time to question or balk at the crazy science fiction because our heroes are obviously in danger. More importantly, Gillespie sells the growing dread. We know the Challengers are going to win the fight. Nevertheless, I couldn’t imagine how they planned to do it.

This frenetic energy does lead to a somewhat confusing plot structure, though. I kept getting lost in the madness, unable to fully process what happened. The plotline is fairly simple, too, with a straightforward battle to the finish acting as the central body. It’s far from unreadable, but the general confusion of the issue does mar the reading experience. I just felt like Gillespie simply wanted to cram too much into this final issue. There are so many cool ideas at work here, especially surrounding Prof’s motivations. Nevertheless, I could only partially grasp them, meaning that they lost a little in translation.

The Call to Adventure

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 marks the final time that we see our heroes in this team series. Over six issues, we have journeyed with this quartet and explored their varied, interesting personalities. I only wish that those personalities made it through more on the page. NEW CHALLENGERS has always focused on the individual members of the team, using them as lenses to view their current circumstances. This issue fails to find any true focus, leading to several characters feeling like caricatures. Bethany comes off as a hardened killer, Krush simply wants to (appropriately) crush stuff, and Trina barely has any emotional reaction of any kind. For a series so heavily steeped in character development, it saddens me that this last go around feels so bereft of it.

With that said, I still really enjoyed Prof as a villain. I don’t know why. His motivations don’t necessarily make sense, and his overall outlook comes off as an “ultimate evil” archetype. Nevertheless, with so little interesting character work going on throughout the piece, his personality really shined. The fact that he had stated motivations other than “take over the world” gave him major points in my book. He isn’t a deep character or particularly well-rounded, but Gillespie still manages to sell him as a legitimate human being. He simply wants to bring his friends back and relive his glory days. In the end, he simply has to be a villain so that he can go back to being a hero.

A Battle of Many Monsters

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

V Ken Marion tackles the art for NEW CHALLENGERS #6. This element alone makes this story worth picking up. I love Marion’s back to basics style. It reminds me of the old pulp adventures this series is based on. More importantly, he sells each and every battle sequence.

The monster designs alone work so well, and the character poses are brilliantly captured. I especially enjoyed the variation within this world. NEW CHALLENGERS #6 sees the team tumbling through rifts in the Multiverse. Everywhere they go and everything they see seems so varied and grand. I wanted to witness more of Marion’s take on the grander Multiverse, but what we got is simply brilliant.

NEW CHALLENGERS #6: Final Thoughts

NEW CHALLENGERS #6 isn’t exactly the ending that I had hoped for. I loved this series from the first issue, and though it consistently faced pacing problems, this issue was the first time they truly became noticeable. The characters I have grown to care for over the past six issues were simple caricatures of their true selves. While the villain’s characterization and high-tension narrative do manage to save it, this sadly isn’t the greatest issue in the series.

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