THE UNEXPECTED #1 by Steve Orlando, Ryan Sook, and Cary Nord
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
With a strong story and a fantastic visual appeal, THE UNEXPECTED #1 is a strong addition to DC's New Age of Heroes despite several small, unexplained elements throughout.
89 %
Unexpectedly Good
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DC’s New Age of Heroes has developed a number of fresh and bizarre stories for the company (THE UNEXPECTED #1). While old characters like Plastic Man and Metamorpho have received makeovers, the newer characters have stolen my attention. The similarities to other popular characters (i.e. from Marvel) are obvious, yes.

However, the new directions that Brimstone, Sideways, and the Terrifics have taken has redefined the superhero genre. DC looks to do this again with THE UNEXPECTED #1. This magic focused team looks to delve into the multiversal consequences of DARK NIGHTS: METAL. Does it share the same success as its predecessors, though? Or is it the first of the New Age to flop?

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THE UNEXPECTED #1 follows Janet Fals. Janet worked as a totally normal paramedic until the day a mountain appeared in the heart of Gotham City. She died that day, but that wasn’t the end of her story. Given to an arms company called Civil Solutions, Janet’s corpse received an experimental “Conflict Engine.”

Violence powers the Engine, meaning that Janet must get into a fight every 24 hours or die. Given the multiversal forces gunning for her new heart, that shouldn’t be too hard. Now, a trans-dimensional vampire named Alden Quench wants the power of the Conflict Engine, and Janet will need some help to stop him.

Enter mystic warriors Neon, Ascendant, and the Viking Judge.

Unexpected or Just Plain Weird?

THE UNEXPECTED #1
THE UNEXPECTED #1, Page 1. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

THE UNEXPECTED #1 is the type of comic that everyone wants to write. It’s absolutely full of psychedelic super-science and transient magical elements that come straight from the eighties. There are times where this book takes obvious influence from SANDMAN in the best possible way.

It’s weird, it’s fun, and it’s a total joy to read. I absolutely love strange elements in comic book stories. The visual medium thrives on characters like Neon, a man seemingly made of liquid color, and the reality-shifting abilities of the Ascendant. Honestly, coolness simply drips off this book.

Writer Steve Orlando manages to make this story incredibly approachable. It’s a superhero story at its heart, but it never truly feels that way. The mystical aspect of the narrative gives this tale a rather unique edge. However, the story itself takes a lot of risks. Some of these fall flat, giving way to moments where the super-science results in more confusion. Honestly, my sole complaint about this book is that I wanted just a little more concrete information.

Nevertheless, this risk-taking leads to a reading experience unlike any other. Creators Ryan Sook and Orlando made the story that they wanted, without any constraints. That passion leaks off of every page. This is a team that had fun in the creation, and you feel that enjoyment while reading.

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Grounded Despite Itself

THE UNEXPECTED #1
THE UNEXPECTED #1, Page 2-3. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Orlando takes every opportunity to bring THE UNEXPECTED #1 to, well, some frankly unexpected places. However, this book works because he takes the time to explore the characters. Janet Fals is an incredibly interesting lead. She’s spent her life avoiding conflict. Instead of joining the military like her dad and brothers, she became a paramedic. Now, however, she has to resort to violence every day or die. Her story has a lot of heart (pun intended).

More importantly, Orlando doesn’t simply leave the Conflict Engine as an interesting character trait. He uses it as the backbone of his plot. The Engine draws Janet into this world of strange and massive threats, thus allowing this book to actually happen. The problem with team books like THE UNEXPECTED #1, though, comes from the larger cast. With just over twenty pages to work with, a writer simply cannot explore every single character.

Usually, I dislike team books for this reason. However, Orlando does something really cool by placing Janet in the lead. We see the world through her eyes, meaning information comes to us at an even rate. More importantly, he cements that the other characters have deep histories. Quench and Neon have definitely fought before, and their enmity is obvious from the start. By giving us a glimpse into this shared past, Orlando opens doors for readers. He sparks curiosity from the start.

I now want to read further issues to see how Neon, Viking Judge, and Ascendant came to be.

Into the Fires

THE UNEXPECTED #1
THE UNEXPECTED #1, Page 4. Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Ryan Sook and Cary Nord share penciling duties in THE UNEXPECTED #1. Together, they create a seamless and incredibly impressive reading experience. I honestly cannot tell you which artist drew which section. Sook and Nord’s styles complement each other so well, giving way to very few visual hiccups. Seriously, this book is absolutely gorgeous, with an incredible action sequence and some wonderful visual effects.

When Alden Quench first appears, leaking electricity from every pore, Sook sold me on this book. Their art is essential for THE UNEXPECTED #1 to work. The narrative and dialogue work really well. However, it’s their psychedelic and visually surreal styles that truly make this book a potential icon.

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THE UNEXPECTED #1: Final Thoughts

I love weird stories. Narratives like SANDMAN and ARKHAM ASYLUM, stories that deal with psychosis and the strangeness beyond the veil, simply speak to me. THE UNEXPECTED #1 has a ways to go to before becoming an icon like those other stories. However, with its rich cast and fantastic visual appeal, it can definitely happen.

Steve Orlando and Ryan Sook have stumbled onto gold here. They simply need to mine as much of it as they can. This story has a ton of potential, and I cannot wait to see where the next issue takes us.

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