THE UNEXPECTED #1 by Steve Orlando and Cary Nord
THE UNEXPECTED #2 largely suffers from some issues of clarity. The way it handles its world-building and character development is rather brilliant, and the art by Cary Nord is some of the best in the industry. However, Orlando's focus on the strangeness of this story gives way to a sometimes confusing and erratic plot.
80 %
Weird but Cool
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DC’s New Age of Heroes hasn’t been afraid of the bizarre. Given that these stories spin-off of Scott Snyder’s tour de force DARK NIGHTS: METAL, this makes sense. That series alone delved into the most obscure parts of the DC Universe and molded for itself a new mythos of strange science and extreme mysticism. THE UNEXPECTED #2 lives in that place of fantastical oddity. It takes a reality-bending look at the true face of the DC Universe. However, does it rely too much on this strangeness? Does it have too much information to fill in for readers?

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The Bad Samaritan has seemingly been defeated. The cost, though, may be far too great. Of the four heroes who challenged this vampiric threat, only two survived. With no time to grieve, Neon the Unknown and Firebrand must safeguard the remaining piece of the Bad Samaritan’s Nth Metal. However, Lord Synn and General Phade have moved to Earth in search of this powerful item. Neon and Firebrand must keep the Metal from their hands, lest the Multiverse collapse around them.

Stranger and Stranger

THE UNEXPECTED #2 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE UNEXPECTED #2 is a fun, trippy foray into the very fabric of the DC Universe. These characters in themselves have so much potential for interesting and mind-bending stories. After all, a large number of them have the ability to alter the reality around them. More importantly, this is a book with a lot of stakes. Immediately killing two key characters may seem a bit cheap. We know that they will likely return to the picture, especially with how much writer Steve Orlando hyped this cast. However, the way the story handles these losses, the way they affect Neon especially, gives this story more depth. We can feel the loss and the consequences from the first page, and this story rides that darker tone until the ending.

My biggest issue with THE UNEXPECTED #2, though, comes from its oddity. I love bizarre stories, and for the most part, THE UNEXPECTED #2 handles its stranger elements rather well. Neon delves into the mysteries of the Multiverse developed in DARK NIGHTS METAL in a believable way. Nevertheless, the extensive world-building throughout the issue takes a bit away from the narrative. We get so many important names, concepts, and locations that I lost a bit of the story. The plot feels like it jumps around erratically, especially on the first few reads.

I truly enjoyed the level of world-building in this book, but it becomes too much of a good thing. Orlando needs to back up a little bit and ground this story a bit more. Weirdness is great in comics. However, it needs the right amount of reality to make it believable.

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The Unknown

THE UNEXPECTED #2 page 2 & 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE UNEXPECTED #1 succeeded in grounding its narrative by focusing solely on an outside party. Firebrand knew very little about the world, so things needed to be explained to this character. More importantly, she had a natural energy and curiosity that drew the answers to her. Orlando continues this tradition in THE UNEXPECTED #2 by focusing instead on Neon the Unknown. The trick, though, falls apart a bit with this character. The characterization surrounding him is rather interesting, but this is a character with all of the answers. He knows so much about the multiverse, and he doesn’t spend any time explaining things to Firebrand. Also, he spends most of this issue racked with extreme guilt and sorrow to coherently develop more of his character.

With that said, the characters in this issue, including Neon, are exceedingly interesting. The two-page spread of backstory we get about Neon feels really satisfying, especially with the ways it develops his present sorrow. No, we don’t get enough about the character, and his trauma makes him a bad POV character. But I left THE UNEXPECTED #2 wanting to know more about this fantastical character. The ways Orlando develops Firebrand brilliantly build on the strengths of her past development, and even the villain, Lord Synn, has a really great monologue. Essentially, the characterization we get from this book is rather incredible. I simply feel that the choice in POV character pushes this story down the wrong path. Neon is interesting, but in his attitude and grief, he doesn’t do anything to develop Orlando’s world.

Brilliant Spectacle

THE UNEXPECTED #2 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As I said in my review of THE UNEXPECTED #1, the art sells a strange story such as this. THE UNEXPECTED #2 sees Cary Nord handling the pencils, and I have to say that this book looks spectacular. The way Nord uses visual effects and choreographs the battle sequences always feels epic. The opening sequence alone fully conveys the necessary emotions. Even without eyes, Neon’s emotional state is exceedingly clear and heartbreaking. The true sign of a great artist is their ability to tell a story without words. Nord succeeds on every single page. I also have to mention the strength of his landscape art. Whether it be buildings or the trees of Slaughter Swamp, Nord simply nails the atmosphere and environment of every location.

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THE UNEXPECTED #2: Final Thoughts

THE UNEXPECTED #2 isn’t that bad of a story. The way writer Steve Orlando handles the world building is rather brilliant. He delves into his world with a passion and fervor for fans to know more. More importantly, he writes a cast of characters that are interesting within themselves and have dozens of possibilities before them. The main problem with this book is that these elements don’t particularly work together. Yes, the world building works, but it takes away from the clarity of the plot. I definitely wanted to know about the lead characters, but the trauma and overt knowledge of Neon, the POV character, take away from this experience. This is a good story and a brilliantly strange one. However, sometimes that weirdness gets in the way of telling a clear and interesting narrative.

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