THE UNEXPECTED #3 by Steve Orlando, Cary Nord, Mark Farmer, Scott Hanna, and Jeromy Cox
THE UNEXPECTED #3 has its problems and definitely has some more room to grow. However, it's still one of the best issues in the series to date. With a healthy amount of characterization and some beautiful visuals, this is a story that's finally finding its way.
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THE UNEXPECTED by Cary Nord and Steve Orlando has been exactly that: unexpected. It has delved into the coolest facets of Silver Age weird science while delivering a story that is high in action and intrigue. THE UNEXPECTED #3 looks to continue that trend while also improving on the low points of previous issues. And, for the most part, it succeeds. As Neon and Firebrand travel to Monster Valley in search of Orck technology, they have their first encounter with the Thangarian devil Onimar Synn. Seeking the Nth Metal isotope buried within Neon’s chest, Onimar will stop at nothing to find the revitalizing element. Can Neon and Firebrand defeat this mad tyrant before he captures and corrupts the most powerful metal in the multiverse?

Neon Against Synn

THE UNEXPECTED #3 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE UNEXPECTED #3 succeeds where previous issues have failed by giving this story an anchor. Writer Steve Orlando has finally begun answering questions and delving into this series’ many mysteries. For the first time, I feel like I can actually just sit back and enjoy the ride. Granted, it isn’t flawless. Certain elements from previous issues (i.e. the mysterious person who picked up Viking Judge’s ax), still don’t have answers. However, I’m okay with that. Orlando doesn’t need to give us everything, but he did need to give us something. I finally understand Neon and Firebrand’s motivations and, because of that, I have the ability to get absorbed in the lore and action of their adventures.

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I will say that my biggest gripe with this issue comes from the lack of action. Near the end of THE UNEXPECTED #3, when Onimar Synn finally reveals himself, the cast spends several pages just talking and yelling. There’s no action, no cutaways, no flashbacks. This is solely an in-the-moment conversation. For a book that prides itself on the weird and surprising, I was a little let down by this sequence.

So many writers and artists seemingly can’t wait for a lengthy action sequence with dialogue. I wanted to see Neon’s reality-bending powers at work more. I wanted to see more of Firebrand’s raw strength. Most importantly, I still need to see a little more of Synn’s capabilities. For the amount this scene gets built up, it eventually disappoints even with the sudden and epic appearance of dinosaurs.

Destruction and Grief

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

Despite my qualms with this “action” sequence, I still enjoyed it for the amount of characterization that Orlando does. Again, it isn’t perfect. I would like to see a bit more behind the curtain in regards to Synn and Neon. There’s also a sequence near the beginning where Neon snaps at Firebrand out of nowhere. The conversation gets buried with insubstantial apologies, but I didn’t feel like I totally understood where the outburst came from. Neon’s emotions simply seem to be all over the place, and that can be a bit disorienting.

I still feel satisfied with the characterization we got, though. I especially liked that Firebrand and Neon aren’t intimidated by this literal devil confronting them. They can see that he’s on his last legs, that he needs the Nth Metal isotope to survive. That gives this struggle a lot more weight. Yes, Synn is a horrible tyrant with billions of souls trapped inside of his body. However, he’s also a man just looking to survive. This story comes in the form of weird science fiction, but it has enough human elements to bring it home.

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I also want to mention Orlando’s character work on Elligh the Ascendant, one of Neon’s deceased teammates. I think it’s an interesting decision to delve into this character post-mortem. True enough, most deaths in comics are only temporary at best. However, as it stands now, the Ascendant is no more. As such, having Neon and Firebrand discussing his long life with a mutual ally and friend gives his demise a lot more weight. I actually started to care about Elligh during this sequence. I genuinely grieved in retrospect for the character. This might make his possible (or eventual) resurrection that much more meaningful, at least to me.

The Colors of Creation

THE UNEXPECTED #3 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Artists Cary Nord, Mark Farmer, and Scott Hanna (inks), as well as Jeromy Cox (colors), have a really cool opportunity in THE UNEXPECTED #3. In fact, with every issue of the series, they get to work with reality benders and strange creatures. For the most part, they completely excel. Much like the main action sequence, I wanted more from their collaboration. I want to see them push this world to its limits, and they don’t necessarily do that. Still, this is an absolutely breathtaking issue, and the little we do see of the weird science absolutely works. I did notice that Onimar Synn’s metal arm switches sides on occasion. However, this is a small mistake in an otherwise beautifully drawn story.

THE UNEXPECTED #3: Final Thoughts

THE UNEXPECTED has been a series full of ups and downs. While heavy in the action and incredible psychedelic sequences, it has also relied too heavily on its weird science backdrop. The series has suffered from some confusing premises, and the fast-paced narratives have left little room to explain these elements. However, things have started to change in THE UNEXPECTED #3. Steve Orlando and Cary Nord have finally hit the ground running with this expansive and surprising new series. Despite a few difficult transitional points, THE UNEXPECTED #3 soars. This issue doesn’t quite capture the same sense of wonder as the first. Nevertheless, for the first time since this series began, I feel far more grounded in this world. Yes, some issue do arise, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

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