THE UNEXPECTED is one of DC’s series spinning out directly from the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL. In UNEXPECTED #4, Janet Fals (AKA Firebrand) and Neon find themselves in Gotham City, where the former lost her life. The mystery of the Nth Metal isotope deepens as the two clash with members of the Bat-Family. Firebrand and Neon battle their way around the world to the next stop on their search for answers.

UNEXPECTED #4 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

You Can’t Go Home Again

UNEXPECTED #4 continues right from where the third issue left off, with Huntress confronting Firebrand and Neon. Firebrand loses her cool and starts a fight with Helena, until fellow Gotham hero Signal intervenes and offers to help. Signal receives a vision of a fight involving the supposedly deceased Bad Samaritan, the person who helped create the Nth Metal isotope. Signal also gets a glimpse of the man behind Bad Samaritan: Mandrakk, the Dark Monitor. Huntress and Signal take Firebrand and Neon to their underwater base, the Cove, to analyze the material. After a sneak attack and a surprise from Neon, Huntress reveals the identity of someone who might be able to help the two heroes, and they head out to find this Nth Metal expert. Let’s just say, he’s got a long history with both Earth and Thanagar…

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Grand Ambition

UNEXPECTED is very ambitious. Writer Steve Orlando is trying to marry the ideas and themes of all the various crises (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, INFINITE CRISIS, FINAL CRISIS), as well as FLASHPOINT, together. As someone who’s read DC comics for over two decades, it was a lot to absorb. Then they add in Nth Metal, which was expanded upon a lot in DARK NIGHTS, and that’s a lot to ask someone to accept all at once.

The creative team is only in the early moments of the series, but the daunting challenge of making DC’s immense history understandable is apparent. UNEXPECTED #4 deals with things like multiple Earths, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, and the purpose of Nth Metal. Those are pretty deep dives into DC lore. Juxtaposing that grand ambition is the choice of relatively obscure characters. Janet Fels is the fifth Firebrand and Colin Nomi’s the third Neon the Unknown. It’s a bold artistic choice, but the lack of mainstream characters (like the Justice League) may hold back the potential of this series.

On the other hand, with their anonymity, both Neon and Firebrand become great lens characters; because of their newness to the audience. There’s no expectation for the characters like there are with Wonder Woman and Batman, so the audience can easily slip into the POV of the characters. It may appear daunting to uninitiated readers, but UNEXPECTED is a compelling read. Besides, all of the referenced works are still in print or available digitally, so it’s not impossible to figure out all the details.

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The Art Sets The Mood

The art team on UNEXPECTED #4 is extensive, with artists Yvel Guichet, Cary Nord, and Scott Hanna all tackling this issue. The various styles mesh very well, reminiscent of both Dough Mahnke and Todd Nauck. Doug Mahnke is the artist who created Mandrakk, so that comparison is especially positive. The artists capture the vibe of a superhero crisis story, but there’s still this cartoon style to it. That particular detail reminds me of Todd Nauck, which keeps it from looking too realistic and dark.

UNEXPECTED #4 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Orlando’s writing and characterization are also spot on. Firebrand’s frustration about her situation is clear in her dialogue. Janet Fals was a dedicated paramedic, who’s forced to fight just to keep her heart pumping. Steve Orlando does a great job writing this series.

Final Thoughts On UNEXPECTED #4

The creative team has a great gem in UNEXPECTED. It’s a dark, compelling adventure story, and the whirlwind tour of DC’s Prime Earth is a lot of fun. New comic readers will have a steeper learning curve; the series does tie into some of the more complicated events in the history of DC.

Still, it’s an enjoyable book that celebrates the depth of DC’s complexity. If you liked books like SHADOWPACT, JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, MULTIVERSITY, or DARK NIGHTS: METAL then check out UNEXPECTED; the feel and themes of those four are blended pretty well in this series.

THE UNEXPECTED #4 by Steve Orlando, Yvel Guichet, Cary Nord, and Scott Hanna
UNEXPECTED #4 is a compelling read, as the heroes Firebrand and Neon try to unravel the mysteries of the new Nth Metal isotope. The deep dive into DC lore and lack of mainstream characters may make it difficult for readers new to comics, but established DC fans will love this series!
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