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‘The Unexpected #2’ (review)

Written by Steve Orlando
Illustrated by Cary Nord
Published by DC Comics

…Quench’s metal disrupts our Universe’s fundamental forces. I’ve never come across a substance I couldn’t transform… but right now we don’t don’t even know what we don’t know. The metal’s getting hotter and more agitated with every second.”

Issue #2 of The Unexpected still does nothing explicit to explain the title of the book. And there’s less this time to live up to it.

But that’s only because so many of the central ideas were laid down in the first issue.

This one is more about expanding on what we’ve already been introduced to, and that’s essential. Because so much about all of this is new.

The effort to build a book off of the events of Scott Snyder’s Dark Metal series gives the Nth metal of Thanagar, and Thanagar itself, a central spotlight.

But wait, not just Nth metal, an Nth metal isotope, one created magically from fate, blood, violence, and the fundamental cosmic forces of creation and destruction.

And there we have it. A brand new dawn of magical wonder in the DC Universe, complete with a cast of champions and villains, some who are known to us, most of whom are not.

The genius of what author Steve Orlando is attempting – something which I expect to show up increasingly throughout the rest of the DCU, if not also prominently in Orlando’s upcoming Wonder Woman run – is that up until now, the bulk of DC’s magical universe has always felt decidedly Earth-centric. That has shifted now, and to hold that new more expansive framework we now have the expanded cosmic concept of the World Forge, and with it, mages of Creation, devils of Un-Creation, and a vast universal playground of deities and demons from other worlds, other galaxies.

One of those mages is Neon, and it’s his story that takes center spotlight this issue, with a backstory deftly laid out in simple strokes that begs for more detail, but nonetheless sketch a character who lives between the poles of great vanity and nobility. Neon the Unknown, is a man of great power and great guilt, a redemption hero on the side of the angels, with the ability to mold the stuff of creation itself.

Except the isotope. And that’s bad, because the combustability of the little square of magic metal the demon Quench forged in the last issue is likely to punch a hole in the fabric of reality itself. Not surprisingly, it’s also gained the attention of dark forces eager to claim its potential.

One of our new devils is Lord Synn, an actual mythological devil from Thanagar with terrifying powers, who it seems requires nth metal for his survival. The setup plays itself out, as Neon and Firebrand find themselves on the run, the mystery of the new isotope in their care.

But these are not the only players in this game. Not by a long shot. And Orlando seems more than ready to spin up new marvels and horrors with ties from everything from BlackHawk Mountain to Superman. It’s a marvelous tapestry and a kaleidoscope of potential to work with and I have no doubt that both are in good hands.

I wish I could be as happy with Cary Nord’s artistic efforts as I was last issue when he had the assistance of Ryan Sook. The look is the same, the style is there. It serves. But the lack of detail in the lines is a let down after the showcase of last issue. We’ll have to see if that continues, but my advice to DC if they want this book to be the great success it deserves to be is, keep your best irons in the forge.

Next Issue: New Devils. Old Devils.


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