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‘The Unexpected #8’ (review)

Written by Steve Orlando
Illustrated by Ronan Cliquet
Published by DC Comics


Well it’s been a wonderful run, and much too short, but this month marks the end of The Unexpected, the excellent series Steve Orlando created with artists Cary Nord and Ryan Sook to contribute to DC’s recent, now largely discontinued, New Age of Heroes project.

And it’s too damn bad.

I took a liking to the concept for this book right away. The World Forge, forever churning at the center of existence, responsible for the very energies of creation and destruction themselves, and a vast source of power for the agents of each – mages of alchemy, forever, it would seem, locked in a struggle against one another on the multiversal battlefield of all Creation.

It’s about as meta as it gets, and it has the added satisfaction of blending easily with standing DC cosmology, at once superseding pre-existing magical frameworks without conflicting in any serious way with any of them, while simultaneously providing whole new realms of psychedelic/mystical storytelling possibilities into the mix.

As conceits go, that’s hard to pull off, and just in itself it should identify Steve Orlando as one of the greats. Even if not everyone managed to catch on.

I’m sure if given the chance Orlando has rivers of ideas he’d see flow into print, with plenty more in store in new pages of The Unexpected for our heroes Neon and Firebrand – along with as many DC heroes and villains as he could manage, Alden Quench the Bad Samaritan, a few new faces probably, and perhaps even a return of Ascendant and the Viking Judge, whose early deaths never seemed to me at least to be meant as very final.

Oh well. Maybe someday.

As it is, the run has covered a surprising amount of ground. And it ends, appropriately enough, not only with a serious threat to all of reality, but with a confrontation that is played out at the very pinnacle of that reality.

Serious big-time baddie, demon vampire Mandrakk has climbed from his prison at the lowest pit of the Dark Multiverse, to re-emerge on Nil itself, the abandoned home-world of the ancient Monitors – the ‘capstone’ of the multiverse – where he plans to feast endlessly on the positive matter of our universes, until he drains them all completely dry.

He can do it too. And only our heroes there to stop him.

It’s a challenge that seems impossible, but of course all things are possible, and Steve Orlando spins us a victory that does credit to the whole project and the concept at its core, with just the right amount of extra meta on top, to go out on.

I’m pleased that Ronan Cliquet was around for the sign-off. He’s really made this book his own in the last several issues, and it may go a long way for a return of DC’s newest astonishing mystical hero, that he’s given us Neon’s final frame with a smile like we’ve never seen from our hero before.

And why not? He earned it.

What can I say? It’s sad to see it all end.

But of course, nothing ever really ends. Indeed, you could say that this whole affair has been a perfect set-up for an inevitable return. One day. I’m sure.

Probably when we least expect it.

Say it with me now. To Be Continued…

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