The Unexpected #4

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Unexpected4There’s arguably a hint of desperation behind both the promotion and penmanship of Issue Four of “The Unexpected”, considering that “DC Comics” declared Steve Orlando’s narrative for the twenty-page periodical involves “a race to save Gotham City from exposure to the toxic Nth metal” and it crams in no less than three of the Burbank-based publisher’s current ‘bigger named characters’ within its utterly befuddling plot. For whilst “Answers In The Sky” alludes to the Caped Crusader’s metropolis being where the membrane between our reality and the Dark Dimension is at its thinnest, the New Yorker’s treatment hardly depicts Neon the Unknown dashing anywhere in particular so as to save the “fictional American city”, nor is it ever justified why Helena Bertinelli’s alter-ego knows so much about “the poisonous Nth metal.”

Indeed, the greatest danger to Batman’s home town would seemingly be the incredibly dislikeable Firebrand and her increasingly grating sense of self-righteousness; “I am [here to fight] whether I want to or not! Don’t you get it? I don’t have the luxury of that choice, because of how you people handle things!” Just how Colin Nomi contrivingly teleported himself and his fiery friend within the proximity of the Huntress is never convincingly explained, yet it soon becomes evident that it’s the very presence of Janet Fals and her disagreeable desire to battle all and sundry which is putting every Gothamite in danger, courtesy of the loose cannon’s “aggression triggering the Nth Metal isotope.”

Such constant rage genuinely becomes tediously overbearing real fast, as the former paramedic launches into Bertinelli and then later the Signal without any rational reason except perhaps to inject a bewildering script with unfounded action sequences. Admittedly, the crossbow-armed Bird of Prey does strike first and Firebrand needs to “start a fight once every twenty four hours” in order to maintain her super-human abilities. But that doesn’t explain why no sooner have the pair’s differences concerning Fals bringing “a dirty bomb into a city of millions” been physically resolved than Janet, supposedly sizzled “back to my senses”, then shockingly socks an unarmed Huntress in the mouth simply for voicing her (entirely correct) opinion that the Conflict Engine-driven ‘heroine’ is “out of control.”

To make matters even more unbearable though, once a surprisingly mature and calm Duke Thomas arrives on the scene, Neon’s travelling companion goes into ‘hostile overdrive’, patronising the “kid” one moment as if the always-angry recent addition to the DC Universe is actually the one trained by Batman, and then in the next threatening to beat the costumed crime-fighter to a pulp even when he makes it clear “I’m not here to fight” by helpfully whisking the travellers off underwater to the Bat Cove.

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For the past forty or so years I have been collecting American comics… To begin with they were predominantly black and white British reprints of “Marvel Comics Group” titles such as “Spider-Man Comics Weekly”, “The Mighty World of Marvel” and “Star Wars Weekly”; all six to ten pence editions I could store away under my bed in a large cardboard box. As a result though I was introduced to the teenage angst of Peter Parker, the discovery of a frozen Captain America by Earth's Mightiest Heroes, witnessed the dreadful rage of Doctor Bruce Banner, and even travelled to a galaxy far far away... Later I would be able to afford actual America colour comic books and supplemented my collection of “Marvel” titles such as “Conan the Barbarian”, “Howard the Duck” and “Captain America” with some “DC Comics” issues of “Batman”, “Green Lantern” and “Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew”. There would even be time for Independent publications such as “Wildcats”, “Spawn” and “The Authority”. These days however I must admit to yearning back to the simpler times of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, back to when both artwork and storylines were straightforward, easy to follow and super-heroes were just starting out on their adventures. A time when no-one had yet to be resurrected from the dead for the fourth time. I've written over seven hundred comic book reviews on my blog over the past few years, with them usually following my latest purchases, all wrapped up in a large brown paper bag, as well as occasional ‘flashbacks’ to some of the classic "Golden Age" issues I already own…

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