New Challengers #1 review




Trini Alvarez. Robert Brink. Moses Barber. And... ‘Krunch. Just Krunch’? Four adventurers living on borrowed time, ready to face the challenges of the Unknown. 



Here we go again. DC returns to the Challengers of the Unknown concept but without the original team. Instead we get a quartet of new characters gathered by, it seems, one of the members created by Jack Kirby and Dave Wood way back in 1957. The new guys fall down a rabbit hole and don’t have time to catch their breath before they’re knee deep in a world of terror. 


The new Challs don’t have the freedom of choice enjoyed by the originals, they’re cajoled into going on a mission by a man known only as ‘Prof’. Anyone familiar with the first team will assume this is Prof Walter Haley, expert diver and all-round good guy, and if that’s the case, well, bummer. Because this isn’t a good guy, as we see in a mid-book twist. 

I won’t spoil it, because it’s a neat, dramatic moment, but it’s where the book loses a lot of goodwill. I’m not the biggest Challs fan in the world, I don’t blog about them, own the Archives or have a podcast. But I’ve read a lot of their adventures, and relish their rare guest appearances. Claiming to honour previous Challengers teams while presenting an original member as a bastard doesn’t work for me.

As for the new players, in time I may come to like them, but writers Scott Snyder and Aaron Gillespie make some really odd choices with the first character they choose to spotlight. The narration of this issue lies with Trini who, we learn, hails from the Narrows district of Gotham seen in Snyder’s Batman run. She’s not just a strong woman, she’s the type of woman a Claremontwoman would consider dangerously cocky. 


God complex, much? I get that Prof wants strong-minded outcasts but this gal seems a total basket case. 

Veterans Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson provide art that fits the cold, scary mood of the book with generally decent storytelling - a mountain-set prologue involving a bleeping prop could be clearer. And as I’ve said previously, artists today really should remember that reading digitally means they can’t get away with sketchy panels because we’re zooming in 


The characters are well differentiated, though, the reveal of Prof works very well, and once the new Challengers leave their mountain base, things get all kinds of exciting. 

And that’s a terrific extra-long cover by Kubert and interior colourist Brad Anderson, with a good look at the new team, a nice genre mash-up and the real - sorry, ‘original’ - Challengers of the Unknown. But that’s a horrific logo, especially compared to its Silver and Bronze Age predecessors, all curved confidence. 


And what’s with the emphasis on ‘LL’? A hint that Lex Luthor is someone involved?

I admit I’ve an inbuilt resistance to a twisted version of the Challengers - Prof, Rocky, Ace and Red were simple archetypes, but they gelled; sure, they’re Fifties guys who could do with a mild makeover for the 21st century, but Snyder certainly has the skills to make them work. And if he brought in gal Chall June, or Corinna - or both - all the better. I’ll give this a few issues to see where it goes. I’m a sucker for books that play behind the curtain of a known fictional universe, and there are some entertaining teases in here, including an implied link to another DC Age of Heroes book. While I don’t know Gillespie, Snyder has provided me with enough entertainment that he deserves a chance. 

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New Challengers #1 review, Scott Snyder, Aaron Gillespie, Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Brad Anderson, Challengers of the Unknown

Comments

  1. it could be Lex Luthor or Lena Luthor or Liz Lemon even

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    1. Whoever Liz Lemon is, she sounds like one of Superman’s lost loves.

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    2. Liz Lemon hails from 30 Rock. She was played by Tina Fey.

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    3. Aha, one day I must watch that, thanks Tony. Whenever I see the title I think ‘From the Sun’.

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    4. you won't regret it the jokes come flying

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  2. I think I liked this a little better than you, although I can't disagree with a word you said. Maybe I wasn't reading carefully, or maybe I just didn't catch the reference, but what's the link to the other New Age of DC Heroes book?

    My favorite Challs revival was the X-Files type team Stephen Grant & John Paul Leon created in the 90s. I'd have liked to see them again. Krunch is no substitute.

    I'll probably give this the 3-issue trial I gave Silencer. The Immortals didn't earn a second issue from me, and Brimstone & Damage didn't get a first. It does make me sad, however, that the best-received of these books so far has been The Terrifics, the book with the least claim to be bringing something new to the DCU -- it's all existing characters and concepts. I'm hoping The Unexpected brings something fresher to the table.

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    1. I may be wrong but I was thinking the giant at the end was related to the big corpse found by the Terrific.

      That Grant and Leon version wasn’t half bad. Good logo, too! This current version reminds me a bit of Night Force.

      I ignored Immortal Men, then bought #2 by mistake, so went back and bought one. I feel a Late Review coming on...

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    2. cool it's a fun series so far

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  3. same could be said for other heroes and at least her heart is in the right place with the skills to back them up

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    1. What are you responding to?

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    2. about the doctor you said she was loony and

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  4. Dark Prof...I’m starting to think that I just don’t like Scott Snyder’s writing very much. The Terrifics has been great, though!

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